The day began with breakfast for nine. Scarlett (Wayne’s stepmother) had her hands full! I think she had some help from the early risers, which did not include us. We showed up right in time for the food.
Rick (Wayne’s dad) likes to do one thing more than anything else in the world – drive around in the desert in his Jeep Wrangler. So of course he had a desert day planned for us all, though it had to be scaled back a bit because we had to take two cars and the other was a Saturn, which doesn’t have 4-wheel drive.
Our first stop was the Amargosa Pupfish Station, home of the Devil’s Hole Pupfish, in the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. This is a very small endangered fish. There wasn’t much to see; due to vandalism the area around their hole is all fenced off.
Then it was off to Crystal, a town accessible only via a long dirt road, and whose main attraction seemed to be the two town brothels. The road to Crystal is usually dry, but due to the unusually large amounts of rain they’d had a few days before the dry lake beds were actually lakes, and there was water running over the road in many places. Wayne and I were in the Jeep and I was a bit worried that the Saturn wasn’t going to make it through the mud, but they did.
We ended up at the Crystal Springs Boardwalk, also in Ash Meadows. This is a trail built up over the habitat so people can walk through and observe without disturbing anything. It ends up at a natural spring, where you can see the water coming up out of the ground. We really enjoyed this part and spent quite a while looking at the animal tracks in the mud beside the trail, and watching the water flow.
After another *long* trek through the desert, and some on the highway, we came to Rhyolite, a ghost town near Beatty. There is a house here built out of glass bottles, among other thing, but vandalism has required most of the interesting things to be fenced off, so this is not as interesting as it could be.
Finally it was time to eat; the Stagecoach Casino in Beatty served up some surprisingly tasty Chile Rellenos. After a pit stop at the Death Valley Nut and Candy Company (which doesn’t seem to have a website) we made the long drive back to Indian Springs.
Against our better judgment we had breakfast at Cafe Sierra. It wasn’t awful but it wasn’t very good, and it was expensive. No-one to blame but ourselves, though.
Wayne got his mega-thermos filled with coffee at Starbucks and we hit the road. Well, almost… first we had to stop at Walmart (various forgotten sundries), Trader Joe’s (a second set of shampoo, etc) and Best Buy (a laptop “desk”). After all that, we got underway.
The day went by pretty quickly – Wayne driving and me writing and reading. Because of the new camera (a Nikon D3100), I was reading David Pogue’s “Digital Photography – the Missing Manual”. I also read the quick start manual for the camera, something I rarely bother to do, but I really want to learn to use this one properly and not just leave it in Auto mode all the time.
We stopped at Walker Lake, near Hawthorne, to have lunch and let the dogs run around. Even though the camera was still on Auto I got some pretty good pictures:
(pictures to follow)
We had dinner in Beatty, at a tiny place called KC’s Outpost and Saloon. The food was surprisingly good, and the service was exemplary. The guy at the front counter gave the impression of something being slightly off – some kind of brain injury, or maybe just a little slow. But he was friendly, helpful and good at what he does. It was a pleasure to see someone who would get left behind in our world, not only surviving but thriving in his.
About 10:00 pm we finally arrived in Indian Springs; the entire family had gone into Las Vegas to see a Cirque du Soleil show, so we had the place to ourselves. We pulled into the driveway and hooked up the van. No campground for a couple of nights!
We walked over to The Oasis, the only watering hole in town, and had a beer (I had a Budweiser Wheat – first Bud I’ve had in many years). Every head in the place turned when we opened the door, but as soon as they realized we weren’t anyone they knew they lost interest in us. Kind of funny, since in most places they’re interested in new people.
By the time we got back to the house (trailer, really) they were there but everyone was tired and getting ready for bed, so we just said hello and headed to bed ourselves.
These folks are trying to be a one-stop entertainment destination. There’s a hotel, RV park, casino, restaurants, shops, bowling alley, country dance club, pool, event space, and outdoor play areas with mini-cars, golf, and probably more we haven’t run into yet.
We’ve stayed here twice, in summer and winter, and it has been quite busy both times, so I guess it’s pretty popular year round.
I can’t say anything about the hotel or most of the entertainment, since we haven’t used them. The RV park is nice; the spots are roomy, the bathrooms are good, and there’s an enclosed dog potty area where they can be let off-leash to find the perfect spot, something they really appreciate.
The main downsides are that the food is very expensive for what you get, and they allow smoking so the entire casino/restaurant area smells of smoke, even when no-one is actively smoking nearby.
More info at grandsierraresort.com.
We started out the day heading for Lake Tahoe, but Mother Nature intervened.
We are never the earliest of risers; today being Christmas made it even more appropriate to sleep in. So it was 9:00 when we finally rolled out of bed.
Our day began with opening presents. We had opened the big ones at home, so we didn’t have to shlep them around for two weeks, but we brought our stockings with us. That made it feel a bit more like Christmas; it would be easy for it to become just another day, except with nowhere to stop for lunch.
