After Las Vegas our next stop would be the Newmar 2017 International Rally …… but first, we had to leave Las Vegas and head East, quickly!! As Pack Expo ended on Wednesday, I packed up the coach, met Barry on Interstate 15, hooked up the car and headed north-east toward Interstate 70 at the Utah border. We drove until sunset, stopping along the road to boondock somewhere along the way in Utah for the night.
Next morning, we rose early, grabbed breakfast and determined to drive as far as possible.
We passed so many places to stop and explore but had to ignore each place with our goal in mind.
Crossing Colorado and the Rocky Mountains would be brutal, but we kept driving.
Side Note: Int. 70 across Colorado is Horrible, rough and broken in so very many places, Aunt Betty, Barry, the dogs, and I were just beat up driving it.
We drove over 1,400 miles, but finally made it to Sedalia in 3 days; memo to self: don’t do that again! Side note: We actually lost one of the big Newmar hub caps somewhere in Colorado and had to buy a new one when we got to the Rally!
After seeing Drew in South Lake Tahoe, our other main purpose of this trip is to attend PackExpo in Las Vegas. Pack Expo is a huge trade show covering every aspect of packaging products before shipping to retail and wholesale buyers. Pack Expo International occurs every other year, in Chicago, at McCormick Place, and alternates with Pack Expo Las Vegas the opposite years. It is always held in big convention centers with lots of space to display all types of machinery. This is one of the big venues for us to get sales leads and reach potential customers; it’s worth the time and sore feet!
We made early reservations outside “The Strip” in Las Vegas at Clark County Shooting Complex. I have read many reviews and blogs about the safety (or lack of) of the hotel RV parks on The Strip. Many had reported burglaries while staying there, both in and outside RV’s; I was not willing to worry about that while parked in the heart of the lights and noise of Las Vegas. The Shooting Complex sits on the north side of Las Vegas, at the foot of the Las Vegas Mountain Range, and outside the hustle and bustle of town. Reviews had mentioned the noise at this campground when shooting occurred; our reservations were from Sunday to Wednesday and we lucked out! The range is closed to the public on Mondays and Tuesdays but open to the local military for practice; this week the range was preparing for a big public shooting event the next weekend and was closed to all! It was so nice and quiet, especially at night, to sit outside and look down on the lights of Las Vegas.
The campground has 80 paved, FHU spots all lined up in a single row, in between the trap and skeet area and the archery range, the outdoor rifle & pistol areas were further north of the campground. There is absolutely zero grass, trees or anything that even resembles green growth anywhere here….it is truly desert….the corgis had a hard time deciding where to go to the bathroom! Cactus grew everywhere around here, big fat round ones, Saguaros, prickly pear, more than I could count as well as Joshua Trees. We also saw so very many Road Runner birds and Jack Rabbits with their long ears! This time of year the weather was amazing, highs in the 80’s and low in the 50’s…..probably the best time of year to visit if you want to enjoy your trip! We would certainly stay here again.
Back to Pack Expo Las Vegas: Barry went the first 2 days alone to work at different booths, I dropped him off and stayed at the coach. I was able to do laundry and clean the coach; being in the West makes everything so dusty. By Tuesday, I was ready to go to the show and see friends and contacts and so very many machines! Every year they build new tasks for robots to complete and this year was an ice cream serving robot. All you had to do was place a cake cone in a holder and select your flavor (vanilla, chocolate, or swirl). The robot arm picked up the cone, rotated around to the ice cream maker and placed it under the correct flavor spout. Another robot arm pushed the button for the correct flavor and the ice cream filled the cone. As it completed filling, the first arm moved the cone in a small circular motion to make a swirl of ice cream on top! It then returned the cone to the original holder for you to pick it up and eat! Such fun!
