Don't miss the park at Emerald...
Don't miss the park at Emerald Bay, which offers some of the most breathtaking views in the area. Look closely, and you may be able to spot the hand-built stone "tea house" on Fannette Island.
From there, the road winds through tall trees on the way to Spooner Lake. The speed limit is fairly low through here, so if you want to open up your Corvette, peel off to the left at Highway 50 and head down to Carson City. The 4,000-foot drop in elevation is dramatic, as this was where the steep V-flume used to float logs down the mountain to build the fantastically rich mines of Virginia City (an intriguing historic site that we plan to visit in a later issue). Anyway, the big, sweeping bends of the 50 are smooth and fast, but watch out for the highway patrol at both the top and bottom of this 20-mile stretch of four-lane highway. Also, those tall sticks lining the highways around Lake Tahoe aren't for marking apexes or braking stages-they help the snowplows find their way in blizzards.
Another nice stretch of highway is the portion of the 395 that heads through Washoe Valley (north into Reno). This area is walled by tall mountains that form the eastern edge of Lake Tahoe. Just watch your speed going through Pleasant Valley, at least until the new section of highway is completed that'll make the trip much quicker. We were guided on this portion of the trip by John Balentine, a retired peace officer, and his red C5. He was a good sport, striking friendly poses at our photo locations.
If you're looking for something...
If you're looking for something a little more cosmopolitan, be sure to stop by La Ferme, an excellent French restaurant located just across the street.
Alternatively, you can head south on 395 from Carson City, the Nevada state capital, and turn right on Jack's Valley Road (Route 206) to the little town of Genoa. Inspired by the Italian city of the same name, it's actually pronounced "je-NO-uh" by the locals. Claimed to be the oldest town in Nevada, and founded in 1851 by Mormons operating a trading post (now a state park), this charming and shady village has a special attraction that those abstemious pioneers would have shunned: the Genoa Bar.
This funky-yet-enticing "Thirst Parlor" (don'cha just love that name?) is the longest continuously operated bar in the state. And it looks it too, complete with antlers, a pot-bellied stove, a trap door in the wooden plank flooring, antique oil lamps, and all sorts of other Western bric-a-brac. The barmaids are cordial and attractive, enhancing the intriguing ambience, which includes a black leopard-print bra left behind by actress Raquel Welch. Even the Diamond Dust Mirror (shine a flashlight on it to see the rock sparkles) behind the bar has some history; it was shipped in the 1840s from Glasgow, Scotland, around the horn to San Francisco, and then delivered by covered wagon. As you might imagine, a number of movies have been shot in this wild-West setting.
Besides a chance to slake your thirst, the town offers some other attractions, especially if you're into antiques and museums, as pointed out by our host, Paul Anthony of the Lake Tahoe Corvette Club. And there's a surprisingly elegant gourmet French restaurant, La Ferme, located right across the street from the Genoa Bar. We've had some memorable meals there, and recommend it wholeheartedly.
Retired lawman John Balentine...
Retired lawman John Balentine exercises his C5 on a "high speed" run through Washoe Valley. A planned connecting highway will make this section even quicker.
You can continue from Genoa south on 395 for a long, wonderful drive to SoCal, or take the 88 over to NorCal (a much better, though slower, drive than the Interstate 80, which can get bumpy in parts, due to all the damage from truckers and snowplows). Or you can take the Kingsbury Grade (State Route 207) route back up to South Lake Tahoe and the casino resorts up there as well. This route is full of twisties and switchbacks, making it a great place to flex your Vette's suspension.
All told, visiting Tahoe in the warm seasons offers everything a Corvette owner yearns for, and then some. So plan ahead for next year's event with Tahoe Corvette Club. While it holds regular trips every month ("We're an eating and drinking club with a Corvette problem," jokes past president Barbara Cowe), the highlight of the year is the annual car show, which raises money for local charities.