Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Last Day at Lake Tahoe ---Thunderbird Historic Lodge

Private Beach at the Thunderbird Lodge --- North Lake Tahoe

Roger here...  You may remember that I mentioned a tour to get away from the crowds on Father's Day, that was closed.  On our last day at Lake Tahoe we were able to reserve spaces on that tour. So-o-o, we left treats for the dogs and drove along the east (Nevada) side of the lake to Incline Village, Nevada to join the tour.

The state park at Sand Harbor that we had hoped to see along the way was full.  By this time we have gotten used to that.  However, we were able to get a parking spot at a scenic "vista" along the road.  An interesting walk through the huge boulders graced us with, ho hum, even more spectacular views:
Can you spot the paddle boarder?

After waiting for a few minutes on another couple who were taking pictures, I was able to get this photo of Dianne standing before a beautiful setting.  Which looks better --- Dianne or the setting?  Weigh your answer carefully :-).


Our destination was a visit to the "Castle in the Sky".  There is an interesting story behind this tour that made the purchase price worthwhile (even though the yacht was not there).  Quoting from the brochure:  Peek into the lifestyle of the rich and famous... water falls, winding pathways, a card house with poker stories, and secret tunnels...   

 In the 1930s George C. Whittell from San Francisco inherited a fortune from his parents and purchased a gigantic tract of land (27 miles of shoreline and 40,000 acres) along the Nevada shores of Lake Tahoe.  He was a very private kind of guy who never intended for anyone other than himself to enjoy the spectacular estate that he had built.  However, the net result was that upon his death, most of the Nevada shoreline of the lake remains undeveloped so that everyone today can enjoy it.

He built an estate for himself and his wife.  He did not build a huge mansion, but he did build an amazing space for two.  There were no guest bedrooms.  No spaces for Gatsby-style parties. However, the lodge was carefully (and expensively) constructed within a natural setting for his exclusive enjoyment.  

Dianne and I were transported to the lodge by motor coach and were greeted by a member of the preservation society.  We were ushered into a modern structure that did not match the 1930s setting of the lodge.  The view through the expansive windows, however, shows why George selected this particular setting for his hide-a-way. After exiting the modern structure we entered the world of 1935.

The tour did not allow us to see the outside of the lodge, except for glimpses from the bus, until the tail-end of the tour, but I thought you might like to see the interesting architecture:

The Front Entrance 

The Back of the House --- Facing Lake Tahoe

The preservation society has spent quite a bit of money restoring the lodge to its 1930s appearance.  A later owner had actually white-washed the knotty pine interior.  Must have been a lot of effort to remove all that white paint.  George Whittell had an interest in all the latest gadgets, including movie cameras.

The living quarters of the lodge basically consisted of a main room with two fireplaces and a bar, and two bedrooms at opposite ends of a second-story balcony.   The entire interior was knotty pine.

The Patio View from the Living Quarters

Only George and his wife (and according to our docent, possibly his personal assistant, hmm?) lived in the living quarters.  We toured the servants' quarters below the main floor that included two bedrooms, a kitchen, a laundry room, and an entrance to the tunnel.  The tunnel was two football fields in length.  Rooms off the tunnel included an opium den (I am not kidding) with a fireplace complete with a fire screen adorned with metal devil profiles, different than the woodland creature metal profiles that adorned all other screens and outdoor stone work. 

  Another space in the tunnel contained one of the very first (very large) air conditioners made by Carrier.  It still actually works!   

Another room contained a secret spiral staircase (to be explained later), the first boat house (which became an unfinished swimming pool),  and the dungeon.   (According to our docent, drunken card players would awake to find themselves on a cot in the dungeon.)   The tunnel eventually opened to the boathouse.  Dianne took a picture as we passed through this exceptionally interesting stone tunnel, but crap,  the lighting was not so good and the photo was too blurry to be usable.

The huge boat house was impressive, but the advertised yacht was not there.  It has been off premises in a warehouse since last August for repairs, yet it is still advertised as a part of the tour.  Dianne did get a good photo of this vintage life boat that was hanging in the boat house:

The photo below is a model of the actual yacht that the preservation society hopes to have back in the water in the near future.  I must say that I was disappointed that we were not able to see it, especially after all the advertising that it would be a part of the tour.  It has not been available to see since last summer.   I do not care for false advertising.

OK, end of rant.  For me, the best part of the tour (worth the price of admission) was still to come.  When we exited the boat house, the walk back to the lodge house represented some of the best landscape architecture I have ever seen --- maybe the best.  Architecture and landscape architecture in particular are among my loves.  In the photo below, the building in the center of the picture is the boat house (the dragon).  Look carefully and you can see the teeth and the eye of the dragon.  The pathway was called the tail of the dragon.

Half-way back to the lodge we entered the card house.  It was a matching rectangular stone structure with steep roof and fire places at each end.  Apparently, George did not enjoy guests and never invited them into the main lodge, but he did enjoy playing cards.  Selected individuals were invited to play cards and drink in the separate card house.  The photo below shows this simple room.  The feature that is not shown is the spiral staircase at the back of the adjoining toilet room shower that George took to escape back to the tunnel below when things were not going his way.

The best part of the tour is not over.  Exiting the card house we see the main lodge and all of the stonework (done mostly by Native American artisans).  The yellow chairs in the bottom left section of the photo sit in a remarkable private beach (shown in the opening picture of this post)...

... with fountains, huge natural boulders, and water tunnels from the lake.  Wow.

The last, best part of the tour, shows the extensive fountains and waterfalls that grace the formal entrance to the house.  

The bus that transported us back to the 1930s picked us up after a mandated walk through the gift shop (I already have enough t-shirts for the rest of my life, so no-sale). 

 On the way back to the motor home we thought that a late (very late) lunch stop at Brooks Bar and Deck at the Edgewood Golf Course (recommended by Anne at the Visitors' Center) would be a good way to end the outing.  Anne was right again.  Such good food.   Such a beautiful setting.

Stairs to Dining Patio

View from dining patio of the beautiful golf course right on Lake Tahoe

My brother, Dick, would have been so jealous.  Golf Digest rated this as one of the top 11 golf pubs in the world.  It was pretty, pretty, pretty nice.  My salmon fish and chips were so-o-o good.  So was my new favorite drink (mango mojito) thanks to Barb and Greg.

The photo below, taken from the golf course parking lot, encapsulates our time at Lake Tahoe.

We are in Winnemucca, Nevada at an overnight stop right now at a perfect park for overnight stops, New Frontier RV Park.  Tomorrow --- on to Boise!  

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