Another highlight of this Expo was the FedEx Drone display. They are in the testing phase of using drones to deliver packages to a designated spot in your yard. A drone-enabled truck “picks” the correct box out of the truck cargo (of a small dimension) and places it in a loading arm. That arm raises to the roof of the truck and loads it onto the waiting drone. While the truck driver is making a nearby delivery, the drone takes the package directly to your yard and leaves it for you to retrieve. They hope this will help with more rural deliveries to prevent the truck from having to back in or out of tricky driveways, allowing the best use of the truck and driver. There were also tons of machines that form bags and boxes, fill bottles, and inspect all the above to guarantee the consumer only gets what they have purchased…..no metal shavings, etc..
After about 5 hours walking the show, I was beat and ready to head back to the coach. Barry was having dinner with some of our principals and I was on my own. As I left though, I realized that I could not leave without visiting the Strip a bit. I caught the Monorail and headed over to the Flamingo / Caesars stop, wandered through the Flamingo and out onto the Strip.
I crossed the street and waited to watch the water show at the Bellagio — always wonderful!
My next stop was the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace to enjoy the luxury shopping in a beautiful setting. I watched the “Fall of Atlantis” animatronic show with loud sound effects including water and fire. I love beautiful shoes and stopped at every one of them in the indoor mall before I came to Christian Louboutin and attempted to enter. The doors were closed a few people were milling around, maybe waiting for them to open? Someone said, “They have closed the doors to allow Nicholas Cage to shop in private!” Sure enough, Nicolas Cage was inside looking at shoes! As he completed his shopping, he allowed fans to take a photo with him; my youngest son later questioned why I did not take a photo with him? I replied, “He just looked too scruffy to me!” A previous shopping experience in the Forum Shops put me in a store with Michael Jackson! I Love Caesars Palace!!
If only we were rich, I would probably have several pair of incredible shoes in the RV, or maybe even pull a trailer with lots and lots of shoes? No, I would not, but it would be nice to just wear a pair of lovely shoes every now and then!! My feet were completely worn out by now and I returned to the coach, so tired and incredibly happy!
Today we said goodbye to the incomparable beauty of Yosemite NP and headed south and east toward Las Vegas. Snowy mountain tops along the Sierra Nevada said goodbye to summer and hello to fall (whaaat?) and we kept them in our view throughout most of today.
The drive routed us east along a pass between the White Mountains and the Inyo Mountains and through miles and miles of dry, desert lands. Beatty, Nevada, near the Sheep Mountain Range, was just far enough to give us a nice warmer overnight stop before heading further south to Las Vegas. As we drove along, the landscape changed from pine forests to sage brush, then, after we left California and got further into Nevada, the Joshua Tree (a type of Yucca) appeared. They only grow in the Mohave and Sonoran Deserts in this part of the world!!! That is awesome!
As we got closer to Beatty, we began to see burros along the highway. They have wild burros in Nevada and Arizona!!!
We arrived in Beatty, turned at the only stoplight in town(!), and pulled into Death Valley Inn & RV Park. It is about the only nice hotel here and looks decent from the front, with a pool and nice tree plantings. The RV park is next door, all gravel with very small lacy trees planted along each site — and a view of the discarded old mattresses and furniture behind the hotel. It is small, but has 50 amp FHU’s, decent shower house, and very clean laundry house; for only $35 a night, it was a nice stopover in the desert!
After freshly made lasagna and roll and cake (!) at the local diner, KC’s Outpost, we drove out to Death Valley NP. I visited here many years ago with my family for a spring desert bloom, but Barry had never been here. The eastern boundary was only 8 miles outside Beatty, past the ghost town of Rhyolite, along a long straight highway.
Tomorrow we drive a couple of hours to Las Vegas! Our first “big” city in 2 months!!
We hugged Drew enough to hold us all until we could be together again and drove south and east from Lake Tahoe, back over Carson Pass and toward Gardnerville. It had snowed overnight in the upper elevations and left Carson Pass looking like the beginning of a great snow-boarding season!
