Sorry for being MIA for so long! I’ve been slacking on updating this travel blog. For a few months, we didn’t leave town, as I was recovering from hip surgery from ballet injuries. Since then, I’ve been traveling but too busy to sit down and write. And some were repeat destinations, albeit visiting different attractions and restaurants — but I didn’t think there was enough new material worth blogging about. I’m back into it now.

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Truckee River, downtown Reno

Last July, my husband and I lucked out and got to be plus-ones on two different people’s tickets to the much-buzzed-about Tesla Gigafactory grand opening & tour in the Reno, NV area: headlined by CEO Elon Musk at a private party for Tesla owners, board members, and big wigs from around the world. I own and drive the all-electric Tesla Model X with 2nd-row falcon-wing doors, the biggest touch-screen in a vehicle, a front & back trunk, zero emissions — the world’s most futuristic, fastest, safest, and coolest (only this one of the four superlatives is subjective but almost fact) SUV.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk & CTO JB Straubel speaking at Gigafactory grand opening party

Tesla CEO Elon Musk & CTO JB Straubel speaking at Gigafactory grand opening party

We were disappointed that this once-in-a-lifetime trip would cost us more than $600/person in roundtrip airfares (seriously, to Reno?) — much pricier than tickets to relatively nearby Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and San Francisco Bay Area. Nevertheless, we booked the most last-minute plane trip we’ve ever taken. Plus side: free upgrade to first class on the way from Houston to Reno. We arrived in the middle of the night and checked into the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino and caught just a few hours of sleep before an early morning start.

Day 1

We spent the day attending the Tesla Motors Club (TMC) Connect annual conference for the first time. It was an incredibly enlightening day of workshops about electric vehicles, autonomous driving, and Tesla’s groundbreaking marketing strategies — led by visionary speakers and attended by fellow EV (mostly Tesla) owners. We listened to and met some of the most innovative thinkers of our time who have made the “impossible” possible, including Sirius satellite radio creator/United Therapeutics CEO Martine Rothblatt (formerly Martin before her transgender transformation), who owned 7 Teslas at the time and has been developing a battery-powered helicopter, and George Blankenship, who was the architect of Apple’s brand-building retail method and as former VP, made Tesla the Apple of car companies.

Tesla Gigafactory

Tesla Gigafactory

In the early evening, we carpooled with a fellow Tesla owner to Sparks, NV to attend the Tesla Gigafactory unveiling by CEO Elon Musk and meet other owners. We witnessed a dust storm on the backdrop of the Nevada hills and mountains, while other attendees were test-riding Teslas. My husband and I scored a front-row spot by the stage to witness history! VIP treatment, a hip party with unlimited drinks. Only the food was a little lacking — good but not quite enough substance for such a long event. We toured the enormous, very high-tech Gigafactory, which will produce all the lithium ion batteries for Tesla cars and chargers — more than the entire world’s current production. Talking and fast-moving robots were at work alongside people. Buses took us up the hill to see a Tesla sign like the “Hollywood” letters in the Hollywood Hills. We also saw up close Tesla’s new small sedan Model 3, Tesla’s first mass-market vehicle which will be priced reasonably at about $35,000 vs. the current models priced from about the $70,000s-150,000s. The party was an unforgettable experience that lasted late into the night.

Day 2

National Automobile Museum

National Automobile Museum

After a full day of back-to-back, high-energy events, it was time for sightseeing and relaxing at a slower pace. We visited one of North America’s top-5 auto museums, National Automobile Museum. Organized by decade, it took us on a journey through the history and evolution of automobiles. It was a step back in time from the futuristic EVs we had spent the past day getting to know intimately.

We walked through downtown Reno and enjoyed watching people swimming and tubing in Truckee Riverwalk, something you don’t see in most cities. We also explored the Midtown district and saw the famed “Reno: The Biggest Little City in the World” sign.

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my husband and me, Lake Tahoe

We spent the late afternoon taking a scenic drive up to Lake Tahoe. We climbed around on the cliffs and rocks, and walked trails overlooking the beautiful, popular lake.

In the evening, we finally had time back at our hotel to start browsing the shops, try the restaurants, and check out the numerous amenities. This is definitely a resort for everyone — billiards room and golf for the guys (and gals), arcade for teens, play areas for kids, spa for ladies (and men), beach volleyball, bowling alley, movie theater, pool, and more.

Day 3

panoramic view from Animal Ark

panoramic view from Animal Ark

Before departing Reno, we took a drive out to the country to visit Animal Ark, a scenic wildlife sanctuary in the mountains for injured or otherwise endangered animals. It was so quiet outside, you could hear what someone else was saying in a normal voice hundreds of feet away. We saw a variety of animals, including a bobcat, jaguar, lynx, badger, bears, wolves, predatory and non-predatory birds, and more. What a unique, peaceful setting to appreciate majestic animals. We weren’t there on the right day to witness the cheetah run, but that sounds like an amazing experience that we’d want to see in the future — cheetahs running full speed right in front of you!

As we left this city that is known for its casinos, we remembered the area for its natural beauty — lakes, mountains, and crisp air.

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