Get­ting there

Out & About with Kids - - CONTENTS -

Qan­tas, United and Amer­i­can Air­lines all fly from Aus­tralia to Reno Ne­vada, via ei­ther LA or San Fran­cisco. Check airline web­sites for flights from your near­est cap­i­tal city. United Air­lines flies daily from San Fran­cisco to Reno (1 hour); United and Amer­i­can Air­lines fly daily di­rect to Reno from Los An­ge­les (1.5 hours). boathouse fea­tured in the movie is still there. Back at the lodge Jack­son hit the sauna, Tru­man played ping-pong with a Texas boy in a Donald Trump “Make Amer­ica Great Again” t-shirt (yep, they have kids sizes), while Yvonne and I looked to the next day, and the two trea­sures to come: Sand Har­bor, and the stun­ning Thun­der­bird Lodge.

I first vis­ited Thun­der­bird Lodge eight years ago while driv­ing south along the lake’s eastern shore­line, af­ter pass­ing its drive­way and glimps­ing just enough to cause me to make a hasty U-turn which turned out to be one of the more mem­o­rable U-turns of my life. Never un­der­es­ti­mate the pos­si­bil­i­ties born of spon­tane­ity.

In the 1930s, not long af­ter Lora built her Tea House, Ge­orge Whit­tell, an ec­cen­tric and reclu­sive mil­lion­aire with a love for women (and gi­raffes, but that’s an­other story) built one of North Amer­ica’s most cov­eted res­i­dences on a gran­ite promon­tory south of Sand Har­bor. An Arts & Crafts-era mas­ter­piece the 16,000 sq ft main build­ing of lo­cally quar­ried stone is sur­rounded by a fairy­tale, Alice in Won­der­land world of wa­ter­falls, ponds, paths and dry­s­tone walls that de­light adult and child alike, a folly so per­fectly con­ceived and ex­e­cuted it al­most im­proves upon na­ture. You know the real es­tate mantra “lo­ca­tion, lo­ca­tion, lo­ca­tion”? Thun­der­bird Lodge is that mantra’s purest ex­pres­sion. And if you think the lodge is fab, wait un­til you see the boat!

A 200m-long tun­nel blasted through solid gran­ite con­nects the house to the boathouse, home to the 16m-long Art Deco mas­ter­piece, the in­com­pa­ra­ble, un­for­get­table Thun­der­bird Yacht. With its triple­planked ma­hogony deck wrapped around a ta­pered stain­less-steel cabin shaped to mimic the fuse­lage of Whit­tell’s DC-2 air­craft, its two V-12 Al­li­son jet en­gines give it a top speed of 60 ex­hil­a­rat­ing knots. Cruises are rather ex­pen­sive, and in­fre­quent too, so check avail­abil­ity. An­noy­ingly af­ter two vis­its I’m still to get on­board be­cause of sched­uled main­te­nance works. But just to emerge from the tun­nel and see it be­fore you in all its con­sid­er­able glory, is gob-smack­ing enough.

We spent our fi­nal Ta­hoe hours at Sand Har­bor, a cres­cent-shaped yel­low sand beach with a backdrop of Jef­frey pines be­neath a sky as deep a blue as the wa­ter be­fore us. The Lake Ta­hoe Shake­speare Festival is held here each summer, and it’s here you’ll find the best ex­am­ple of the lake’s most recog­nis­able land­form - its mas­sive rounded gran­ite boul­ders - the prod­uct of what ge­ol­o­gists call Spheroidal weather­ing, and a nat­u­ral play­ground of in­fi­nite pos­si­bil­i­ties.

But Sand Har­bor is more than that. Imag­ine the Ol­gas, or the Bun­gle Bun­gles made small, ac­ces­si­ble. Clim­bable! This beach, like Ta­hoe it­self, if you let it, can reach deep in­side you. I re­alised this when I saw my boys perched on a gran­ite out­crop, all played-out, star­ing west­wards across the lake to the set­ting sun as it dipped be­low the far-off peaks of the Des­o­la­tion Wilder­ness, sit­ting on ig­neous rocks that mil­lions of years ago were forced to the sur­face through up­lift and ero­sion, just so they could pro­vide a seat from which to view the end of an­other per­fect Ta­hoe day.

Above: Jack­son kayaks on Emer­ald Bay

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