Sunday, August 31, 2014

August 31: Lake Tahoe > Truckee, CA > Chester, CA > Lassen Volcanic National Park

One of the perks of jet lag is that you can actually get up early, but it is really late in your real time-zone. That allowed us to be on the road by 7 AM. The original goal was to try and see the sunrise in Lake Tahoe, but we didn't quite make it in time.

The long early morning shadows were beautiful, and even though this was the same route that we took yesterday, it looked different and amazing.

Part of this road follows the top of a ridge for a few hundred yards. Sheer drop offs on both sides is quite unnerving, and I always take this road slow.

Emerald Bay early in the morning is also beautiful and different.

We held off on breakfast to enjoy the scenery, so by the time we reached the north end of the lake, we had to stop and eat. Eggs benedict and a side of bacon, please.

One last look at Lake Tahoe at Kings Beach.

The next stop that we made was in Truckee, California. I had no idea what to expect, other than just a small town with a gas station and a few shops.

In actuality, it was a beautiful little place, several streets of shops, cafes, and bars. The best part of Truckee?

Directly across the street was a marshaling yard for trains. This train was sitting here while we were poking about. I heard several blasts of the air horn, and it pulled out.

The two locomotives at the head of the train were pulling at least 100 cars. If they were full, with a loaded weight of 200,000 pounds, they motivated at least 10 million pounds. An impressive feat. The fact that this train station is still in use by Amtrak is amazing. All in all, Truckee is a place I want to come back and visit again.

After stopping in Truckee, I pointed Dexy north on CA 89, the eventual destination of Lassen Volcanic Park. There was some neat scenery along the way, including several old Caterpillar dozers.

Much like the terrain in upstate New York, many people only think of LA or San Francisco when they think of California. The plains of eastern California are beautiful and desolate, with orchards, farmland and huge cattle ranches dotting the land.

This part of California is also criss-crossed with trains. Here you can see Sante Fe and BNSF trains chugging along.

This train was stopped along the tracks. It looked as if it could have been sitting there for a year, or a few minutes. We weren't sure until it actually started moving.

It looked so small against the backdrop of pine-trees and rocks, that I couldn't help shake the feeling that it was a model railroad set.

And eventually far off in the distance: Lassen Peak.

And finally, a return to the scene of the crime.

That's me poking out behind my mother in 1984, thirty years ago.

Here is a view of Lassen from Lake Helen, where we had lunch. What a view!

We ended up camping at Manzanita Lake, on the far end of the park. Far better than Butte Lake, which was 45 minutes out of the park and back into the park to get to that campground. Fortunately the first-come first-serve portion of the campground had several openings, and we managed to score a really nice one that backed up on forest.

I set up my usual camp setup, even with my "travel" kit.

"Half Match Tim" strikes again (heh), although this was an easy one as the wood was so dry that it would have gone up with a smoldering glance.

The original plan of a borrowed air mattress from John didn't quite pan out (thanks to a slow air leak) but two single-sized mattresses worked out even better. Finding those mattresses was a big of an adventure itself, as every place we stopped along the way (Ace Hareware's mostly) either had a very expensive twin sized mattress, or only ONE single. At the very last stop before Lassen itself in Chester CA, we actually came across a well stocked camping store that had exactly what we wanted: two single mattresses. Success at last!

It was very cold that night, probably in the low 40's, but otherwise sleeping was quite comfortable.

Tomorrow we tackled Lassen itself, and our game plan was ambitious.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

August 30th: Lake Tahoe > Gardnerville > Lake Tahoe

After the late night arrival at Lake Tahoe (or what felt like late night, it was really only 10 by the time we fell asleep, jet lag and all that) it was up early on Saturday for a ride around Lake Tahoe itself. Before that of course was breakfast.

On this trip I decided to stick with local establishments (or things that are West-coast specific). Heidi's fit the bill to the letter.

Tastes just as good as it looks. May not have agreed with our stomachs though...
It was off to circumnavigate the lake itself. There isn't much to say about Lake Tahoe that the pictures don't demonstrate better:

Overlooking Emerald Bay, from the west side of the lake.

