Dear Family, Friends, and Diary,
We had been planning a four-week road trip up to Idaho and back for quite some time, and now it was getting close. In the last week at home, we had to finish house and health things. We had the air conditioning/heater system checked. It failed. We won't need it while we are on the road, so we will ignore the pending change out of the major house system. It's only money.
More modestly, we watered the yard and garden through the last (hopefully) of the summer heat waves. Hopefully, the irrigation system will work unattended for a month while we are gone. Gloria will also come occasionally and water those trees and plants that need special care. She gladly added this task to her normal cleaning duties and we are much relieved the place will continue to get some attention. Here arepictures to remember how a few places looked before our trip:
For health, Marianne had her normal physical therapy sessions, something she will miss for the next month. We both had Covid boosters. Marianne was affected only a little, but it wiped me out for a whole day. None of the previous pandemic shots had affected us much at all, but it's all better than getting sick. Otherwise, we start our road trip with nothing more serious than normal aging aches and pains.
Marianne's last minute activities were a combination of art, friends, and shopping. She will miss her art studio, an almost-daily companion for the last year or more. The small bag holding her travel art material will not substitute for her colorful shop, but it will distract her from time to time. She'll miss friends too, but will have stories to tell when we return. (In the meantime, perhaps, some will be reading these travel notes.)
I finished the last home week with my normal: visits with Vern, a walk or two, YouTube news on Ukraine and electric cars, and one more puzzle. The walks and YouTube will continue on the trip, I suppose, but neighbors and puzzles will have to wait for next month. Along with all the house and yard fixing chores. I will not miss THEM.
On Friday (23rd), we managed a Codenames game with Jen, Brian, and Geoff. These remain a fun part of our routine life and we should be able to continue the tradition on at least some of our travel weeks. Kind of like remote work.
Of course, trip planning took up a significant part of our time. Years ago, we traveled with little more planning than a Rick Steve's guide book and hotel reservations for the next day or two. Now, we need much more prearrangement for us to be comfortable. Hotels are almost all reserved. Routes are planned including an idea of where we will need to get electricity for Carla. This last is actually much easier than it was a year ago, as Tesla continues to expand the "Supercharger" locations.
We hit the road at about 9:30 Monday morning, the 26th. Traditionally, on our travel, we stop for breakfast not long after hitting the highway. This time, we made it about an hour and stopped in Merced and Toni's Courtyard Cafe, a little place we had discovered the week before. We were still in the pandemic eat-outside-if-possible mode and I wonder how long we will be able to implement that caution. For now, Toni's was a good way to start.
The drive up Highway 99 was miserable, as usual. Half the road was under construction and all of the road was populated with trucks. I tried the Tesla's "full self driving" but gave up when minding the technology seemed more worrisome than minding the highway itself. Maybe later highways will be better.
With just one stop for power, we were in Truckee by mid-afternoon. We settled in to our family B&B, glad to have the luxury of a very nice two-bedroom, two bath home, especially one familiar from all our past stays. Of course, some of those stays were more crowded, and we miss that too.
After a fitful night sleep, something we find common in our first days up in the altitude, we prepared for guests. After running into town to feed Carla some kilowatt-hours, and buy a few groceries for us, we settled into the mountain cabin great room. The morning window view is peaceful.
The goal for the day was lunch with Sharron and Dick, friends who spend summers over the hill on Lake Tahoe. Sharron and Marianne taught together years ago, and getting together is always fun.
The meal was a community task, with salad, barbecue hamburgers, peach cobbler, and ice cream. Mostly, the community task was talking. We covered past stories (especially Sharron and Marianne), current stories, and plans for the future. An afternoon of chatting was capped with a photo session. More memories.
Wednesday was another nice morning, with the fall colors just outside our B&B window. We started slowly, as one should on (permanent) vacation, with at-home breakfast and a little news TV. CNN was covering Hurricane Ian in Florida and the story was scary. Thankfully, our Florida friends Chin and Peter were themselves on a trip, up in the northeast, so we worried about folks generally, not ones whose house we had stayed in.
Late morning, I went out for a walk while Marianne went to her lunch date. I strolled through the neighborhood, past a few new homes and the dozens of work trucks that bring crews in daily. Martis Camp really is pretty amazing, filled with multi-million dollar compounds, most of them part-time vacation homes. (Our "B&B" is a guest house, awaiting its main house sometime in the future.) The one on the right is just being finished and it is for sale, if you are interested. (If you have to ask the price, you can't afford it.)
While I was walking, Marianne drove over to Carnelian Bay on Lake Tahoe for lunch with friends Sharron and Criss. The retired school teachers reportedly caught up on their lives and compared stories. All good.
Back "home", Marianne discovered she needed to get some necessities at the little shop at Martis Lodge Spa. I used the time to enjoy the lodge's view and watch little picas fill their cheeks and buy their winter food in the rock wall. Cute.
Our evening was quiet, again. Hurricane Ian filled our CNN time and that was about it.
Thursday felt like a real road trip as we headed to Reno, Sparks, Lovelock, and Winnemucca. Once out of the mountains and several miles of road reconstruction, Interstate 80 was flat and mostly straight.
