Why do we do quick vacays in Tahoe? Partly because Dar has been happy there.

The kids had a four-day weekend; we almost left on the Friday. But Friday was the ten-year anniversary of my and wifey’s first date. We deserved to eat in a San Francisco restaurant of our choice. We’ve stayed together through all this autism! That’s like 50 years of a marriage not wracked by disability.

We left Saturday morning at 9:00. We were in South Lake Tahoe at noon. Three hours! I was way too proud of myself. And proud of Dar for behaving so well during the trip. (He generally does well on road trips, or we’d never consider them.) And then I got even prouder of Dar.

We drove over the California-Nevada border, one block past Harrah’s-Harvey’s, right to this one open field. It was fifty-five degrees and sunny and we hadn’t seen a single flake of snow on any tree on the mountainous road to Tahoe. I didn’t really expect that our favorite little local operator would have fake snow on the ground…but lo and behold, there was the fake snow and the major slope for inner-tube-based sledding and the snowmobiles in the back. We hopped right into a half-hour-long queue.

I was proud of Dar because: he busted out of the line to run for the snowmobiles. A lot of parents would not appreciate this sort of behavior. They don’t have Dar as offspring. We hadn’t been to Tahoe in nine months. Dar remembered! In Dar’s life we feel we need constant reinforcement for his vocabulary. If we fail to test him on words like, say, helicopter, sheep, or camera, he’ll lose them within a month. (Meaning he’ll fail to point to the right icon on his iPad.)

But Dar remembered what he loved about snow play! Yay.

And boo, because Dar was laser-focused on the snowmobiles. For $70, one gets the privilege of a half-hour of driving a snowmobile around an oval-shaped snowy track that’s about the size of a football field. Yes, you heard right: seventy American dollars for thirty American minutes. Wifey won’t get on the thing. I will, but I’m only allowed one child passenger at a time. Both kids LOVE it. So I drive a few times around, exchange kids, drive a few times around, exchange kids. Here’s the thing: Dar FREAKS when he’s asked to let his brother take a turn. Dar on a snowmobile is like Augustus Gloop with 100 Wonka bars: he is all, all, ALL about it.

His brother actually feels the same way. But while Dar screams, R sulks and pouts. Sometimes that’s the difference between special-needs and neuro-typical.

The last time we had tried this, nine months ago, Dar was happy to divide his time on that snow field between a snowmobile and the inner-tube sleds. After paying $40 for a half-hour of the tubing (no, you’re not allowed to use your own sled)…Dar protested and protested. He and I wound up sliding down the thing twice. Each time, he got up and ran for the snowmobiles. Uh, no, Dar, we’re not paying another $70. (His brother never liked the tubing.) See now, one difference between your family and mine is that your kid might have told you before you blew the $40 on the tubing. (Or, you know, not.) So we gave our inner-tube and our 28 paid minutes to this other grateful family. Oh well.

We planned and paid for a cruise on the lake for Sunday. We were driving to the put-in point when we got a call from them, canceling. The weather was reporting heavy wind and coming snow. We saw the wind but no snow. Since the cruise would no longer be taking us to Emerald Bay, we drove there ourselves. We took a nature walk. Dar was the only one of us who didn’t slip on the ice. And he had the worst shoes! Go figure.

The snow was late, but when it came, WHOA. Tahoe got blanketed on Sunday evening, my friends. I tried to take the kids out for snow fun. I showed them other kids making little snowmen. I made sure they could see me from the hotel balcony when I bravely made a big old snow angel. Yeah, they didn’t care.

Dar kept us awake most of Sunday night. “Tee-tee-tee-tee…” We tried a couple of over-the-counter remedies which failed to remedy. My head laying on my pillow, I thought about sleeping in the car on Tahoe’s coldest night of the year (we were told). I sat there contemplating the cost of a separate hotel room. Finally my heroic wifey jumped into his cot and just held him so that I could possibly get enough sleep to drive us home the next day. And it worked. Ten more years!!!!

I awoke to a postcard-perfect winter wonderland. I trudged through the snow to the hotel coffee. I stood in a line of people waiting to talk to the three women at reception. Finally I asked one of them,
“Where do you learn about whether you need to put on chains on Highway 50?”

“Oh, chains? You need chains.”

“I mean, where do you get that information?”

“Uh…I’ll have to ask her.”

I wait five minutes for an older woman to talk to a series of people. Finally she comes over to my side of the desk for another reason. She ignores me for a while. Finally, my woman asks her about the chains going to Sacramento.

“Oh, you need chains,” the older woman tells me.

“Right, but where do you learn about whether you need to put on the chains? In case they change the information.”

It takes her a long time, but she finally shows me the right ca.gov site.

Okay. Now, I heard a rumor that the chains requirement would be lifted by 11:00. I also figure that based on the precious powder at the ski resorts, a lot of people would want to squeeze in at least a half-day on the slopes. So, if I waited until the moment the chains thing was lifted, I could avoid both traffic and the onerous process of putting on and taking off chains (which I hate).

My plan worked perfectly…except for one little thing called eight hours of traffic. Remember that three-hour drive to Tahoe I told you about? Yeah, it was a little different on the way home. We were literally (I do not misuse the word literally) moving a few inches per minute for more than an hour there. People were getting out and stretching and smoking and peeing in the snow. So I was all wrong about people doing the half-day. Everyone had decided to leave at the same time. Ugggggggggggggh.

Dar hated it. He was screaming and whining and moaning. So was his brother. It was their longest road trip since the day of the eclipse (when we left the path of totality in Oregon around 11:00am and somehow, somehow got back to Berkeley by 11:00pm).

Remind me not to try to have any fun ever again.