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Blame it on Reno: A NoCal Volleyball Tourney Journey

Nothing throws off an ambling wanderer like being stuck, isolated in a hotel. Welcome to Grand Sierra Resort, the place that doesn’t want you to leave, and is just far enough away from everything to do exactly that. Except if you’re me.

I’ve spent most of my volleyball tournament-travel on-foot and exploring. I’ve quietly sought out the side streets and neighborhood blocks, from Salt Lake City to Atlanta. And usually in search of good food and great coffee, while the rest of the world whizzes by in Ubers, rental cars, and shuttles — or sticks to the confines of the hotel and convention center.

But how it goes here — in Reno — amid the vastness of mountains and snow caps and high altitude, is everything is a car ride away. Except Walmart. After spending last night roaming indoors from Starbucks to Johnny Rockets and through the carpeted and smoke-filled Grand Sierra Resort casino floor, I determined that the far reaches of where I parked my rental car was already (literally) half-way to Walmart. So off I went on foot there — because — Reno!

I have to preface this with my experience thus far here. Call Reno the “Waiting in Line City.” Namely because since deplaning at the airport, we found ourselves waiting. And waiting. The line for a rental car plus the separate line for physically getting the car keys took longer than the actual flight time there. I wish I was kidding. Then, upon arrival at the Grand Sierra, we summarily waited to check in. Then, at the front desk, a clerk astutely advised that check-in wouldn’t be for another 45 minutes — not unless we were willing to pay $30 for early check-in. We weren’t. Ah, Reno! There it is — your warm embrace.

So being in the “Waiting in Line City,” we decided to haul our bags back to the rental car, then stood in line once again, this time at the hotel Starbucks. Once we reached the cash register, we were met almost immediately by a barista holding up her hand — as if on cue —  who said, “Wait, just a moment please,” before I could utter a word. Well done, ma’am! It was a fitting credo for this place. Well done indeed.

Fast forward to the next day, and to Walmart. Past the far end of the hotel parking lot and beyond what looked like an abandoned go-cart track (and even further beyond what looked like an abandoned mini-golf course), stood the ubiquitous brown and beige brick mega-store, adorned in blue and yellow and white signage. The police car and security vehicles haphazardly parked by one entrance hinted at just what flavorful experience I all but expected here. Just inside, a man with merchandise at his feet was being quizzed by police and security. Ah, Reno.

I cruised the aisles, stocking up on fresh fruit, Gatorade, and snack bars. A well-tatted mother by the chips and crackers crowed at her kids to stop fooling around. Others wheeled aisle to aisle in courteous, if not genial cart maneuvers around the ever-invasive end cap displays. I escaped all of it (with three bags of groceries) for just about $35. Perhaps as something of an anomaly, I self-checked-out with nary a wait. Better still, the double-bagged plastic held up through the full trek back. Chalk up another win for wandering, even in Reno, and at all places, even a Walmart.

Jason James Barry is an award-winning essayist, journalist, and author. This summer he is releasing a collection of Gen X stories entitled, "Eat it and Like it: A 1980s Journal (That’s Totally Awesome & Rad, Plays in the Woods, Drinks From the Hose, Passes Notes in School, & Stays Cool Over Summer), Vol. 1".

His police-life memoir, "The Midnight Coffee Club: A Memoir of Grit, Glimmers, and the Pull of Police Life" is currently available on Amazon.


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