March 24, 2019

Week 20: Flying High Over the Sierra Nevadas

Flight! Taking to the air with Soaring NV.

(All photos by author).

You’ve never truly flown until you’ve taken to the air in a glider.

This past week saw us cross the state of California from west to east, and depart Santa Rosa after last week’s adventures and cross over the Sierra Nevadas into the Silver State. Like most Americans, we’d “been to Vegas,” but soon found that we hadn’t truly been to Nevada.

A full scale mock up of the research vessel the John Le Conte at the Tahoe Environmental Research Center.

In fact, our very first stop was Lake Tahoe at the Biltmore Hotel and Casino juuusst across the California/Nevada state line. And we do mean just across. In fact the state line bisects the lake and the Mellow Fellow Pub just across the street! We suggest that you try their astronomically inspired Drake’s Dark Matter stout. The irony is, if the WIMP model is correct, there should indeed be some weakly interacting dark matter permeating the brew…

We also checked out the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center in the nearby town of Incline Village. Did you know that NASA runs Earth observation experiments on the lake? Or that Lake Tahoe experienced a tsunami about 30,000 years in the past, and could witness one again? Or that the lake has one of the highest clarity ratings of any lake known, and that that clarity is decreasing?  All this and more awaits discovery at the Environmental Center.  They’re open daily during peak summer times and on Saturdays from 1PM to 5PM during the winter, and also have free guest science lectures once a month, complete with complementary wine and chocolate tastings.

Blue skies over Carson Valley Nevada.

Journeying farther into Nevada, we landed in Reno after a thrilling and scenic drive over the 9,000 foot pass along the Mount Rose Highway. Reno is a great city on the rebound, featuring modern restaurants such as Campo’s.

We stayed at the Peppermill Casino and Hotel, a fine and sprawling establishment built on the site of the original Peppermill Coffee House in 1971. The hotel actually expanded over three successive phases, and features the largest free-span ballroom in North America at 65,000 square feet. The hot water for the entire facility is powered by geothermal energy, and there are plans to put the entire electrical system for the hotel complex on geothermal as well.

Cooling off at the Peppermill Resort in Reno, Nevada.

After Reno, we struck out to explore the Carson Valley region to the south. The region boasts Genoa, the oldest town in Nevada founded in 1851, and the outstanding 1862 David Walley’s Resort and Spa, complete with natural hot springs. The Carson Valley sits in the rain shadow of the Sierra Nevadas, with fine weather year round.

Starry Skies over 1862 David Walley’s Inn.

But one of the most amazing adventures that we’d ever had awaited us at Soaring NV at the Minden airport. We took to the air for a 30 minute glider flight, complete with aerobatics and zero-g maneuvers.  Gliders are pure flying, and represent both the serenity and exhilaration of flight. It’s as close to strapping a pair of wings to your back and soaring like a bird that you can get… and a steal at 150$ a flight. Soaring NV was very safety conscious and professional, and provided a great and insightful adventure.

Ready for takeoff!

Now, I just need to get a seat on Virgin Galactic’s Space Ship Two, set to start taking passengers soon…

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