We used the RV park’s showers, which were much roomier (and had more hot water) than the ones in the van. There was only one problem with this plan, which we figured out at the last minute – only one set of bottles of shampoo and such! So we had to go one at a time.
As I was walking away from the van, heading to the bathroom, I looked back and saw both dogs, tied to each other with their walking leash, trailing after me. Somehow they’d gotten away from Wayne. I wish I’d had my camera with me; the “busted!” looks on their faces when I saw them was pretty darn funny.
We got underway just before noon (did I mention it was a leisurely day?). We didn’t have any breakfast foods with us, so when we saw an open Denny’s we stopped there. I haven’t eaten at a Denny’s in *years*. I didn’t have very high expectations, but it really wasn’t bad. There were a lot of families eating there, with several generations represented, and it was actually a little bit festive.
Wind is a Westy nemesis, and today was no exception. At one point the wind was blowing so hard that one of those really huge flags was flying fully extended, and boy could we feel it. We stopped for a Starbucks fix (did you know that most Starbucks locations are open on Christmas Day? No, neither did I. Major points for them!) and after we left the wind seemed to be a little calmer. Or maybe it was just all the caffeine…
It was freakishly warm at this point – 57 degrees with a warm wind blowing. Wayne was hopeful this would mean no snow in the higher elevations. Littte did he know…
Next stop was the Ashland Dog Park. Wayne ran the dogs around and tired them out while I took pictures with my new camera:
(pictures will follow soon)
A funny coincidence – we ran into my acupuncturist and her husband at the dog park. She recognized me; I didn’t know who she was until she said her name. Talk about a context switch!
We continued on our way without incident into California. Went through the unbelievably dumb, huge-waste-of-money agricultural checkpoint. It rained all the way to Weed, and the only sight of interest was the “Go Ducks!” banner someone had hung on a sign by the freeway.
Right after Weed it started to snow, but at first the road stayed pretty clear. Then we turned onto Higway 89, and it got worse quickly. After passing a spun-out car and doing a little shimmying ourselves, we stopped so Wayne could put on the chains. I wish I had thought to take a picture of that, or of the pretty snow on the trees, but I forgot. I hope to become a better chronicler as we go.
The road looked unplowed when we stopped; two plows went by during the time it took for him to put the chains on. Figures! But it was coming down so fast that we actually had a little trouble getting going from the shoulder even with the chains on, so they were still necessary.
We drove with the chains on for about 10 miles, and then the road headed downhill and the snow vanished. So we stopped again and he took them off. We went through several more snowy sections, but never bad enough to need the chains again.
After a long stretch without Internet (how did we survive!?), we went through Susanville and were able to look up the weather in Lake Tahoe. After reading the Winter Weather Advisory predicting several inches of snow, we decided to stop for the night in Reno instead. We went to the Grand Sierra Resort; we’ve stayed there before. It’s a hotel, RV park and casino, all rolled into one.
Getting a spot in the RV park was uneventful; they weren’t very busy (not a big surprise). We then went into the hotel/casino to have dinner. The first thing that struck us was how busy it was; the second was that the vast majority of people there were Asian. At first I was a little perplexed, but I finally figured it out – Jews aren’t the only ones who don’t celebrate Christmas, Buddhists don’t either, and they needed someplace to go when every other business is closed. Well, the Chinese restaurants are open, but they are full of Jews. It all works out in the end. :)
We had eaten dinner in Cafe Sierra before and weren’t impressed, so we decided to go for one of their “restaurants”. I put that in quotes because it’s sort of like an upscale food court, which sort of spoils the fine dining feel. We ended up at Briscola, their Italian option, and were pleasantly surprised. The food was overpriced, of course, but it was tasty.
After dinner we hung out in the lounge and had a drink. This would have been more pleasant without the loud lounge singer and the cigarette smoke, but it was still a good way to unwind after a long day of occasionally stressful (snow) driving.
By the way, at some point during the day we noticed that the water pump was working again. We’ve noticed this before – it seems to not work until after the first time we open a faucet while hooked up to city water. It’s not supposed to work this way, but I guess there are worse problems.
We only spent the night here, but were pleased with what we found. The park is neat and well kept, and the spots are well-laid out. There isn’t much space between you and your neighbor, but it’s enough.
The park offers the usual amenities – bathrooms with showers, laundry, game room. They also have some other things – a putting green, basketball hoop, horseshoe courts – that I’m sure are appreciated by those who stay there longer than overnight.
We used their showers and found them to be perfectly adequate. It would be nice if there was a bench or something to put your things on; as it was, someone had taken a step stool out of one one shower and put it in the dressing area of another to serve this purpose.
