6:11am – We’re up, gassed and ready to go! It’s 35 degrees, gas was $2.45/gal and the surrounding mountains are covered with snow. Last night we didn’t see house lights for hours. Winnemucca was a glittering mecca when we came over the horizon. We slept like logs in our little 50’s era motel…clean but definitely old school (we splurged at $60). McDonald’s dinner over maps and we zonked out until 5am.
So the plan today is to get as close to Las Vegas that we can while outrunning an incoming snowstorm. Three ways to get there:
Plan A Go to Reno, head south to Bishop, Death Valley, Vegas. 11hrs. AAA Scenic route. Lisa’s trip down memory lane in the Sierras.
Plan B Take the cutoff to Lee Vining across the desert, then Bishop, Death Valley, Vegas. 10 hrs. A decent compromise.
Plan C Skip the Sierras and Death Valley and head east then south down Hwy 305. Designated a AAA scenic route but all desert. 8 hrs.
Did I say there’s a snowstorm on the way from the west?
We’re doing Plan A. Let the race begin!
9:04am Sparks, NV
Thanks to Google, we just stopped at the starkest little coffee stand in a 70’s style mall. Grabbed some Cub Chai (Never heard of it before) and back on the road. 580 to 395 towards Carson City. In the land of In-n-Outs and Dunkin Donuts – two things we don’t have in Idaho. Driving along, we find geothermal power plants and lots of industrial stuff. The next views should be mountain peaks and ski resorts!
12:30pm. Mammoth Lakes CA
Ok. The snow is coming down. So much for outracing the snow storm.
Lisa’s little sidetrips are always fun! Had to buy chains in Bridgeport (thank goodness they had a Napa!) to carry with us over the three mountain passes we just went through (we just called them “Snowy”, “Snowier” and “OMG!”). Chains were required on the last one but we were able to slip through and down to Bishop, where the snow turned to rain and the roads were better.
I was able to get Jim to take me to Mammoth Lakes for lunch in a driving snowstorm. Got to go to Eric and I’s favorite burger joint as kids, Burgers.
Snow is really coming down! Heading out while we can.
So we made it through the gauntlet and stopped at the world famous Erick Schat’s Bakery in Bishop to pick up Sheepherder bread and make my brother extremely jealous.
So we’re off down Hwy 395, leaving the snow behind and found the Manzanar Japanese Internment Camp from WWII. Lisa remembers it as being empty and desolate when she was a kid, but when we got there, they had bunkers and towers and visitor centers. The NPS Ranger confirmed that they recently updated the site and reconstructed some of the bunkers and did other improvements. Lisa and Eric remember a family friend named Gloria who was actually born here during the war. It’s a somber site, but so glad that they are improving it instead of sweeping it under the carpet.
Then we headed off to Death Valley, racing the daylight (no sun today!). Jim didn’t remember ever being there, but he may have before he remembered things. They were filming a Kia commercial right outside of the park. We saw what we thought was THE Death Valley and took all sorts of pictures only to find out it was just a practice valley, the REAL Death Valley was over the big mountains! We arrived below sea level at sunset, called all the kids, and promptly lost cell service again for another four hours.
After 15 hours of driving, we finally arrived at Las Vegas, staying at the Treasure Island resort. It’s dark and rainy, but we’re tired and don’t care.