TAHOE/TRUCKEE - For many, vacation is a time to kick back and toast to whatever comes to mind. While that's a personal choice, let's remember that getting drunk can inadvertently affect those around you. And at higher elevations, in an exciting atmosphere, it can affect you differently. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you're dipping into Lake Tahoe's many watering holes.
1. Though it is a common belief that elevation increases the potency of alcoholic beverages, it actually does not affect your body's ability to metabolize alcohol. In other words, your blood-alcohol content will be the same after one beer in the mountains as will be at sea level. But because the air is thinner, elevation does affect the body's ability to absorb enough oxygen. This can cause somewhat of a drunken feeling - light-headedness, dizziness, and shortness of breath. Combined with one, two or three too many drinks, things might get a little hazy, or blacked out, real quick.
2. There's a longstanding myth that alcohol helps warm the body when it's cold. Initially, a drink will dilate your blood vessels and move them closer to the surface of the skin, offering a temporary feeling of warmth. But, according to the Discovery Channel's trusty Mythbusters, this won't help one stay warm over any period of time, and it actually might make them colder. Because the veins move blood outward, core body temperature - the heat one needs to stay warm in, say, the snow - drops.
3. Bars in Nevada don't close at 2 a.m. Sometimes, they don't close at all. Drinking in the Silver State can take endurance. Don't put on the wobbly boot until you've donned your trousers, as the saying goes. If you're going to start drinking on the California side and move over to Nevada for the late hullabaloo, don't drink and drive.
4. According to Highaltitudelife.com, the Mayo Clinic and other sources, elevation has been known to increase one's chances of dehydration. Through perspiration and the exhalation of water vapor at high altitudes, the body can use up to twice as much moisture as at sea level. That means you need more water to keep your body functioning. And it means a heavy night of drinking, without substantial hydration, can mean one elevated hangover.
5. There's a distinction between possessing an open drink (container) in public and being drunk in public. In Nevada, having an open container is legal in some cities, but California has a statewide law that bans open alcoholic beverages in public. That doesn't mean you're allowed to wander the streets three sheets to the wind on either side of the border. In both states, it is illegal to be drunk in public and police closely watch behavior.
6. Drunk driving is never tolerated. If you're caught behind the wheel and under the influence, even if your blood alcohol level is less than .08, you will be charged and spend the night in jail. And on winter nights, those concrete floors are plenty cold.
"We want everybody to have a good time," South Lake Tahoe Police Department spokesman Lt. David Stevenson said. "But know your limits and don't drink and drive."