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Carson City Friends

February 3-8, 2016
Written February 5+
Dear Diary, Friends, and Families,

d160203_00_path.jpgMarianne's school chum Claudia and her husband Ward had invited us to visit them in Carson City, Nevada, and we finally found a window to take them up on the invitation.  (Claudia had visited us years ago in Pommersfelden - one of few visitors.)  It's not a long drive, only about five or six hours, and we looked forward to seeing the snowy Sierras.

d160203_02_robinsonsbr.jpgHalf of the trip repeated our other drives through the "gold country" and we have to admit we have probably seen enough of those parts.  There are only so many wooden western towns that one needs to visit.  We did notice that there is at least some water in the foothill reservoirs.  Hopefully this gets better and better as the rainy season continues.

The bigger impact from our El Nino winter has been the snow covering the Sierra back country.  There had been several feet deposited over the summit in the last week or so, but the roads were clear and bare.  No need to try our new tire chains!  We stopped at Kirkwood Ski Resort for a phone and other necessities' stop and could hardly even see the ski lifts for all the snow.  Everyone we saw there seemed happy.

Our end point for the first day was "1862 David Walley's Resort", a pretty elaborate hot springs resort that has been hosting locals for 150+ years.  So far, we have not jumped in the hot water, but I will report if and when we do.
Walley's was a stop for Pony Express riders who needed a good warm soak after their rides.  It also served as a rest stop on the Emigrant Trail before wagon trains headed over the Sierras.

d160204_02_sunrise.jpgOn Thursday morning, I woke up early and considered the early photo session all travelers should do.  I'll admit I was not inspired, but the sunrise was looking promising and besides, I NEEDED a Starbucks coffee hit.  The nearest store was three miles away, as the crow files, but the Jeep's navigator decided I should detour via the little community of Genoa, the oldest town in Nevada. 

Once there, I felt obligated to take a few pictures of the old buildings as they emerged from the early morning darkness.  I have a feeling that during the day, these are just another set of gold country tourist shops, but in the early morning light they had a certain amount of charm.
d160204_10_gazebo.jpgWalking back to the car, I saw ice cycles falling off a corner gazebo.  Interesting.  Interesting enough to spend 15 or 20 minutes trying to capture the moment.  Worth the early morning trip!

d160204_32_hills.jpgBy now, the sun was coming above the eastern hills and I found myself in the valley outside Genoa. I stopped to try again to capture something, but these diffuse horizon scenes are almost impossible to capture.  Oh well, it is good enough for our own memories.


By now, it was time for our main task for the trip: visit Claudia and Ward.  Their Carson City home is about a half-hour drive from Walley's Resort and gave us a car-window overview of the town.  Much of the drive was along strip malls that could be anywhere, but the surrounding hills reminded us of where we were and we sensed that this was a more prosperous area than the small farm towns closer to our Fresno home.

At Claudia's, we were treated to homemade scones and hand crafted coffee, both well done.  Over the next several hours, Marianne and Claudia caught up on school friend stories and exchanged artists' tips.  Claudia is currently working on 'botanical impressions" on her hand made felt and silk fabrics.
While "the girls" dove deeper into art talk, Ward was assigned the task of guiding me along the Blue Line Walking Tour of the old Carson City.  Nice excuse for a walk and maybe even a bit of education.
Map training.  Blue Line.  Orion Clemons home, occasional 1860's home of Orion's reporter brother Samuel, aka Mark Twain.  1867 Methodist Church.  1868 St. Peter's Episcopal church.
Bliss House, largest in Nevada when built in 1879. Governor's Mansion (1919).  House where John Wayne filmed "The Shootist", his last film.  Finally, my favorite of the old Carson City homes - back story unknown.

The Friday plan was to finish this diary, get in a gym session, grab a quick breakfast, and head back to Carson City to check out the dining and art scene, including Claudia's current showing at City Hall.  So, that's what we did.

d160205_02_genoa.jpgWe left Walley's a half hour early and killed time in Genoa.  Marianne shopped, unsuccessfully.  I took pictures: an ornate, but tiny, old building; the Mormon Station, the last resupply stop for pioneers heading across the high mountains; a statue of Snowshoe Thompson memorializing his 1856 January crossing of the Sierras on skis.  Good history lesson.
From Genoa it was back to Carson City.  Claudia and Ward took us on a tour of lunch (LA Bakery - good sandwiches and great desserts!) and a shop or three of trinkets and antiques.  The shopping was successful, in my view, because we enjoyed seeing but not buying.

