Tourists in Tahoe (Lake Tahoe part 2)

Read Part 1 here.

After our tune-up ride and showers we headed out to find lunch and get to know Lake Tahoe better.

Several of us found a nice Mexican restaurant (Peppers was the name of it, I think) at the base of the Heavenly ski resort gondola, while others noshed at a pizza joint nearby.  I had a delicious shredded pork burrito loaded with beans and lettuce and veggies on a whole wheat tortilla--good eats!  It was perfect weather for eating el fresco, so we sat at a table outdoors and watched the gondola cars going up the mountain and returning to the base.

It's such a long way up the mountain!
As soon as we finished eating we all met back up to take the gondola upwards.  This trek had me both thrilled and scared shitless...I do NOT do heights well.  My entire family suffers from some pretty serious fear of heights and vertigo issues.

Our friend and teammate Jason was just as freaked-out as I was.  Derek and Kaat got a kick out of our whimpering and hyperventilation!  Jason has skydived (skydove?) before, so it was sort of ironic to me that the gondola made him so tense.

The views from the gondola were pretty amazing...huge rock formations jutting out at all angles, blue skies, twisty trees toppled over while still living trees grew at seemingly impossible angles.  I enjoyed the trip up to the overlook platform until I made the "mistake" of turning around to look behind me.  Holy crap, that was a scary vantage point!  I spent the rest of the ride to the top sort of hunched-over and refused to look behind me.

Midway up the mountain we were able to exit the gondola and check out the view from a platform that circled a peak.  Now, this platform was VERY large and stable, but I still would not go anywhere near the railing.

Brave souls leaning on the railing - Kaat, Ross, Linda, Heather, Michelle
Before exiting the gondola car we were coming in hot on another car filled with other West MI teammates.  Jason had a moment of hilarious panic as he thought a rear-ending of their car was imminent and hollered "Oh, god, STOP!!!"  We're still laughing about that over a week after the fact.

After we'd had our fill of viewing Lake Tahoe from way above we re-entered a gondola car to ride further up the mountain to the main Heavenly ski resort (I'm not entirely certain, but I think maybe the only way to access the resort is by gondola.  I never saw evidence of public road access by car).

The resort area was pretty surreal...it didn't really feel like we were on top of a mountain, since the resort is nestled in a small valley.

Because I'm a dumbass I was talked into a $10 chairlift trip that would bring us closer to the very tippy-top of the Heavenly ski resort.  Now, I have been on chairlifts before, even big ones in CO. Those really didn't scare me in the least--because they have like 10'+ of plush snow below and I'd be covered in several inches thick cozy ski attire.  On this particular chairlift ride there was nothing to protect my fragile body from a far fall from the chair onto BOULDERS!!!  Every time the lift would stop our chair would swing and pitch sort of forward...oh, shit!

At the top of the chair we got off and wandered around a bit.  We didn't go very far, but I think there are runs on the back side of the mountain, too.  Someday I will have to look at a resort map to get a better feel for how big Heavenly was.  I'd really love to ski there, too.  We haven't downhill skied since before DS was conceived, so probably almost 13 years ago.  I really enjoyed alpine skiing, though.

Hiking around on top of the mountain really was a lung challenge, though.  We were somewhere in the neighborhood of 9k feet and I felt it.  We didn't stay up there long before taking the chairlift back down to catch the gondola to the base, again.

My smile is totally fake...see the flexed tendon of terror in my neck?!
It's almost enough to distract from my lack of defined chin and jawline.
If I thought the chairlift up was terrifying it didn't compare to the trip down...oh.  I have never been on a chairlift headed downwards.  And now I could see the ground AND really felt like we were going to tip off the front of the chair as we were moving forward at a downwards angle.  I had a death-grip on the bar in front of us with one hand and my other hand was gripping the seat.  It's funny in hindsight, but I was really wishing that I'd chosen to hike down, since there were people doing that--SMART people!

See how mean my husband is, all relaxed and stuff while I am staring forward directly towards my impending demise?!

The gondola ride back down was less scary, relative to the chair ride.  Jason was still sorta freaked every time the gondola car would rattle along over the wheelie deals on the towers.  I am certain that he and I both lost a few lives on that trip (though he did let go of the lift chair to take that photo above, so maybe he's not as big a freak as I am, heh).

Team West MI has glittery balls...on our helmets!
Once down we did a bit of souvenir shopping for the rugrat and then returned for our ride-eve dinner and traditional helmet decorating party (it makes it much easier for us to spot our teammates during ride day and is just plain fun).  Special jerseys were handed out to the top individual fundraiser and we learned that our team was the top fundraising team of all teams represented at the Lake Tahoe ride.  We also got to meet Curtis, who is the ride director for the entire Tour de Tahoe.  He has made it his mission to give as much promotion to the JDRF as he possibly can.  The official Tour de Tahoe t-shirts (given to all 1800 riders, in addition to the JDRF riders, who made up < 1/10 of the entire field) all have a huge JDRF logo on the front, which is pretty neat.  Hopefully his promotion of the organization will bring more new riders on for 2013.

After we finished decorating our helmets we made our way back to our respective rooms for a good night's sleep before the big ride day.

On to part 3...

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