$3.50 a Pack, My Ass…

$3.50 a pack, my ass…Since giving up smoking was not an option this weekend, seems the next best choice was a Friday night road trip to Reno to stock up on cheap Camels. It was a good excuse for an extra unplanned road trip anyway. And now I’m set through Christmas and my annual visit to Mom and Dad in North Carolina.


OK…almost anything is a good excuse for a road trip in my view. Cigarettes suddenly escalating in price from about $2.75 a pack to about $3.50 a pack in California (over the course of one weekend) is an incredible excuse. Throw in one roomie with a 4-wheel drive vehicle and all the ingredients are there. So this weekend, we braved snow-covered mountain roads, sleazy overpriced motels, and frightening Reno queer bars all (OK…mostly…) for cheap cigarettes.

We headed out about 1:30 on Friday afternoon. Traffic was a little heavy all the way to Sacramento, and we skipped the traditional Chick-Fil-A stop in Farifield. Malls, after all, are pretty damned unpleasant on the day after Thanksgiving. We opted for the Wienerschitzel located a few blocks from the State Capitol.

Things got intersting as we got closer to the Sierra Nevada. Three lanes of traffic were funnelled into one at Applegate for no apparent reason other than to make trucks stop and install chains. Seems a sign might have been just as effective since the trucks had to leave the road anyhow. Mysteries of the California Highway Patrol…

Actually, the drive wasn’t bad. We hit maybe five miles of light wet snow near Donner Summit and manged to pretty much avoid most of the cannibalism jokes. By Reno, things were pretty dry.


A nice room at an ungodly price right on the strip featured cable TV and a pretty spiffy pink and black bathroom. There was also a walk-in closet which Dan kept coming out of (and scurrying back into).

My apologies. Dan does not scurry.

Dinner at a dirt cheap casino prime rib kind of place. Then queer bars. I do not understand queerdom in Reno. There always seem to be lots of bars. There never seem to be any people in them. Friday night on a holiday weekend, thousands of people in town, packed casinos, yet there were no more than 10-15 people in any of the four bars we hit. Am I missing something?

Names of the bars (just in case): Quest, 1099, Bad Dolly’s, Five Star. And let me tell you there’s a lot of real estate invoved if you cover that circuit on foot. In the cold. And the rain.


Got to bed way too late. Got up not long after. I was prepared to be cranky all day, but the shower was too good. Much better than the wimpy trickle at home. There was hope. We went to Virginia City via some chain restaurant with a very bored waitress.

Virginia City is cute in that western antique and miner-kitsch sort of way. Dan looked at cute boys in Wranglers with big belt buckles. I looked in vain for boys who fit my definition of cute. Then I looked for falling snow. I got a little of that at least. I figured we’d see more on the way home, sinve the tops of the mountains were covered with clouds.


And the snow started around Truckee. I like Truckee. It’s much nicer than Needles, its southern “gateway to California” counterpart…probably has something to do with Needles being in the middle of the Mojave Desert…


After Truckee, we flew through most of the route to Sacramento, except when we sat in all that traffic which wasn’t moving through Donner Pass (again, for no apparent reason). Deciding to skip the I-80 nightmare from Sacramento to SF, we took the back road, through the Delta. Crawdad sandwiches at Ernie’s in Isleton. Mmmm…

Home. Bed.

Oh yeah…the cigarettes… I didn’t buy any in Nevada. I bought five cartons in Sacramento. Apparently, some uninformed merchant hadn’t gotten the word about the statewide markup. $15.99 a carton. Eighty miles from home…

Thanksgiving feasting at my traditional gathering of expatriate North Carolinians was a blast. There are no pictures, but I believe I have some leftovers from last year.