Lake Tahoe Is Hurtin’ For Certain

Jim Luff
Posted on August 25, 2010
CASINOS EMPTY, STORES EMPTY, SHOWS EMPTY: I just returned home from a one week stay in Lake Tahoe in California. If ever there was an indication of a bad economy, this city is it. There was not a single livery vehicle to be seen or had.
Lake Tahoe, with its crystal blue lake, plenty of water sports, casinos, hotels and famed ski runs, is a place that evokes images of a bustling gambling town for vacationers. I have always thought of Lake Tahoe as a miniature version of Las Vegas. With big name hotels such as Harrah’s, I expected to see at least a handful of limousines parked in front of the hotel. There were none.
Before I go too far into my vacation observations, I know what you are probably thinking. Jim Luff is always on vacation! The truth is, I believe that several mini-vacations are important to those of us that work in this industry. In a 24/7 operation, the drama never stops. We have cars pulling out of the garage at 2 a.m. or returning back from a trip at 4 a.m. And as you well know, every trip, no matter what time of day, can have incidents come up from as simple as a flat tire to as major as a passenger ejection from unruly behavior. We don’t close on holidays or weekends so you simply must unplug periodically and trust that your people have been trained sufficiently to handle any crisis that may arise. With that in mind, I try to do a handful of four-day weekends and two solid weeks of true vacation, one in the summer and one at Christmas time. This was the annual summer weeklong vacation.
As we began planning this trip, I sought out a limousine company that could provide transportation for us while in Lake Tahoe. This would allow me to write about that service and expand my knowledge of the industry at the same time. I did a Google search of “Limousines in Lake Tahoe.” The only game in town had an answering machine on and never called me back. The other ones that were listed were from Reno or Sacramento and all wanted to charge three hours of travel time to deadhead to Lake Tahoe and deadhead home. We only needed service around town for a few hours so that wasn’t practical.
As we began our adventures, I quickly realized why there were no livery services in the area. There is no one to chauffeur! We walked into the casino at Harvey’s Hotel and Casino and found the place to be virtually dead. Row upon row of slot machines sat unoccupied and silenced by the lack of funds being deposited into them. The Blackjack table was manned by a flat screen TV with a “virtual dealer” rather than a real person. That wasn’t very fun but since no one else was at the table and minimum bets were a buck, we took some time to play. We bought tickets to a show at the same hotel. I worried we would be the only ones in the theater. I wasn’t far off in my prediction as 26 people attended “Two Kings – A Tribute to Michael Jackson and Elvis.” It was dismal.
It was our luck that there was absolutely no waiting for a trip up the famed Heavenly Valley gondolas. Almost all the gondolas were empty and the mountain top “playground” was virtually empty. No shortage of seats at the famed Umbrella Bar located at the 10,000 foot summit. In fact, it was so empty that we were “noticed” and a lady came over and asked my wife if she was from our hometown of Bakersfield. It turned out she was friends with my wife’s brother. It’s amazing who you can run into in a ghost town.

— Jim Luff, LCT contributing editor

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Jim Luff Contributing Editor
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