We stopped in Reno to feed Carla and in Sparks to feed John and Marianne.
With full tummies and battery, we drove just a dozen miles east in hopes of seeing the Tesla Gigafactory where Panasonic makes batteries and Tesla makes motors, large battery systems and a few trucks. Unfortunately, the site is closed to visitors, so all we could see was a sliver of the roof, off in the distance.
From the Gigafactory, there was nothing to do but drive, testing the car's "full self driving" system. Unfortunately, the car showed that the "phantom braking" problem has not yet been solved. While it is great to roll along with Carla in command, the stress of the occasional slowing is not fun. Elon needs to get this fixed.
Because we were zooming along at or near the highway's 80-mph speed limit, we needed to insert an extra fueling stop at Lovelock. Electric car efficiency falls off significantly once we get above about 70 mph, but the wide open Nevada plains makes that seem too slow.
By about 3pm, we reached Winnemucca and checked in to our motel. I had researched the tourist attractions in the Nevada crossroad and found a local historical society museum. It sounded interesting enough, so we rushed over to see what we could before their 4pm closing.
In fact, the North Central Nevada Historical Society and Humboldt Museum turned out to be a real jewel. The main 1980s building and three historic buildings from a century before displayed a range of artifacts from this part of the rural west. Here's what we saw.
The top floor displayed the town's old phone system, a century-old soda works,
mementos from 19th Century Chinese settlers and bones from way before that.
On the ground floor, there was a handful of century-old cars,
from a 1903 "curved dash" Oldsmobile to a 1918 Chevy.
The other three buildings of the Museum complex were a church, home, and office building.
St. Mary's Episcopal church was the start of the museum in 1975 when it was moved from where it had served parishioners since the early 1900s to the current site.
The Richardson House was built in 1899, donated to the museum in 2005 and moved and restored in the 2010s. It has been open for tours for ten years.
The third out-building at the Winnemucca Museum is the Greinstein building, which originally served as the gift shop when it was moved to the site in 1984. In its original location, it had been a series of shops and offices for almost 100 years and medical treasures from the olden days decorate one room.
So, in just 45 minutes, we saw one of the best small town museums we've seen, much better than the "bones and (pot) shards" we expect from these small places. A sign of civic pride in small Winnemucca.
The next local attraction would be dinner, a Basque dinner at the Martin Hotel. We crossed town, a five-minute drive, through the three-block downtown. The desert hills formed a great backdrop to the small but seemingly prosperous western town.
The Martin Hotel had originally serviced the Basque sheepherder community, a community that grew up after the California Gold Rush had ended and Basques treasure seekers settled on sheep raising to make a living. In its heyday, there were several Basque hotels and many businesses. Even today there are dinner choices; however, everyone we asked said Martin's was the first choice. Excellent advice.
As is customary in Basque restaurants, the dining room is entered through a bar, and this one was appropriately decorated with patrons who might never make it on to the eating part of the evening. Very authentic. Past the bar, the dining area is filled with long tables where guests share family style service.
A Basque meal follows a traditional pattern, a pattern set from feeding hungry farm workers. There are several courses, way too much food, and everything sticks to your ribs - or wherever.
- minestrone soup
- salad with garlicky dressing, topped with red beans
- bread (slightly sweet)
- corn, potatoes, hominy (highlight)
- slow-roasted lamb shanks
- bread pudding.
So much for our low-carb diets.
On Friday we had a longish drive planned, from Winnemucca to Twin Falls, Idaho. The Nevada portion was flat, straight, dry, and plain. Scattered along the way, small homes barely showed above the brown surface. Every once in awhile, a community would appear, usually associated with a mine or other industrial cluster. It was hard to imagine living out here, but some people must. To each his own.
The only stops we had planned were two kilowatts refills for Carla. Usually, these coincide well with driver/passenger rest stops, but just short of Elko we found we needed to "rest" earlier than our Supercharger stop so, when we saw a brown road sign signifying a tourist attraction, we exited the Interstate.
The attraction turned out to be the California Trail Interpretive Center, a very polished facility explaining local history, including the story of the quarter of a million settlers that passed through the area between 1841 and 1869 on their way to California. The series of displays, dioramas, and films were very well done and make the center an almost required stop to educate the young and not-so-young.
"Seeing the elephant" came to mean making it through the suffering and
experience of the trail west. It reminded me of our own elephant.
The paintings and dioramas gave a vivid picture of the 2,000 mile trip
from the banks of the Missouri River, through Indian country, friendly and not-so,
and ultimately across an unforgiving desert. Our drive was much easier!
After our rest stop, we Supercharged in Elko and Wells, Nevada, and turned north on Highway 93. The flat, dry Nevada plains turned to Idaho's low hills and fields, green from irrigation and occasional rains. Communities and farms seemed more prosperous.
We got to our hotel and quickly went out to pick up take-out for dinner so we could make the weekly game Zoom with family. The takeout was mediocre Thai, but the game with Jen, Brian, and Geoff was fun, as it traditionally is. Our game skills never get any better, but routinely touching base is much appreciated.
So, that was it for September. On Friday, we will start a new month and a new state.
John and Marianne