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Sand Mountain

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If you’re not already intricately familiar with the area, you would never expect there to be a set of tall, mini Sahara-like sand dunes just 1.5 hours east of Reno. But that’s exactly what you’ll find, along with people who like to drive fast on them in various motorized vehicles. Being into dirt bikes is what attracted me to the dunes, as I heard they were really fun to ride. My friends Keith and Dees, (Dees is his last name,) decided to buy paddle tires and go for it.

We arrived early Saturday morning and rode all day. (Be careful about the speed bumps on the entry road. They feel much more vicious than they appear and could damage your car/trailer if you don’t roll over them slowly.) There was definitely a learning curve in transitioning from the dirt, and we were a little intimidated to pin it up the dunes when we started. However, we adapted quickly and it became more fun as our comfort level increased. In addition to the constant high speeds, the freedom in choosing your lines on the wide-open sand is really unique. When you get a patch of sand that nobody has ridden through, it’s super smooth and reminds me of riding powder. If you’re less concerned about injury than I am, there are some big natural hits you could send.

We camped overnight, and I personally think few things can rival a campfire surrounded by your friends. Other people were shooting off fireworks and it made for a perfect show. The next day we rode until the sun started to set, and then came the sad part: We had to pack up and return to the real world. The video at the top of the page documented our first adventure, but it won’t be the last…

Being curious about the dunes, I did some thorough research on Wikipedia  and learned the following dune facts:
-They are 2 miles long
-600-700ft tall.
-The sand originated from ancient Lake Lahontan, which dried up about 9000 years ago.
– (For comparison: The dunes are a much smaller area than Pismo Beach in Southern California, but I believe they are taller.)

If you want to explore it, you can find more details HERE. If you have any other questions, feel free to leave me a comment!

(Photo Credit)


Castle Peak Attempt

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Approximate reading time: 3 minutes

I checked the weather forecast earlier this week and eliminated the possibility for a weekend adventure due to an approaching storm. However, on Saturday morning I got a call from my friend EJ, who you may remember from my last post. He suggested we brave the weather and go hiking as opposed to sit around. When adventure calls, it’s difficult for me not to answer.

We decided to go for Castle Peak since we both had never hiked it before. We assembled a crew of Greg, Alex, Dan, EJ and me, and set out in Greg’s Toyota Camry. The approach to the trailhead was on a dirt road, and Greg rallied that little Camry like Ricky Bobby on his way to Applebee’s. However, we confronted a hill that caused Greg’s tires to slide in the wet dirt, and car to almost high-center on the crest. We parked at the base of this hill and that’s where our hike began.

We continued hiking on the dirt road until we saw a single-track mountain biking trail off to the left. We decided to follow it, which led us up to Andesite Peak. As you can see below, this portion of the hike was quite lovely and scenic.





We even saw some humongous wild mushrooms. Does anyone know what species these are and if they’re edible?


In hindsight, it’s a much more direct route to Castle Peak if you continue on the main dirt road until it ends. (You can drive the entire section if you don’t take a Toyota Camry.) The exposure at the top of Andesite Peak revealed how strong the winds were. But the wind and mist added a layer of excitement to the hike. We were all in good spirits and having fun.


Nature selfie! (Feel free to leave me hate comments for this. I deserve it.)


As we climbed higher, the winds increased and the visibility decreased due to the mist. Per usual, Greg won the coolest picture award. He climbed to the top of a gnarly cliff and got this silhouette.


As we climbed higher the moisture turned to hail, and the wind delivered it against our bodies like a hundred cruel third graders were shooting us with airsoft guns. The hail turned our lovely day hike into a pretty extreme challenge that we were determined to conquer. You can watch the earlier sections of the video to gain a scope of the challenge we faced.

As we climbed higher, conditions just got worse: The wind increased, the frequency/size of hail increased and visibility decreased. Although the hail was pelting our bodies, I was worried about my eyes. The only strategy to shield my eyes from the horizontally-blowing hail was to turn in the opposite direction and walk sideways, or cup my hands around my eyes like a shield.

