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Tahoe is full of simple pleasures

Merlyn Oliver, Tahoe Daily Tribune

It’s summertime, but the livin’ ain’t always easy.

In a town where the population can more than double on a summer weekend, a job you enjoy can become something you’d just like to get away from at the end of a tough day.

But people living here have something going for them most others don’t: a wide-open escape hatch.



It doesn’t much matter whether they work at a front-line tourism job or for a state agency — either way, the solace the lake and mountains give can be priceless.

For Kari Tobey, it’s being able to get on her horse after work and ride to the meadow off Sawmill Road.



“I keep him at the Amacker Ranch in the summer,” Tobey said. “I get in my car, I drive down there, put a saddle on him, and it’s, ‘See ya later.’ “

Tobey, 42, is a lifelong South Shore resident who works as a senior service generalist for the California State Automobile Association office at the “Y.” She said it’s hard to put into words what spending time with Madison, a sorrel thoroughbred 17.2 hands high, does for her in that particular corner of Tahoe.

“He can sense when I’m tense,” she said. “I brush him, then tack him up. When I get out there in that meadow, I just exhale. I forget everything. Then we’ll go in the river and take a swim.”

Tobey’s job means constantly talking to people, whether it’s pulling information for their out-of-state vacations or just helping them plot their way to a friend’s house in Gardnerville.

When summer thunderstorms hit, it’s even busier.

“When the weather’s bad, everyone comes in here and wants to know what else there is to do up here,” she said. “It’s a wonderful place to work, but we do get a constant stream of questions.”

Don Martin, 45, a customer associate for Safeway Select Bank, spends his day talking to prospects inside the Safeway store on Johnson Boulevard.

“It’s not a job for the weak of heart,” he said.”I solicit accounts for the bank, so I’m always introducing myself to people. It’s a full day.”

His Tahoe summertime ritual begins about 5:30 a.m.

“I take my coffee and go down to the deck of the Beacon Restaurant, before it opens,” he said. “I live on Gardner Mountain, so it’s close. There’s not a soul around except for the raccoon family that lives under the deck. I watch the sun rise. The minute it hits the top of Tallac, I know it’s time to go get ready for the day.”

Royce Reardon, 18, Steven Gerken, 18, and Tad Herrington, 21, who work the parking kiosk at the entrance to the Beacon Restaurant, laugh about the daily parade of drivers.

“There’s no love for the parking guys,” Gerken said. They agree it was the red Monte Carlo that took the prize.

On a day when the lot was full, the driver moved some orange road cones so she could “just squeeze in front of” two boats due to leave shortly.

“We had a ‘Lot Full’ sign out, but she was a royal pain,” Gerken said. “People do not understand the meaning of the word ‘full.’ We need two signs out here.”

At the end of their shift, Reardon and Gerkin head down to the Camp Rich boat dock.

“We just peel off our work shirts, go to the end of the dock, and jump in,” Reardon said. Herrington will head over to the trail to Fallen Leaf Lake, just beyond the campground entrance, and walk out to the shore.

After a stressful day working as a postal clerk at the Tahoe Valley Station, Gene Ray, 52, gets on his 1965 Harley motorcycle.

“I ride up over Luther to Pickett’s Junction, then just sit there and enjoy the view,” Ray said. “Anytime I go over any one of the passes, I’m always amazed at the great work God does. Anywhere you go up here is so pretty.”

Walk into the Department of Motor Vehicles, ask how workers there deal with job stress and, after everyone stops laughing, Office Manger Vickie Warren will show you Ricky, the orange tabby cat who acts as the office therapist.

“Ricky’s really good for your soul,” Warren said. “We get even more people in here during the summer, so he helps us out.”

Patty Smith, 55, a motor vehicle technician, likes to go out to the bike trail.

“I go out past the Visitors Center, where there are fewer people,” Smith said. “I’ll take a walk and just enjoy how the pale green native plants look against the dark green of the pines.”

Smith knows the value of a summer day.

“You do get a settling of activity during the week, so if I can get some time off then, I can go for a hike and enjoy the things all the tourists enjoy,” she said. “If I didn’t do it, I’d die. Just being inside during the summer is tough.”

Out at Fallen Leaf Campground, the entrance station has two windows, one for campers coming in, the other for visitors who need some information. The flow is steady and keeps two park aides hopping.

Gloria Wood, 55, assistant manager for California Land Management, which runs the campground, has a trailer there for the summer. She unwinds right in her campsite.

“I take a shower, get into some comfy clothes, then sit outside,” Wood said. “We watch the chipmunks and birds. The critters are friendly, and it’s fun and relaxing just to watch them.”

On weekend mornings the size of the crowd clustered outside Denny’s Diner on Highway 50 is one barometer of how busy the weekend will be. Billy Ellis, 43, is the restaurant’s new general manager, having accepted a transfer to South Lake Tahoe in 2000 from Southern California. He’s already got a clear understanding of how to de-stress in Tahoe.

“I go fishing down by Markleeville,” Ellis said. “I keep my poles and tackle in my truck. I like it a lot better up here than down there.”


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