The Road Less Travelled #3

Lake Tahoe

Yosemite, Lake Tahoe and Reno


I woke up very early to get breakfast in the cafe before heading down the road to the bus stop.  The nice front desk guy told me last night that he thought I should drive into the park, but he really did not understand my fear of driving on the mountain roads.  Plus, it’s such a long ride that I could take a nap on a bus.  In case you didn’t know, taking a nap while driving a car is a stupid idea.

It was just so much easier for me to catch YARTS.  I waited about five minutes, the bus showed up.  I gave the driver my money and two minutes later we were on our way and I was already in REM sleep.   I did stay awake long enough to listen to him talk about the area.  He was very knowledgeable.  He pointed out things that I had missed on my drive down (because I was so busy concentrating on the roads), like the landslide that blocked part of the highway.  It occurred back in 2006 and thankfully no one was injured or killed.  Another passenger says everybody thinks a government truck is trapped beneath the rubble.  The driver almost mentioned last year’s crowds because of the unbelievable snow pack the winter before, and the flooding that occurred back in 1997.

I believe Yosemite is best enjoyed in the early morning hours while others are still working on their first cup of coffee.  The 725 bus from Yosemite Bug got me into the park at 830.  It was pretty much empty except for runners, serious hikers and cyclists (different from just plain old bike riders).  I started out on the hike to Mirror Lake from Yosemite Lodge, and I had the whole trail to myself for the first half.  It was longer than I anticipated but I’ve done up to 12 miles before without too much trouble.  I did not consider it to be overly strenuous, just a bit warm.  It was freezing (to my standards) when I came into Yosemite via Tioga Road, but then again, that’s up over 9000 feet, so it’s bound to be chillier.  The valley is considerably warmer.

I enjoyed my lunch on a rock somewhere after arriving at Mirror Lake, which I discovered to be dry.  I explored the area some and then started back to the Lodge.  By the time I got back  was very exhausted, but in a good way.  I saw some other things that interested me that I planned for my third day in the park, but I didn’t realise at the time I would be bailing out early.

I don’t want to get too detailed on my stay at Yosemite Bug (I’ll save that for a review), but I’ll just say that I liked the place.  The only reason I wouldn’t stay again is that I would want to be in the park.  I now see how that is a much better idea.  All that driving takes up time and wears you down.  Basing yourself in the park is much smarter.  Unfortunately, the prices were too high for me, and a lot of the places advertised NO air conditioning.  I’m sorry but after living in Satan’s Hell (aka Kuwait) for a year, I absolutely cannot fathom life without air conditioning no matter how mild it is.  I can go without phone, TV, even food and water, but no air conditioning?  I can’t do it.

So, when I got back to the hostel I found that about 8 more ladies had shown up, and they were not as friendly as the French girls from the night before.  They were extraordinarily loud and just took over the place.  (TIP:  Hostels are not for everyone; be prepared for anything!)  They kept the lights on till 1AM and kept up a steady stream of loud phone conversations.  I lived in a tent with 50 women in Kuwait so I knew how to take care of this:  ear plugs and a black out mask, still it wasn’t a good sleep.  When I woke up the next morning I felt worn down.  Definitely not in the mood for another long hike.  Also, the internet was down.  I’m taking some classes right now and I need the internet.  I made a snap decision to leave.

When I got out to the car to start packing up, I discovered that my windshield wiper had been completely ripped off.  What on earth could do such a thing?  How about a bear!  There were bear paw prints all over the car.  (TIP:  Do NOT leave food and beverages in your car overnight in bear country.)  I was smart enough to take everything out but what I didn’t think about was the tree sap.  While I was in Kuwait the car was parked in North Carolina.  The windshield had tree sap all over it.  My dad was able to scrape most of it off but there were still small bits.  I admit without shame that I haven’t washed my car in YEARS so that tree sap smell was probably strong, and bears have amazing olfactory senses.   I really just had to laugh because the stupidest things seem to happen to me.  I just picked up the broke windshield wiper, put it in the trunk and drove off.  Another person might be mad about it, but I wasn’t.  What’s getting mad going to do?  It ended up being a conversation starter in Reno.

More mountain driving on HWY 49.  Ugh.  I just don’t have the constitution for it.  Somehow I managed to get through it and HWY 88 to Tahoe was a lot better because the trees blocked the dangerous drop offs.  I couldn’t see imminent death so somehow it made it much easier.

Tahoe was absolutely lovely.  I should have booked an overnight but I could tell by the crowds of people that I would have a hard time finding lodging.  It’s Labour Day weekend and everyone wants to enjoy the last days of summer.  It’s a richie-rich hangout, though.  Everybody with boats, $1500 sunglasses and loped out Jeeps.  My banged up clunker was so out of place, but ask me if I care!  I drove around a little bit and I wanted to park someplace to walk around but amazingly everyplace was chock full.  I even had to drive around the vista points two and three times before I could park to take a picture.

In that area up to Truckee, everybody is on bikes and I like that.  Serious cyclists to the recreational bike rider.  I’ve always wanted to live someplace where I could ride a bike without getting looked at weird or run over.  People in DC do not ride bikes, unless they’re dressed up like Lance Armstrong, or down on their luck (at least that is perception).

It wasn’t too long before I eventually made it to Reno.  (TIP:  Spontaneity is fun, but just a little bit of planning would cure your future headaches.)  It is best to get advise from the experienced, but you also have to look at what you’re actually capable of and what you really want to do.  It also helps to have a real map and not just GPS on your phone or one of those car devices.   I believe in digital everything, but being military I understand the usefulness of a real map.  How I got out onto the road without one is beyond me.

As you can see I’ve been complaining about the mountain driving.  It’s not for me.  I just get too nervous and my car is old and probably not as well-maintained as it should be, especially for mountain driving.  So the only reason I went to Reno was because I planned to go to Lassen Volcanic National Park.  If I had bothered looking at a map, a real one, I would have seen the elevation of the area.  I would have known that I was not up for it.  So, in a sense, it was a waste.  I enjoyed Reno, but I skipped Lassen because once I started reading reviews from other people and seeing “dangerous curves” and “scary roads,” I totally chickened out.  A smart planner would have seen this days ago and went another direction.

Oh well, you live and you learn.  I toured University of Nevada-Reno and drove through the downtown area.  I realised that I had been to Reno before.  So, if your best friend is dating this hot chick named Las Vegas and you ask if she has a sister, your friend might get a little sheepish and say, “Yeah, but….”  Reno is like Las Vegas’s less attractive sister.  No offense to Renoites (or whatever the locals are called).  Lots of vagrants and women of the night in the downtown area.  For some reason that is what jogged my memory of having been there before.  Yeah, that sounds weird, but I think  I was a kid when we came through the last time.  As soon as I saw that sign “Biggest Little City” something just clicked, and then I saw some bums and I was like, “Hey, I’ve been here before!”

I opted to stay near the convention center.  I had dinner at some Korean place called Rolls and Spicy.  Weird name but decent food.  Manager was real nice.  Even though I sorta saw Reno as a bust, it was good that I went because I was able to sorta get my windshield wiper fixed.  The bear had ripped off the driver side, the one you actually need.  No auto parts store in town had a replacement but when I called the dealer they suggested switching the passenger to the driver.  They did it free of charge and in like 15 minutes.

I came rather late in the day so I didn’t have much time to do anything, but I did get a five mile run in the next morning and I think running through a city (as long as you’re not being chased) is the best way to see it.

Next stop:  Redding, CA.


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