I thought I would try and get caught up on my travel journaling. So here is an attemp to finish up the writing and pictures from my most recent trip west.
When I left Austin, Nevada I still had 3-4 hours of driving to do across Nevada to Carson City. My route was U.S. 50, which, in one form another has been an important thoroughfare to the west. In the old days it was a Pony Express route as well as a Wells-Fargo stagecoach route. There are several roadside pullouts along the highway with historical markers and remains of Nevada's old wild west.
This is the remains of one of those old stagecoach stations. According to the sign it was a place where stagecoaches could swap out for fresh horses and room for the night when necessary. The surrounding landscape is so bleak, I can only imagine what life must've been like for the people who worked at these stations, probably relying solely on water and food brought to them on the stagecoaches, since, here in the desert, hunting, crop tending, or even having a well or nearby river was out of the question.
Since the introduction of the interstate system in the 1950's and 1960's, Highway 50 has become a rather desolate road. In fact, it has been nicknamed "America's Loneliest Highway". When the first paved highway came through here, engineers decided to try and preserve the old stagecoach and Pony Express highway as much as they could. Through some of the passes, there was no choice but to pave over the old highway, but for long stretches through the valleys, the remains of the old highway are still visible as stripes of grass running through the brush.
In other places, there was evidence of the original paved highway running parallel to the revamped one I was driving on. Through the low lying areas, the roads have to be elevated on mounded landfill to protect it during flash floods. This was the case of the road I was driving on, as well as the old paved highway that originally ran through here.
That writing on the edge of the elevated road is a rather common occurence in some stretches of desert. Anyone who's ever driven across the Salt Desert in Utah will attest to the large number of "rock writings", usually names and "I Love You" messages. This phenomena was much larger in scale, though. For nearly twenty miles there was nothing but message after message constructed from rock on the sides of the road.
When I got into the Reno area I made a stop at Sierra Sids for fuel then made it over to Carson City and made my first delivery. My next stop was in Sacramento and it was becoming apparent that there was no way I was going to make it there today. Since I had the extra time, I decided to take the scenic route there, through the Lake Tahoe area.
It was a beautiful sunny day which made for some wonderful photographs. The trip into the mountains was gorgeous filled with snow and redwoods.
Eventually through the trees I could begin to see the lake with the mountains in the background.
Soon, signs of civilization began to crop up on the sides of the road: ski lodges, homes, and businesses.
When I finally got my first full view of Lake Tahoe, I don't think I was really prepared for how breathtaking it was. I had a hard time keeping my eyes on the road. The water was a beautiful crystal blue with snow capped mountains and lush green redwoods framing it, all drenched in brilliant sunlight.
It was getting late in the day and there was no way I was going to make it Sacramento before the next customer closed for the day so I decided to stop at one of the towns on the north side of the lake for the night. This was no simple task, since, like most maintain towns, real estate is a premium and vast expanses of parking areas simply don't exist. As I was crossing the state line between Nevada and California, though, I saw one off the side of the road, but I had already passed it. I found a grocery store a mile or so down the road and thought it'd be a convenient place to turn the truck around, since most grocery stores are set up for truck deliveries, at the very least, you can usually circle behind the building and get back out onto the street. Such was not the case with this place and found myself in a position where I had to back out of the parking lot onto the busy highway and stop all the traffic. However, I did get turned around and crossed back over into Nevada.
The space I had seen was right outside the Cal-Neva resort casino.
Inside it felt more like a lodge than a casino with rustic decor, stone walls and hardwood floors.
And interestingly enough, the state line between California and Nevada ran right through the property. When you entered the front door, the casino was in front of you and to the left (the Nevada side) but strictly NOT on the right side. In the a great room with all the antlers and the piano was also a huge stone fireplace, and apparently the state line ran right down the middle of it.
I played blackjack for a few hours then crawled back out to my truck and went to bed. When I got up the next morning, I was wishing I hadn't spent the night in Lake Tahoe - overnight they had gotten snow up in the mountains and Donner Pass was closed to west bound traffic according to the California DOT hot line. On top of this, I didn't check out chains when I was Reno the day before because, at the time, the pass was clear and chains weren't required. So I had two choices: drive back to Reno, get chains, and hope wait until they got the pass open (and try to explain to my dispatcher why I didn't make this trip the night before like I should have, or, drive around Lake Tahoe to U.S. 50 and go into Sacramento that way. Well, there's one little problem with this. My truck is too long to be on a portion of U.S. 50. But I decided to chance it anyway.
It had been snowing in Lake Tahoe as well, which made for a scenic drive, although somewhat treacherous at times.
And the lake was gorgeous in the foggy morning, the shores ringed with redwoods and virgin snow.
Needless to say, a state trooper spotted me, measured my truck and trailer and wrote me a nice $120 ticket. Became quite an expensive gambling trip. Coming out Lake Tahoe the snow turned to rain which eventually gave way to sunshine as I came into Sacramento. It was beautiful, in the 60's, and palm trees along the highway.
I made my stop in Sacramento then headed for Benicia, which is just outside San Francisco. The hills of California's wine country is just how you would expect them to look: lush and green - just steep enough to be impressive but low enough to be quaint and lend credence to the cliche "rolling hills".
I didn't have time to dally, however, as I had to continue on to Oregon. Such is the nature of my life. While it affords me the opportunity to have some neat experiences, there are other times when I have to pass something up in the name of "work" and hope I'll have the opportunity again some day. And with this entry, I pretty much conclude my recent trip west. I may do another entry about my time in the Portland area, or I may not. I have some nice photos from my trip up into Wisconsin that I want to do something with (they're not even out of my camera yet). Also, I have the big trip to NYC coming up this weekend with draysha68 so I'm sure I'll be pretty busy collecting pictures and thoughts on entries for that trip as well.
As always, you can check out the entire photo sets at http://photos.soopageek.com