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Column: Life in Our Mountain Town – A kid’s eye tour of Commercial Row

Katie Shaffer, Sierra Sun

There is a tour of downtown Truckee that we treated my Uncle Wally to when he was visiting here from Maryland last Thanksgiving.

Uncle Wally is a good sport who will climb over the back seat to sit in the way back of my vehicle with my younger daughter, just to get her vantage point on the ride from our house down into town. Actually it wasn’t my uncle’s idea to sit back there, but at my daughter’s request that he sit next to her, he obliged. My Aunt Jane was smart and stayed behind to read or cook or to do something more dignified, but she missed a very special outing.

You might be thinking that our tour of downtown Truckee is similar to the downtown historical walking tour that all third graders go on as a field trip every year in the spring. However, the version our family takes certain out of town guests on is somewhat different.

We started at Truckee Variety, a store that is magical to any kid. The treasures that are displayed along the side counters, partitioned off by squarely placed pieces of smooth glass, are a ton of fun to dig through. There are squeezable eyeballs and spark flying spinners, gizmos and gumbies, wind-up VW bugs and eyeglasses that make you look like you’re dizzy.

Truckee Variety has been my kids’ favorite store for years, and whenever they get birthday money from relatives, they always request to be driven straight down to Truckee Variety so that they can spend their loot. After making a very careful selection of the most fun item, my kids always seem to have a little extra money to spend on a quarter pound of very-sour-apple strips, another specialty of this very special store.

The next stop we make is down to Bud’s, where my girls like to sit at the swivel bar stools and order ice cream which is served in real glass stemmed bowls which you can’t take with you. You have to actually sit and eat it there (what a concept!). I guess you can order a cone, but we always seem to get our ice cream in the fancy glass stemware. So while we were sitting there eating ice cream and visiting with my Uncle Wally, we then told him the best secret about this very unassuming ice cream shop. First we pointed out the topographic maps and fishing posters that decorate the wall, then we had him check out what was inside the cooler that sits on the other side of the store. Lo and behold, they also sell worms! My kids think that the guy who thought up having an ice cream and worm shop is the coolest.

Our last stop is to stand in the doorway of the Tourist Club. We don’t actually go in because it’s a bar and not really a place I want my children to feel free to wander into. But they’ve been clued into the fact that there’s a huge buffalo head hanging on the wall in the back. I have a feeling that the buffalo head is possibly a remnant from some terrible slaughter out in Nevada years ago.

But my kids don’t know its history, they just know it’s there, and they think it’s definitely worth showing off as proof that the town we live in has a lot to be fond of, if not downright proud.

Katie Shaffer has lived in Truckee since 1981.


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