Back On The Block

The Free Will Family is back from its vacation at Lake Tahoe. Don't want to bore you with holiday snaps, but do want to share some lessons learned:

1. if you live in San Francisco, you have to get used to the fact that it just never snows here. Before last week, it had literally been years since I'd seen snow, and even then I had to visit my parents in Virginia for a snow dose.

2. When you drive into the Sierras to get to Tahoe, you really do cross an invisible threshold into another world - endless miles of mountain peaks and pine trees with drifts of snow as far as the eye can see. My not-quite two year old daughter, who has spent virtually her entire short life in the Big City, had a look of intense curiosity on her face as she looked out on to the white winter fastness. I swear that looking out into the California wilderness increased her IQ by 20 points. If I were the sentimental type, this is when I would start saying things like "That Look In My Daughter's Eyes Made the Whole Trip Worth It" and "That's What It's All About," but I'm not sentimental at all. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to wipe some dust out of my eye.

3. Really, it's easy to see why so many Californians are environmentalists of one degree or another. For all of its reputation as a hip "advanced" civilization, virtually the entire state is either rural or undeveloped wilderness. Not only that, the state's wilderness comprises some of the most beautiful and dramatic natural scenery in the country. Of course, people are protective of it.

4. That doesn't mean they aren't irrational about these sorts of things. California is doubling down on its cap & trade system, despite the Sierras, and other "protected" areas, being hundreds of miles from any smoke belching factories.

5. And, there are plenty of folks who haven't gotten the memo. Tahoe was filled with SUVs, pick-ups, and other culturally verboten vehicles. But, there's a reason for that: if you are going to exercise your god-given right to ski in Tahoe and commune with nature, you'd be crazy to try to do it in a Prius. For all of winter's beauty, it's also dangerous. We drove up Rt. 50 in a snow storm. The roads to Tahoe are narrow enough as it is - I doubt they've been widened in decades - but add an inch of snow, the CHiP's snow removal equipment, plus dozens of cars pulled over to the side putting on chains, and you've got a real obstacle course.

6. We drove over to Carson City, which is about 30 minutes from Tahoe, and is the capitol of Nevada. Can't say it's too inspiring to see a state capitol building with a casino looming over it on the next block. It's also not too inspiring when you look around the political capital of the whole state of Nevada and find yourself mentally comparing it to Needles.

7. On the other hand, the Nevada side of Rt. 50 is much wider and more modern than the California side. That's the thing about California. People say they're "pro-environment," but then have to spend their winter vacations driving their $50,000 SUVs up a road that is the same size as the one their grandparents used.

8. Modern road trips have gotten ridiculously civilized. There's always a McDonalds or a Starbucks around the bend. That might not matter so much when you're a young guy, but when you have a kid and a wife with certain, ah, minimum demands for comfort, you can appreciate it.

9. There's no place like home.

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