At this point, Dan and I decided to turn back. The extreme challenge at hand just became uncomfortable and unenjoyable. EJ, Greg and Alex decided to hike on. As Dan and I headed back down, we acknowledged the storm was gaining strength. It was raining much harder and we were soaked to the core.

The other guys carried on for about 20 mins before they decided to turn back. They reported visibility becoming so poor that they couldn’t see more than 20 feet ahead, and were concerned with getting lost in the whiteout. Not to mention, the hail took a toll on their motivation as well. I’m pleased they had the judgment to turn around, as proceeding in those conditions is just dangerous. If I had to contact a search party to locate my human popsicle friends, this blog post would have been a little darker.

Do you think it was fun or foolish of us to attempt a summit in these conditions?

Downieville Downhill Mtn Biking

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I received a call from my friend EJ last Thursday, and he suggested we spend the upcoming Saturday mountain biking on a “really cool trail outside of Quincy CA.” I objected because I don’t own a legit bike, and I don’t enjoy riding uphill. He successfully overcame my objections by informing me there were numerous bike shops to rent from, there were shuttles that provided rides to the top every hour and the trail was rated as the 8th best trail in the country.

I should have learned by now, I can’t trust his information. He’s that friend. But I did.

Flash forward to our 6:15am departure on Sat morning: Our crew consisted of EJ, our friend Kirby and me. I typed “Quincy” into Google Maps because that’s where I thought we were going. Wrong. We established we were going to Downieville once we were about 45 mins into the drive. Fortunately the route we pursued only added about 15 mins to out trip. For your reference, the best route from Reno is shown below: 80W -> 89 -> 49.


The route we took directed us to 395N toward Quincy, and had us take a detour as shown below. It was still a beautiful drive and therefore the stoke was still high.


Once we arrived in Downieville around 9am, I learned there were only two bike shops. The first bike shop’s shuttle was booked solid for the day, and the shuttle left every 2 hours. Why didn’t I verify EJ’s information again?? I felt so dumb.

The second bike shop was also booked solid for the day. HOWEVER, they had a shuttle leaving in 15 mins and a party of three that hadn’t checked in. We had a party of three and we miraculously got their spots. Good karma was on our side, and I’m glad it worked out since the next “potential” shuttle opportunity would have been at 11am.

I rented a sick Specialized downhill beast for $65. I had never ridden a legit, modern downhill bike until that day, and I can understand why they’re so expensive these days. Everything was engineered to handle the bumps and the speed perfectly, and it did. The shuttle was $20 per person and dropped us off at the very top.

The ride was about 14 miles and about 4500 feet of downhill. It was sick. There was only 1 section with a climb. The trail we took was the Butcher Ranch Creek Trail, and you can read more about the numerous trails HERE. After the ride, I had the most miraculous guacamole burger from the local restaurant. After a hard ride, some calorie-dense soul food is the best.

The video encompasses a brief overview of some of the terrain: fast downhill sections, flowy sections through the trees, gnarly rock sections and beautiful scenery. Since mtn biking is so organic, I decided a raw edit, (no music,) would be more fitting. Click the wheel on the bottom right and choose 1080p for best quality.

If this post inspires you to go ride, I want to hear about it. Leave me a comment and tell me about your experience!

Food Truck Friday Review

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Food. It’s a wonderful common interest we all share. An entire event dedicated to the wonders of food is simply a brilliant way to bring Renoites together.

At most other events I’ve attended, the majority of the booths are pointless to me: I don’t care about the hand woven baskets, the crummy t-shirts or the face painting booth. However every single truck at Food Truck Friday has something I’m interested in, making it exciting and full of purpose.

After walking through the street I will deem as “Food Truck Row” and evaluating my options, I picked out the “Wraps and Salads” truck  since it looked the healthiest. Thank God I have good friends who set my priorities straight by reminding me Food Truck Friday is not about the healthiest food, it’s about the biggest and tastiest. I quickly re-assessed my decision and decided to go with the Carolina BBQ Truck for its loaded mac and cheese: cheddar mac and cheese with bacon, topped with pulled pork and more cheese.

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I have to admit for $10 the portion didn’t satisfy my hunger. The mac and cheese was nothing special, but the pulled pork topping the dish and the bbq sauce were exceptional. Overall I was marginally satisfied and I would probably elect to seek out something more mind-blowing next time. I would be willing to try a more bbq oriented dish from the same truck.