After the tour, we headed to the two art displays currently featured by the Capital City Arts Initiative.  Stop one was the Community Center and Claudia's textiles.  Her process combines felts, silks, dyes, and natural imprints from leaves, twigs and odd pieces of iron.  The result is very impressive.
Our next stop was an opening at the courthouse for Jeff Hantmann, an artists from the Lost and Foundry in Oakland.  I liked his "found material" work (= recycled junk, for you and me), albeit not for our house's small walls. 
So that was our Friday.  Thanks to Claudia and Ward for a wonderful day in the Carson City art scene!  We owe you.

d160206_10_route.jpgSaturday:  No social activity today, so we did our normal travel schedule:  slow mornings of diary, drawings, and breakfast.   Eventually, we managed to get out for a drive over to Lake Tahoe.   Here's the story in (maybe too many) pictures.
Our route was over Kingsbury Grade, a twisty two-lane connection between Carson Valley and the southern shore of Lake Tahoe.  (At one photo stop, I was reminded of the damage potholes can do!  I drove slower after that.)
On the western end of Kingsbury Grade we swung through Stateline on the lake and even managed to see a few blocks of California.  We passed on the giant Casinos on the Nevada side.

From Stateline, we drove north, impressed by both the lake and by the hundreds of homes along the shore and cliffs.  Here is a narrow ribbon of a picture of the lake.  Not a great picture, but it does give a sense of the size of Lake Tahoe.
Of course there were many other picture-perfect views as well.  The air and water were both crystal clear.
Nicely behaved dogs were everywhere.  I think they enjoy nature fun as much as owners do.
d160206_40_loneeagle.jpgBy noon, we had worked up an appetite and, at Gabby's recommendation, we went to the Lone Eagle Grille in Incline Village.  The setting is as wonderful as one would expect for a high-end dining spot in a high-end "village".
d160206_44_lunch.jpgMarianne had mussels, and pronounced them the best she had ever had.  I was dieting, so I had a a light butter lettuce salad and a small brownie and coffee for desert.  I could get used to this.

d160206_50_homeview.jpgd160206_52_eveningview.jpgOur drive back over the mountains was on the Highway 50 freeway so we were back at Walley's before we knew it.  We settled in to watch the Republican Debate (Marianne) and the Warriors' game (me).  I had the better end of the entertainment.  Meanwhile, the mountains and skies outside turned from bright, to rosy, to dark.  A nice setting, even for watching television.


Sunday was another unplanned day -- except for watching the Super Bowl.  I left before dawn to take pictures, but didn't make it past Starbucks.  No inspiration.  After breakfast at Walley's, I tried a small photo walk near the hotel.  Again, little to inspire, but at least a few memories of the twisted old trees and the noisy geese.  The geese love the hot springs as much as people do I think.


d160207_01_drivepath.jpgAt Claudia's suggestion, we took a drive down to Markleeville, over the line in California.  Our hope had been for a quaint lunch spot, but no cafe or restaurant was open.   We did stop at all three open businesses: a bar, the general store, and a nice local art gallery. The general store was even for sale, if you want to spend a half million and have a very quiet life.  Markleeville is on  roads to both central Nevada and over to Stockton, but the two passes were closed until the snow clears enough in about April.  Maybe next time we will come that way.
Heading back north, we saw more mountains, including this dramatic rocky bluff above Woodfords and the Emigrant Trail (aka Highway 88 - our route home.)  We tried again for lunch at Woodfords' Station, but the one remaining employee said everyone else had gone home to watch the Super Bowl.  Casual business hours.  We did manage lunch sandwiches back at the Minden Meat Market and Deli.  Good stop, but we had to hurry so we could get back to watch the game at "home". (For the record, Denver won with an old-guy quarterback.  Yeah old guys!!!)

On Monday we headed back to Fresno.  We stopped for breakfast at Woodfords' Station because it seemed like such a quaint place.   The old building was one of the Pony Express stations, back in the day, and the stop had served the Emigrant Trail's pioneers.  Unfortunately, I think the cook left with the last wagon train, so the only breakfast available was leftover quiche and well-aged fruit.  Oh well, it adds to a story.

Back on the road we went up through Carson Pass and past the Kirkwood ski area.  The scenery remained spectacular with a bright blue sky overhead.  I hope the area gets more snow this winter, because it deserves the decoration.
Coasting down from the pass, we gradually left the snow behind.  By the time we reached Sonora, it was a warm, mid-60s, California day.  By now, we have traveled these Gold Country roads more than we would want, but a few more hours was required before we made it home to Fresno.  Back home, all was in order.  We managed our unpacking routine and moved on to catching up with household chores.

Good trip.  Next weekend, we have a different event planned.  Stay tuned.

John and Marianne


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