As with most parks in non-destination towns, it looked like most of the folks there were long-term residents. They seemed friendly, and the guy in the office was very nice. Anyone who loves on our dogs is a good person in my book! :)
We had a reservation, which meant that they stuck a note on the door with our space number. You don’t need one, though; anyone who shows up after hours without a reservation can take any open non-reserved spot, and pay in the morning. Perfect for people on their way to somewhere else.
You can find them at jackslandingrv.com.
The original plan was to leave on Christmas Day, after going to Wayne’s brother Scott’s house for Christmas. But we found out at the last minute that they had actually flown to Nevada to spend Christmas with their dad. So now not only was there no reason to wait, but if we hurry we could get to Dad’s house right before everyone leaves. One full day of togetherness sounds about right! :)
If it sounds to you like there was a failure to communicate here, you would be entirely correct. But it doesn’t come from the usual sort of family strife. This sort of thing is just normal for them. Heck, their mom didn’t find out until the last minute either, and she’s their pet sitter! It’s not the way I would do things, but it is their way so I try to roll with it.
We rolled out of the driveway at 4:30 pm on Christmas Eve. Our first stop was Bar Avignon, where they were having an awesome prix fixe dinner. Crab cakes, a twist on the usual pear-walnut salad with chicory in place of lettuce, duck leg in lentils, and spice cake with hard sauce. Can you say yum? I had hard pear cider, which not everyone offers; it went perfectly with everything.
After dinner we rolled out to the RV and hit the road. Not long after leaving we realized that something is amiss with the heater controls. You have to turn it all the way down to cold in order to get moderate temperature air; setting it to the white area between hot and cold gives you hot air, and anything above that actually hurts your hand if you hold it in front of the vent. Also the knob that controls which vents get air didn’t seem to be working at all. It wasn’t doing this before we took it in.. I have no idea what went wrong, but after all the hassle and expense we already went through, it kind of added insult to injury.
Our next surprise came when we stopped to use the bathroom – no water! Usually when the water pump doesn’t work it’s due to the switch in the flap over the city water intake; if the switch isn’t pressed in, it thinks the van is hooked up to a water supply and turns off the inside pump. But we checked that and no joy. It was looking like an interesting trip!
We continued on and arrived at our destination, Jack’s Landing RV Resort. That is, we arrived behind it – the directions from Google Maps on my iPhone sent us to a dead end, right next to their freeway sign. Oops! After a many-point turnaround right next to a huge ditch, we made our way around and found the RV park.
As we were circling about, I remembered that we hadn’t brought any bottled water. I’m not a big fan of tap water, or of drinking water from the tank in the van, so I asked Wayne to drive us over to a gas station where I could buy one. He was very nice about it… of course, that might be due to the fact that he was the one who didn’t pack any water!:)
Finally, we settled into our spot a bit after 11:00 pm.
We took the Westy in for service, and were greeted by a nasty surprise. There are two really ugly, expensive problems that happen to these Sprinter engines – black death, which is fuel that leaks from the fuel injectors and bakes on, becoming impossible to remove, and carbon buildup. The latter is what we have. There’s a bad glow plug, causing the check engine light to be on, and it will not come out for anything. The shop broke both of their extractor tools on it, and finally sent us off without it being fixed.
For now we’re just leaving it alone, since forcing it out can sometimes damage the cylinder, requiring an *extremely* expensive repair. We got a computer that reads the engine codes so we can tell if anything else goes wrong besides the glow plug, since the check engine light is stuck on.
On the bright side, the engine is all tuned up, oil changed, and broken sway bar brackets replaced. She should be all ship-shape for a while, aside from that damn glow plug.
The domain name getoutandgo.com was first registered on 3/11/99, which was about 3 weeks before my ex-husband Mike and I formally started our company, furfly, LLC. The intention was always to build a website that would showcase what we could do, and also spread the word about places we liked to go by documenting our weekend trips. We were building sites using the Arsdigita Community System (ACS) back then, so that’s what we would have used if we had gotten it built back then. But like the cobbler, whose children always need shoes, we never managed to put much time into our own projects.
It’s now 12/2010, almost 11 years later. Mike and I are divorced (and each remarried to other people). ACS still exists, now known as OpenACS, but it’s a shadow of its former self and I don’t use it anymore. These days I’d build it with Web Objects, or maybe Django.
My husband Wayne and I are about to set out on a two week road trip to visit Southern CA, my old ‘hood. I got the bright idea of getting the site set up so we could document the trip, but there was no time to build the snazzy custom site I had in mind. So this tumblelog is a place holder where we can post our trip reports. Eventually I’ll move the content to a site I built, with more “social networking” features (we called it “community” ten years ago, and I still think that was a better term).
There will also be a companion iPhone app, because the other feature of this site, besides sharing our travels with you, is to showcase what I can do. Advertising and entertainment, rolled into one. Now there’s a novel concept – no-one’s ever done that before! Pffft. :)
I hope you enjoy the writing and photos to come.