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While I grubbed my Friends weaved through the entanglement of bodies trying to make a decision. Ultimately they both landed at the Philly’s Cheese Steak Truck. When they unwrapped their sandwiches they both let out sighs of disappointment, as the ingredients had poured out of the sandwich and stuck to the surrounding wrapper. They both commented on how it didn’t look anything like the picture on the truck. To further disappoint, they both said their cheese steak sandwiches and accompanying fries were average at best.

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Fortunately the Ceol beer truck allowed them to drink their disappointments away. Overall I think the event is awesome. However you can learn from my experience that not every food truck is mind-blowing like you might expect. I will have to return to find the truck that changes my life. What is your favorite or your recommendation? Leave me a comment and let me know! 🙂

Tesla in Reno

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The possibility of Tesla opening a battery factory in Reno has been the hot topic lately, and it’s no surprise. Tesla’s decision to move here would change this area dramatically. First, they would bring 6,500 skilled jobs to the region, which will lower our unemployment rate and remove Nevada from the top of the unemployment list. The bigger discussion is the ripple effect those jobs will have on the region. The facility by itself is supposed to be 10 million square feet, and therefore the construction industry will be the first to benefit from the decision. Once the facility is built, all 6,500 employees will need support businesses, which will create more jobs. Support businesses could be anything: dry cleaning, entertainment, home improvement, etc. The RGJ posted article that estimated 6,500 jobs would bring a total of 15,500 jobs.

In addition to the obvious job impact, there could be implications in unknown markets. Support businesses for Tesla would likely pop up, bringing additional skilled jobs in the lithium battery manufacturing field, among others. This could assist in creating the landscape entrepreneurs in Reno are dreaming of. If new businesses can emerge from Tesla’s decision, it could put Reno on the map as an entrepreneurial hub. In addition to attracting entrepreneurs, Tesla’s decision would likely attract other businesses. In fact, the publicity they are already generating isn’t bad for Reno. They would increase our list of existing corporations: Apple, Patagonia, Amazon, Microsoft and more. This would also assist in bettering Reno’s reputation.

Tesla’s decision would not come with out some negative impacts: We currently have very low inventory in the housing market. This low inventory has caused housing prices to increase quickly. This is good for homeowners, as many will see their equity restored, or rising. However it’s bad for buyer’s because it will increase competition, and even push some buyer’s out of the market. For example: If a buyer is qualified up to a $150k purchase price and housing prices increase significantly, that person may not be able to find anything. If Tesla’s decision has an immediate effect on average income, qualification may not be a problem. But I don’t think Tesla’s decision will cause other employers to increase wages, at least in the short term. Schools and freeways will also become more crowded, as well as ski resorts. Overall I think Tesla in Reno would bring many more benefits than problems. If you think Tesla in Reno would be a good thing, pat yourself on the back. If you think it would be a bad thing, punch yourself in the face. I’m just kidding, don’t do that. Maybe you can just leave me a comment and explain your logic.

Mt. Tallac Hike

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When I left the house this morning, I had no idea what adventure I was in for. Overall it was an incredible, and grueling. Soon after we began the hike, the trail was covered in river rock. We noted that it would have been a good idea to bring very thick shoes or hiking boots. About a mile in, we saw the most spectacular waterfall on the whole hike, which you can see in the photo below. We continued through the forested area, which paralleled a stream. As we gained elevation, we noted the surrounding peaks which still contained some snow. We couldn’t help but discuss which peaks we would like to ride in the winter.

As we continued, the amount of mosquitoes increased, and we were constantly swatting them off of us. We noted mosquito repellent would have been a nice item. The trail led us to a series of boulders, which we deiced to climb. The rock stacks other hikers had left indicated we must be going the right way. After scrambling for a suspicious amount of time, one of us spotted the trail in the distance. We got back on the trail, and the hike was much easier. Soon after we stopped for lunch, and I felt foolish for not bringing more food. I forgot how hungry long hikes make me. Fortunately we brought a ton of water, which kept us hydrated and refreshed all day.