We hoped to drive a few hours east and then due south to Lee Vining, California for a 2 night stay. Lee Vining is a tiny little town between the shores of Mono Lake and the Sierra Nevada Mountains, a “jump off” spot to Yosemite. Mono Lake is an ancient saline lake that has no fish; instead it is home to trillions of Mono Lake Brine Shrimp and Mono Lake Alkali Flies. Freshwater streams feed Mono Lake, with forests of cottonwood and willow along their banks.
We found Mono Lake RV Park and backed into our site. This is a small private park with less than 40 sites, but full hookups and 50 amps! Most of the other sites had coaches, 5th wheel’s and campers with vacationers, hunters and fishermen staying here. The town is small but had good places to eat and tourist-y shops with Native American goods. I think it would be hard to get a place to stay here in the summer as this town sits at the eastern entrance to Yosemite National Park.
After some wonderful star-gazing (the Milky Way was just perfect!) and a good night’s sleep, we awoke to freezing cold temperatures and snow above us in the mountains. We had hoped to spend the day in Yosemite, but the entrance was closed due to heavy snow in the mountains. The alternative would have been to drive back to Lake Tahoe, then drive south from there to the western Yosemite entrances, a journey of 8 hours…..so we waited. We had a good breakfast and drove about 2 miles toward the entrance to scope it out and found people parked along the roadside, waiting for word from the park rangers about opening the road.
I hiked a bit up a campground road there, found a running mountain stream and a grove of aspen, and returned to the road to wait also. About noon, a park ranger drove down from Yosemite and opened the gates!! We could go in, but had to watch the time and the weather, if it started to snow again, they would close this entrance and we would have no choice but to take the 8 hour journey back around to the RV.
Neither of us had ever been to Yosemite and had really no idea what to expect. We have seen the photos of El Capitan and Half Dome and Yosemite Falls, but this does not really prepare you for actually seeing it in person. We drove up over the mountains, following switchbacks that were just clinging to the side of mountains before the terrain changed completely. Tall pine trees with snowy branches filled the sky and then the ground became huge flat and rounded stone surfaces. It looked like a commercial for Jeep where they drive them out and off-road. After about 45 minutes, we dropped down and into Yosemite Valley. Seriously, I am not going to have enough adjectives to describe the valley, a canyon cut between mountains with a running river at the bottom and the road hugging the mountain all the way down.
Around a turn, Yosemite Falls came into view. It is tall and majestic and awe-inspiring, even at the end of summer when it was at its driest. There were lots of places to park and we stopped to admire that cascade of water from the mountain snows. This time of year the tourist season was not at its height and we were able to navigate the entire valley easily.
A little further on we spotted El Capitan across the valley from Yosemite Falls. With my camera and long lens, I was able to photograph two people climbing from a sleeping platform about 1/3 of the way up. I personally could not climb a sheer mountain face or sleep on a board attached to it!! (Sadly, 2 days later, a 13 story size slab fell off the mountain face and several climbers were killed. I pray that the 2 we saw were not killed.). We wandered around Yosemite Village for a bit, bought a few souvenirs, grabbed a very expensive deli sandwich and headed back out of the Valley and toward Lee Vining.
We stopped at the lookout for Half Dome on the way back and marveled at the beauty of this entire area. If you love history as we do, take some time to read about Yosemite and John Muir and his campaign to “save” Yosemite from development for the enjoyment of future generations. The National Park Service owes a huge debt to John Muir and President Teddy Roosevelt for the formation of that organization and the designation of Yosemite as one of America’s first National Parks.
As we exited the park gates and headed back to Lee Vining, we both agreed that Yosemite is definitely worth a 2 week stay on our next western trip! We said goodnight to the Milky Way and fell sound asleep dreaming about the wonders of Yosemite and planning our next visit!
Before we left this beautiful area, I wanted to take the dogs out, alone, back into the mountains to breathe the mountain air and fill my soul. Drew recommended I drive out to the Blue Lakes off Highway 88 (Carson Pass Highway), along Hope Valley Road.
