If you haven’t read part 1 of Wanderlust, I would urge you to do so, as this story ties into the first one. It can be read here.
It was May, 2008, one month after my epically frantic trip through the South. I had finished my Spring Semester and gotten a great job. Life was awesome, and it was about to get better. One day I was sitting around minding my own business when my mom burst in my room. Urgently, she said “find out when Robert Plant is playing again. If it’s anywhere reasonable we can try and get tickets.” Quickly, it was off to google. Getting to plan another trip within mere weeks of returning from the last one was to me, as chocolate is to fat children and PMSing women: delectable. I found the “Raising Sand” tour dates and saw that one was in June, at Lake Tahoe: Jackpot!
We bought tickets and I stayed in a constant state of excitement for another month. Finally, the end of June came. We had planned another weird road trip, granted this one would be a bit less arduous. We were flying into Reno, NV and driving to Lake Tahoe with a few stops on the way.
We flew into Reno, self-proclaimed “biggest little city in the world,” and I immediately realized something: Reno is the poor man’s Vegas. If Vegas is a shiny, spectacular entertainer, Reno is the washed up vaudevillian trying to reclaim his former glory. It was just…sad. Downtown was dirty, and I felt unsafe even walking between casinos.
Reno likes to keep it simple.
We stayed at the Circus Circus, a casino-hotel advertised by the saddest looking clown in history.
His eyes are saying “please, just kill me.”
We stayed in Reno only one night. Honestly the place kind of gave me the heebie jeebies. While Vegas was a pretty even mix of all walks of life, Reno seemed inhabited primarily by old gamblers. These were the kinds of casinos where people would poop themselves in their chair instead of going to the bathroom during a “hot streak.”
Pictured: Me, not pooping myself, I promise.
We left that sad sack of a town early the next morning, having spent approximately 5$ each on slot machines, and ready to skedaddle into the beautiful Nevadan hills in our awesome rental car, which was their cheapest model somehow, despite being one of my dream cars.
We were heading towards Virginia City, a ghost town in the hills. History geek-out, here we come! Virginia City was at one point called the “Richest city in America,” due to many of it’s inhabitants striking it rich in mining in the late 1800s. One of it’s coolest claims to fame is that Mark Twain lived there and worked for the local paper. That was draw enough for a literature nerd like myself! We pulled into Virginia City, and instantly all preconceived notions of ghost towns were dispelled: the place was JAM PACKED with tourists and the few people that live and work there.
It was a cool place though, and it was easy to picture it being an industrious silver rush town in the 1800s. I could almost picture prostitutes, whiskey, and duels as we strolled down the street.
Try to not want to go back in time, I dare you.
We strolled around in the 90 degree weather, soaking up the full tourist experience (by that, I mean we got a photo taken in wild west garb.) We found the Mark Twain museum where I purchased a copy of Huck Finn for 2$ (still unread,) and a sweet “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” poster for 1$.
Then as we were leaving, I saw something so supremely badass, I can’t describe it, mere words will not suffice.
After a day spent back in time, it was time to head to the concert in Lake Tahoe, a mere hour or so drive away. We rolled into town and could immediately see that this area was RICH. There were fancy houses all along the lake and I swear to God we saw the dudes from Orange County Choppers driving around in a tricked out jeep. We somehow found a very cheap motel near the venue and took some time to relax. At the time, I was totally sucked into “When you are engulfed in flames” by David Sedaris, so I sat by the pool to laugh my ass off and finish that book.
After awhile of sitting there, my mother came out, agitated and excited. “I swear, Robert Plant’s tour bus just pulled up at the venue.” We stood on the deck and stared forever, trying to ascertain if it was his or some other rich bastard, until we decided to walk over and check it out. It was right across the street, and we made our way over eagerly, both having massive crushes on Mr. Plant. The stage was an outdoor amphitheater surrounded by a fence. We could see the bustle of activity on the stage so we peered through the fence, trying to catch a glimpse of our golden God. No such luck. We did spot one portly, dapper gentleman with blonde locks but he turned out to be a roadie. We left, disappointed but psyched about the concert the next day. It was hot and we had a lot of daylight left before dinner so we decided to hit the beach.
What can I say about Lake Tahoe other than that it is extremely beautiful but goddamn cold! Being from Alaska, I have swam in a lot of cold water so it wasn’t too shocking to my system, but as I lazily paddled through the cold aquamarine waters, I looked around and realized I was absolutely the only person actually swimming in the lake. Apparently around those parts, the lake was considered too cold to swim in. “Wimps,” I thought, casually drifting along on my back.
My happiest feet.
After a few hours in the sun, we pale Alaskans were ready to head back to the motel and catch some Z’s before the concert the next day. We both passed out early. The next day was a blissful blur. It was perfect weather and I was stoked to see my main man in concert again. We showed up to the show very early, securing seats in the third row.
By the time they started, I knew exactly how the concert would go, based on my knowledge of the prior one. Alison was very reserved on stage, standing stock still in front of the microphone, arms awkwardly jutted straight down at her sides. Strange how someone can be blessed with such an amazing voice and absolutely no stage presence. Robert on the other hand is all swagger and charm, even in his 60s. At one point, my mother leaned over, 2 beers in, and said “he’s so sexy.” I chose to pretend that didn’t happen, until this very moment. It was an amazing concert. Outside in 80 degree weather, under a clear sky full of stars, and a stage full of amazing performers; Robert, Alison, and T-Bone Burnett. Other than the drunk dudes behind me shouting “play Zeppelin,” it was probably THE best concert of my life, other than Tool.
It was one of those perfect, amazing evenings you never wanted to end, and I was spending it with my mom instead of a handsome man. It did come to an end though, and all too soon. After a few hours, we ambled our way back to the motel, still hoping to catch a glimpse of Robert, but never succeeding. One of my resolutions that year had been to “meet Robert Plant,” but I didn’t succeed that year and I doubt I ever do. That really was my final chance. We drove back to Reno the next day and hopped on the plane home. The tour was ending in Nashville a few weeks later, and we’d have no chance to see the two of them again unless they made another album or decided that tour was lucrative enough to do another. Four years later, I am still waiting for the chance to see Mr. Plant in concert again. All I need is for him to make a decent album, and play a gig that my mother and I can drive to, and you know we will be in the front row, me wishing Robert was 30 years younger and my mom wishing they both were single.
(Part 3 can be read here..)