Eventually we arrived at Gilmore Lake, a classic alpine Sierra Mtn Lake. It was amazing, as you can see from the photo below. We didn’t stay for long due to the mosquitoes, and we continued up. The 40 minutes leading to the summit were tough. The trail was steep and the high elevation made it difficult to breathe. Once at the summit, the obstacles we had faced were well worth it. We had a 360 degree view of Lake Tahoe, Fallen Leaf Lake, Lake Aloha, and Emerald Bay. Check out the pictures below!

Although it was a great trip, I have no desire to do it again. Our trip totaled about 7 hours, I’m sunburned and I’m going to be covered in mosquito bites tomorrow. Mt. Tallac was something I’ve been wanting to conquer for awhile and I’m happy to check it off the list. It’s one of those hikes that you have to do at least once. It’s probably not a hike you will do often, unless you’re a hardcore mountain goat. Hikes like this one reinforce my love for Reno. I think it’s so unique I can be on top of a huge mountain in Tahoe and back at my house in Reno in the same day. If you have hiked Tallac, tell me about your experience in a comment! If you have hiked to one of the other destinations around Tallac, what would you recommend?

The Waterfall!

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Chris climbing a huge tree early in the hike. Lucky he survived.

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Rock stacks marking the way.

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EJ and I at Gilmore Lake


At the summit.

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Amazing Views!

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Maybe we will return in the winter to ride?

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Recent Reno Changes

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Recently there have been a few changes occurring, or proposed, in and around downtown Reno. First, the Aces developer, Herb Simon, is at least affiliated with the Bundox property purchase. According to Washoe County documents, the property sold for $1.95 miilion. The property sits a 0 Lake Street, between the river and the Aces Ball Park. Nobody is certain what Simon plans to use the property for, but it will likely compliment the Freight House/Aces Stadium. Tim Ruffin from Colliers International thinks it will be used for retail-based businesses such as bars and restaurants. You can read a little bit about the history on the Downtown Reno Makeover Blog.

Next, some investor group called the Siegal Group is going to buy the El Cortez Hotel. Their plan includes upgrades to the building, but they want to keep the “historical character” intact. Specifically, the plan to paint, upgrade the floors, modernize the equipment and appliances, etc. A priority will be to fill the western retail spaces and apparently they’re already entertaining offers from potential tenants. I found an interesting article about the history of the El Cortez that you can read here. I’m interested to see what happens with this property, as the El Cortez would not seem attractive to me if I were an investor. I think serious renovations will be necessary to turn the place around. Further, there are already so many hotels in Reno, I’m curious how investors are going to differentiate themselves from the competition?

I guess UNR is gaining popularity. To make accommodations for the influx of students, the University plans to demolish Lincoln Hall to build new residence halls. Lincoln Hall was built in 1896, making it one of the oldest operating resident halls on the west coast. The outside of the building has never been modified since its original construction. This initiative is being met with much resistance in the community because people see it as a landmark on the UNR campus and they feel it’s important to UNR’s historic legacy. This link will lead you to a petition that you can sign if you feel strongly about preserving the building. Personally I think we should get rid of the old and welcome the new. In my opinion, functionality and practicality for the present should take priority over the past.

farmThe Lost City Farm was officially opened around September of last year, but I didn’t realize they were fully operational. Therefore I’m considering them a recent change and I’m blogging about them. This urban farm is located at 512 South Center Street, very close to SUP in midtown. All of the vegetables and flowers grown at this location are herbicide and pesticide free. Food from this farm is sold to local restaurants within a five mile radius. You can check their website to learn about events the organization holds. They sell produce directly to the public from their onsite farm stand once a week. Growing is seasonal so don’t expect fresh tomatoes when it’s below freezing in December. (Photo Credit)

It’s good to hear changes happening in Downtown. I hope the investors mentioned in this blog see an incredible ROI for their purchases. It would be ideal if their success sparked the interest of other investors, as that could encourage more purchases and renovations around downtown. Downtown Reno still has a long road until the downtown area is as attractive as other cities, but I consider all of the things mentioned to be steps in the right direction. What do you think? Leave me a comment and let me know!