This road follows the West Fork of the Carson River through a wonderful valley and past a few mountain homes finally giving away to complete wilderness. It’s a 2 lane highway past running water, lots of trees, and along a cut between Markleeville Peak, The Nipple, and Jeff Davis Peak.
We reached the end of the road at the Blue Lakes and drove along Lower Blue Lake. The land here is made up gigantic smooth rocks with trees growing up through the cracks, it’s a great place for Corgis to run around!
The wind has twisted most of the trees out here over the years.
Back to those Corgis….. they loved running around on the large flat mountain rocks, chasing each other and barking as much as they wanted! In the photo just above, you can see a tree and a bunch of bushes growing at the water’s edge and Zeplyn running along the top of the rock. Well, the Corgis are not accustomed to big smooth rocks that drop of suddenly — sure enough, first Ratchet fell down into those bushes, then, while I was trying to figure out how to get him back up and out, Zeplyn slid down there too! Now I had 2 dogs scrambling around on the branches just above that water and about 4’ below me trying to figure out how to get back out. Zeplyn is still young enough (he’s only 8 years old) and was able to claw his way back up the rock and onto the top. Ratchet is 11 and a bit heavier; no way was he going to scramble up that rock! I finally figured out how to approach it from the tree side, coax Ratchet over to me by climbing over the branches, and carry him back to the upper side of the rocks! Whew!!!!
We returned to the car and headed back to Tahoe, snow was coming! We are leaving tomorrow and I’ve got some packing to do!
We hiked several days into the Sierra Nevada Mountains around Lake Tahoe. One day, Barry & I drove out to Kirkwood Ski Resort and had lunch and took a long different way back to the coach.
Another day, Drew & I left to hike out with my backpack loaded to get used to carrying it packed. We parked off Highway 88 at Carson Pass, loaded up and set off toward Winnemucca Lake.
In the background of the above photo is a mountain called, “Elephant’s Back”….it does look like the skin you might see on an elephant!
Today we hiked about 10 miles round trip, climbed about 2,000’ in elevation, and needed about 4.5 hours with all my stops to rest. Drew was so very patient with me especially on the return trip out when this happened:
On Drew’s day off, he and I left Tahoe and drove East over the mountains toward Carson City. The hailstorm earlier in the week had damaged our 10 year old A/C covers on the roof and I was going to buy a new one at an RV parts store. It was a tiny little quonset hut with “stuff” all over outside, including where ever they stored their parts. We loaded it into the car and headed out toward our real destination: Virginia City, Nevada!
Virginia City is the site of the discovery of gold and silver in 1859 at the Comstock Lode and Brunswick Ledge. They have retained the “Old West / Wild West” feel of the area by retaining the old storefronts and wooden sidewalks while making it a popular tourist destination.
Gambling continues to be a major source of income in Nevada and Virginia City is no different. Gaming houses and saloons line the streets with current opportunities to gamble and historical references also.
Virginia City is set in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, has a tough uphill climb in and out, and is hot, dry and dusty most of the time. Of course, I found the local cemetery and made Drew walk up and down and all around it. It is unlike any other cemetery I have seen with little fenced plots barely under the soil and clinging tightly to the side of the hill. Gravel, sagebrush, and knurled trees were the only vegetation in the cemetery and horse droppings were everywhere. Most of the grave sites are organized by social/fraternal/civic groups: Masons, Jewish, Catholic, firemen, etc.. Many of the gravestones note the state or country of origin of the deceased, very few of the deceased were actually born in Virginia City.
While we were at the cemetery, Drew pointed to a rather new house below us. A small herd of wild horses were wandering around the end of the street there! We returned to the car and headed in that direction, and, right at the end of a street, there they were!
We got back in the car to head back to Carson City and came by this herd just hanging out by St. Mary’s Art Center!
Heading back down the windy road, we passed through the town of Gold Hill with skeletons of old mining equipment along the way. We passed an active mine, Comstock Mining Company, tucked back into the hills.
We had such a very good day on the dry side of Lake Tahoe!