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Anatomy of a tourist
by Nathan Orme
Apr 03, 2010 | 666 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
This past week my parents visited me. They live in Southern California and were visiting me in Reno for the first time since I moved here in 2007. It was actually the first time I had seen them in nearly three years, if you don’t count the picture of themselves they sent me as a gift last Christmas. Their visit here also was the first time either of them had been to this area. My mom passed through as a kid during family car trips to Illinois and my dad may also have stopped in as a youth, but in essence it was their inaugural visit. That meant it was my duty to show them the sights and make sure they got a good flavor of the area in four days. Suddenly, I was a cog in the tourism wheel on northern Nevada’s economic engine. I quickly oiled myself up so as to perform my very best.

Day 0 of their visit was a week ago Saturday. They drove halfway and stayed overnight in Bishop, Calif. Though this stop was not of direct economic impact to the Truckee Meadows, that area is like this one in that it depends on tourist dollars for a chunk of its survival. Bishop received probably about $120 from the Ormes in the form of a motel room, dinner, gas and a stop for bread at Erick Schat’s bakery. On Day 0, I contributed to the local economy by spending about $55 to fill my gas tank and $100 on groceries and beer. My mom promised to make some food from my childhood and my dad promised to drink lots of Guinness. My apologies to the local restaurants.

Day 1 of their visit was early afternoon a week ago today. After they arrived and we hauled in their luggage, we took a drive around part of McCarran Boulevard and into downtown Reno. I regaled them some tales of where I crashed my car two years ago and the point from which I watched the Great Reno Balloon Race last summer. Then we drove up Virginia Street and walked through the new addition at the Peppermill and through some downtown casinos. Again, my apologies to the local businesses because we did not gamble or eat. The day ended with a home-cooked meal and beds I pay for each month in the form of a mortgage.

Day 2 was again an economic homage to Big Oil. We drove up to the area’s major visual attraction, Lake Tahoe. Being that my parents are amphibious and need heat from the sun to stay warm, we did not spend much time outside. We made the requisite stops to see the sights at both the north and south ends of the lake but otherwise were in constant search of heated spaces. Our $50 or so contribution to the local economy was made to Sam’s burgers on the south shore for lunch. Again, we drove home to a cooked meal and free beds.

Day 3 was supposed to entail a trip to Virginia City but the rain/snow/general unpleasantness of the weather prompted us to embark on the Day 4 plan to stay local. We began the day with breakfast at Peg’s Glorified Ham & Eggs on South Sierra Street in Reno. The restaurant was my roommate’s suggestion, trumping the ideas that came up in an Internet search and demonstrating the old-fashioned power of word of mouth. Then we went to Harrah’s Automobile Museum, which killed about three hours as we lingered over each car’s story. Between the two, we spent around $100 locally but, again, weather dictated our activities and we were home by mid-afternoon.

Day 4 had better weather so we embarked for Virginia City. Not being a big gambler, I think Virginia City and Lake Tahoe are the two must-sees of the area. Our trip to Virginia City consisted of a couple of paid tours — the Mark Twain museum an old Comstock mine — plus lunch and a couple of drinks at the Ponderosa Saloon, totaling again about $100. On the way home we stopped by Legends at Sparks Marina, but by then it was late afternoon and we had to get home so my mom could make one last meal (hey, she offered to cook!). I drove by Scheels and pointed it out to them, but we did not stop so this time my apologies go out to the employees there and to the folks who invested in STAR bonds. We made a quick stop at the Tribune office to pick up my paycheck and proceeded home.

On their last day here, I sat and pondered our contribution to local tourism. My parents’ visit was far from the ideal, but also reflective of travelers who don’t have tons of cash to spend or lose at casinos. It also gave me a better notion of how seasonal our area is: If you don’t like the cold, stay home until northern Nevada thaws out. I told Mom and Dad that they’d probably really enjoy coming back for the Rib Cook-Off or other summer activity, and I am sure the local businesses would enjoy their money, too.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to finish off my mom’s Texas sheet cake, which is the best chocolate cake in the world.

Nathan Orme is the editor of the Sparks Tribune. He can be reached at
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