With the family reunion/surprise taken care of on our last day in San Francisco, the Trio (Pete, Jess and I) hopped on a train and made our way to the outskirts of the Bay Area. From there we met up with Jess' friend Jenna, and her partner Mike, who would be driving us up to their home town of Lake Tahoe. And the five of us would see in the New Year in the surrounds of snowy mountains, picturesque lake views and good times with old friends.
Jenna had previously studied with Jess in Italy in 2008 and had also visited us in Melbourne a few years back. She was one of Jess' closest friends during that 2008 study abroad and she had really sold Tahoe to us as the perfect place from which we could see in the New Year. While she visited us in Australia, she also mentioned that she lived just around the corner from David Coverdale. Who is David Coverdale? Stop reading this blog. We can't be friends anymore. David Coverdale is the lead singer of one of the greatest bands of all time, Whitesnake. In my book, he's the greatest singer that has ever lived - a velvet voice and vocal range that stretches further than the Mundi Mundi plains! He is also the owner of one of the greatest manes of hair to ever grace a bloke's scone. I would seriously consider turning for this bloke. The chance to be in the same postcode as Coverdale, whilst also enjoying time with Jenna and Mike was too good to turn down.
With Jenna and Mike as our local tour guides, we were certain to see the best that Tahoe had to offer. She took us to Squaw Valley - home of the 1960 Winter Olympic games - where we boarded a chairlift to an altitude of 8200 ft and took in the breathtaking views (and chilly winds). From there we ventured out to South Lake Tahoe, which had a very different atmosphere to the North Lake (where Jenna lives and where we were staying) - casinos, big hotels and a little more of a Vegas feel than the warm, cosy and secluded holiday resort feel of the North Lake. We also caught up with Mike on one of his work lunch breaks at an all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant. Mike taught me how to properly hold chop sticks (I usually just go for the stab and poke approach) and had me tucking into all sorts of sushi combos, all of which were amazingly good!
The night before New Year's Eve we hung out at Mike and Jenna's apartment with some of their apartment and played a card game called Cards Against Humanity - an incredibly politically incorrect game that is most definitely not for the kids! We also got a little drunk and had a great time. Mike and I jammed out an acoustic guitar version of one of his original tunes (he's also a singer/songwriter with a record out) while Jess, Jenna and Pete kept slamming down the tequilas. Jess became a little ill and we decided to head home and get some rest before the next night's New Year's celebrations. It was only after I had managed to put the two drunkards to bed and called Jess' parents to inform them that we would not be proceeding with our previously agreed Skype call, that Peter decided to have a Stewy Dew in his bed! I managed to get him out of bed and get the sheets in the wash before calling it a night at 4:30 am.
Our New Year's Eve was a much milder affair as we headed to a casino on the state borderline between California and Nevada. We enjoyed some live music, a few drinks (nothing like the night before) and plenty of classic fast food - tater tots (known as Potato Gems back home), buffalo wings and burritos. All in all, it was a great way for Jess and I to end what had been the most interesting year of our lives. We had seen more of the world in the past 12 months than most people get to see in a lifetime. And here we were with Pete and some dear friends in Jenna and Mike, partying the night away on the other side of the planet. We were extremely lucky and we knew it. 2014 had been a hell of a year!
After all the New Year's shenanigans, Jenna was kind enough to drive us to nearby Truckee at 6:00 am on the 2nd of Jan so we could board a bus heading back to San Francisco. From there, Peter would head to Las Vegas to meet up with some mates, while Jess and I would head to next and final stop on this journey of a lifetime. It was sad to leave Jenna and Mike. We really hit it off with them and we know we would see each other as often as possible if we lived in the same place. Despite the tyranny of distance we are certain we will see them again soon.
Even though we drove past his house and stalked the local wine bar where he usually hangs out, we never did get to see David Coverdale. But it didn't matter. The real stars of the show in Tahoe were Jenna and Mike. Before we left for this trip I was telling all my Aussie mates how I might have the chance to bump into Coverdale when I go to Tahoe. Now that I'm home, I'm telling all my mates about the awesome friends we have in Tahoe and how much we can't wait to see them again. Coverdale who?
Next stop, last stop: Seattle