Emerald Bay, with Vikingsholm Mansion way down there at the bottom. 
From the east side of the lake, looking north. 
Anna had a wedding to attend that afternoon, so after dropping her off at the venue, I headed down Kingsbury Grade to my friend John's house for the afternoon. Unlike the approach from the West, which is a gradual climb to Lake Tahoe, the drop from Daggett Summit down to Gardnerville is quite dramatic.

From the summit looking down towards Gardnerville and Minden.
I've known John for 30 years (give or take) but once he moved to the other side of the country it became harder to visit. I've made it a point to try to get out to see him and his family at least once a year. A lot easier for me to travel West (and a great excuse to go) than for them to get my way. 

A side note here: People that know me, know that I always name my cars. The Dodge Caravan pictured above: Dexy. Why Dexy?

I was walking around the back of the car on the first day I had it, pondering a name, and I saw "DXY" in the plate, and decided then and there: Dexy!

Back to our story.

One of the things that John and I have enjoyed over our decades long friendship: Roleplaying Games. John's son Matthew wanted to play with me in a game. It was a lot of fun playing with the next generation!

After the game, dinner and frozen yogurt, we headed to a park where the kids did some climbing in a park. The "old" folks stood back and watched.

After hanging out with the John and Amy and the kids, it was back up the mountain. The sunset is always beautiful over the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Dexy had a fancy neighbor in the parking lot of the hotel. I bet the owner of this new Corvette was a little nervous about the mini-van parked next to it...

It was another fairly early night, as tomorrow was an early day to head up to Lassen Volcanic Park. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

August 29: Providence > Boston > JFK > San Fransisco > Lake Tahoe

I seem to be able to structure travel days that are incredibly long. My trips to Hong Kong have always entailed long periods of travel, and my current trip out west to Northern California and Nevada worked out to be a really, really long day as well.

A flight out of Boston at 6:15 necessitated a very early departure from Providence. My alarm was set for 3:45, to get on the road by 4:15, to be at the airport by 5:15 to check in an hour advance. Everything actually went according to plan, and I was seated at the gate, ready to board.

Sunrise over Logan Airport

The flight from JFK to San Francisco was uneventful, and I even managed a little bit of sleep on the plane. I also managed to read the Stephen King novel Cujo it it's entirety on the trip, so much for having something to read on my trip!

My friend Anna (my co-pilot for the first leg of the trip) met me the the airport and we made our way over to Payless cars for the rental-minivan. They were a bit disorganzied, and the first Caravan that they gave us was a mess inside, cookies and crumbs and garbage on the inside - and they wanted to make sure we didn't trash it! I went in and swapped out the blue van for a black one, and then we were off.

Venturing out onto the 101 was exciting, and since it was early and there wasn't much traffic it wasn't really all that bad. We headed to Stockton, CA and then onto secondary roads, up towards Lake Tahoe.

The rolling hills of inland California, which replaced the miles and miles of orchards.

Since there is a fairly large migrant population in this area, there is a lot of great Mexican food. I hadn't eaten anything since the morning (was it 11 am on the plane? 2 pm? what? Who knows...but I was starving).

Crispy tacos with carnitas...still wondering what carnitas is, but hey it was good.

The Caravan looks good out on the planes of California.

We detoured through the business district of Jackson, CA which was a really cool old mining town. We didn't have time to stop, but this hotel "The National Hotel" looked liked a place I'd love to stay.

Even after that huge meal at Coyotes, there was still room for ice cream. It's melty, you know, so it can fit down into the cracks and crevices of your stomach! Munnerlyns in Pine Grove had some amazing ice cream flavors, but I went with my standard strawberry, and I wasn't disappointed.

On the drive up CA 88, there was so much beautiful scenery to see, and we managed to hit the drive right during the sunset. Here Anna is trying to capture some of the beauty.

Photos just don't do it justice.

The sunset didn't even seem like it was a real, like it was some sort of backdrop for a theatre production.

After darkness descended, it was hard to take pictures, and I was exhausted. We made it to Lake Tahoe in good time, just over 6 hours from San Francisco. I was exhausted by this time, and fell asleep quickly by 10pm.