There are some benefits of waking up at 5:30 in the morning, especially when the sun is already shining, but there can be conflicting hours of operation as well. Down the road to Bodie State Park is a sheep farm. I would’ve stopped to take pictures – the sheep dogs looked friendly enough, but the dogs guarding the trailer were in the road and ready to kill. It’s a good thing I don’t like dead animals – especially splashed as décor on my vehicle.
It’s about ten miles of brown rocks, green shrubbery, yellow tinted snowy mountains, and paved road. Then there is the dust storm to drive through before the three miles of dirt road that will deliver me to the park entrance – after noting the sign says, ‘Park Hours 9a-6p No Services.’ I continue on to get a peek and the site looks like an amazing place to explore – somewhere that would take me back in history, but all the signs say Don’t Enter!
Now, had I been the car of visitors from Asia, I might’ve waited the three hours for the park to open, but since I wasn’t I waved at them as they shrugged at me. I hope they enjoyed it to the full extent. Perhaps one day I can return with the same enthusiasm. The drive away from Bodie is even more amazing – green and yellow hills with a road zigzagging through it and mountains with a valley. I wouldn’t mind living here.
I’m making my way through this small town and stop to take a picture of the court house when after looking around I realize that I’ve been here before. I’m in the town of Bridgeport – a town Caleb and I spent a night in after finding Mammoth Lakes too pricey. I get some gas at the other end of town and the attendant could care less about my enthusiasm for the place he chose to work.
I stop in the town of Walker because I like the way it looks. There are colorful motels and cafes and gift shops with their own personal decorations. I photograph the birdhouses, the flowers, and the tea being brewed in the sun. I walk across the street to Mountain View Barbeque and go inside because it’s open. I’m not hungry enough for their country-sized breakfast, but I do enjoy looking at their signs, murals, license plates, and patches among other things covering the walls.
Somewhere along the 89 I see a snake over three feet long – a Speckled Kingsnake, and pull over to take his picture. At first I think he is really photogenic and then I see his bloody smile and notice his lifeless body. Then I feel sad for him and wonder how long he has been there. I should’ve found a stick or something to move him out of the road. I’m not sure if he got hoofed or tired to death, but his body is quite resilient.
The 89 turns out to be a high-traffic area for cyclists and as I pass them I’m thinking how nice it is that my car is cruising downhill, then I realize they must be looking forward to the return trip when they can let their legs relax. Some might have been doing a 60-mile day – at least the one I talked to was, and others had their cars parked on the shoulder and had their own distances that they were ready to cover.
I see a large sign that says JOUST and I quickly park near the no parking sign to get out and see what this is about. I’m thinking it’s a role-playing event, but soon realize that Phoenix isn’t the only city with a Renaissance Faire. This one looks huge and is covered in shade, but if I’m going to pay it’s going to be for a full day of festivities…no point in waiting another hour or two for only four hours of fun…well, maybe had it been scheduled in.
Then I see Lake Tahoe – a place my little brother, Jay, wants to visit for all the reasons the people are here – drinking, fishing, kiting, swimming…picking up ladies. I stop along the road to take in the views and then pull into Inspiration Point where I read about Vikingsholm – a Scandinavian Castle, and Mrs. Knight – the woman who made it all possible with her funds and extreme kindness.
As I go to leave the parking lot I hear my name. I turn around and see Susan (one of the women I hiked with yesterday) and seconds later Mara approaches. They decided to take more than a day to drive to Lassen Volcanic Park – a main stop on their list before their return to Washington. They read about the teahouse on the island and other events in the history of Emerald Bay and Lake Tahoe and decided to drive on. I decided to stay.
From where we are it’s a mile drive to the parking lot – that’s $10 in State Park fees, then a mile walk through tall trees and past some babbling brooks. I arrive to the museum/office at 10:20 am and the next tour starts at 11:00 am (another $10) which gives me time to explore. I photograph the pollen, ducks, geese, and children in the water with their parents in the sand. I get some time to read about the extensive work that went into the house and the lives of the people who called this place home every summer for 15 years.
The guided tour lasts 15 minutes. We are told that we are not allowed in the rooms so that we don’t destroy the tapestry – the one in the library is made of cashmere. We are told about the rooms with locked doors and about the service basement that runs under the house. We are told about the price and material of the house and the amenities given to staff and guests during their stay. Then we are free to roam and look around upstairs.
What furnishing weren’t bought from Scandinavia were made with hand-carved wood, local quarried stone, and hand-wrought iron amongst 200 workers during one season. 200 acres and a 7-bed/7-bath home cost Mrs. Knight $400,000 in 1928-29. Everything is so personal and artistically made – from the doors to the curtains, chairs, lamps, desks, decorations, windows, ceiling, and themed bedrooms.
Still taking in the details I notice a silence – the crowd has left. Now it’s just me and the guide that I sit down next to and share some conversation about the amazing beauty, history, and generosity of this place. Then I notice a small baggy on the ground and can’t tell if the bugs are in it or died underneath it, so I pick it up. The guide tells me it belongs to a scientist nearby – whether official or mad she didn’t clarify.
Now time to see Lower Eagle Falls – the only one flowing directly into the lake. It’s only a few short paces and 15 stone steps later to the bridge viewing-platform, but that’s only part of the way. I also get to walk among aspen trees with little yellow birds on their branches. The walk back seems more uphill than what I walked down and the sun is staring at my skin and quickly metabolizing any food and water had prior to 9:30 am – now 12:30 pm.
I had planned on stopping in Truckee – the name of my brother-in-law’s truck, but seemingly drove straight through and was on Hwy 80 for 27 miles before taking 20 West into Marysville (a small town 40 miles north of Sacramento) where I would be spending a night or two with Caleb’s Uncle Chester (his dad’s brother). The night was off to a great start – the brothers both have a sense of humor, a great love of history, and the ability to be the loudest in the room.
It being 103 degrees outside I was made a family/friend favorite cooling beverage – a mango madness consisting of top-secret ingredients. I got to meet Charles’ wife of 13 years, Pam and their daughter Roni; his friend for over 30 years, Pat; and Caleb’s cousin Tom for a few seconds. He asked when he last saw me and I told him we’ve never met, but that the last time he saw Caleb he was four years old – Tom would’ve been 10.
Just so happens that Chester likes to try new foods and buy in bulk when something he likes goes on sale. This is how he happened upon veggie patties – something the vegetarian could have for dinner with lots of fixins – mayo, mustard, relish, lettuce, cheese, etc. He showed me his game room – he is a game inventor/player and a soon-to-be-author of a book titled Time – a humorous look into love in historical times.
He chooses to introduce me to a game called Art Deco that involves the use of cards, dice, and poker chips. I won, but I’m sure that’s just beginner’s luck, though Caleb would tell you it’s wifey luck as it’s rare that he wins at cards or Scrabble, but he does have me beat with Chess as I don’t commit the moves to memory. Conversation carried us into the 9 o’clock hour when we began to boil potatoes to make a salad.
Chester boiled the eggs and I peeled them. I cut up pickles and he cut the peppers and potatoes. We mixed in some other ingredients, licked the bowl and spoon, and set in the refrigerator for tomorrow’s enjoyment. I had a room in the back of the house with a big comfy bed and lots of pillows. I plugged my camera battery charger in and found my way to sleep around midnight.