"Back on the Road..."
Day Three, Wednsday – Over the Hill to Tahoe:
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Another day - Another Steak & Eggs at Mel's...
Fortified, we headed off south once again on the 395. This time, however, instead of heading east on the 341, we headed west on the 431 (how dyslexic of us) towards the snow-capped Sierras.
Initially the climb was gentle. Almost lethargically it lightly curved through rolling foothills.
Then, without warning, however, it turned into a classic steep, winding, mountain road and we plunged deeper into the Sierras. Snow soon appeared on the mountain tops besides us and - minutes later - covered the land on both sides of the road. We passed ski resort after ski resort.
And still we climbed.
Now sheer drop-offs were added to sections of the road. Starkly blue cloud-scudded sky and sharply white mountains rolled by us. Acrophobic Dee Dee commented that - pretty as it was - if this
was how you got to Tahoe, she wasn't coming again.
We topped out at almost nine-thousand feet and got our first view of Lake Tahoe in the distance. Sparkling blue waters were surrounded by snow covered mountains. After stopping for a few minutes to vista, we began our descent to the shores.
We reached the small town of Incline Village almost exactly at the north end of the lake and then hung a left onto the 28, which runs along the eastern shore. Soon, we reached an overlook spot for the lake and stopped.
Close up, the water is the most incredible blue I've ever seen. Not just "clear- water-blue" blue, but "Mr. Disney, this-is-what-we-think-tropical-water-blue-is" blue. It's the blue the submarine lagoon at Disneyland used to look like right after they'd done their most recent paint-touch-up.
The pictures here really don't do it justice...
We continued on our way south. The 28 merged into the 50 and then slowly curved west towards South Lake Tahoe.
South Lake Tahoe is a city split in two by the California/Nevada border. The only visible difference between the two halves is the inclusion of casinos on the Nevada side. And the casinos run right
up to the border - as in, "the outside of their western wall is
the Nevada/California border" right up to it.
Meanwhile, while there are no casinos, there are
hotels/motels on the California side too - conveniently close to the casinos just a border's-width away...
Apart from the gambling influence, most of South Lake Tahoe is a pretty typical ski/mountain vacation town. Buildings all done "log cabin" style. Ski (snow and
water), boat, camping and fishing supplies everywhere. That sorta thing.
Us, we continued westwards, then north again as we curved off onto the 89 - which runs along the western shore of the lake.
Unlike its eastern counterpart, though, it starts climbing and then clings to the side of cliffs that overlook the water (at least, on the section we were on). "Clinging" as in "hundred-foot drop to the left, hundred-foot drop to the right, road looks three-foot wide" clinging. And it can't do straight to save its life. Dee Dee was spending lots of time examining the floor of the car and it even made me
So, when we came to an overlook for Emerald Bay - and could see that the road beyond was, if anything, even more cliff-clingy - we stopped and got out.
A couple of hundred feet below us was Emerald Bay
, a deep notch in the shoreline filled with, well, emerald-colored water. Centered in the bay is a small, steep island (the only
one on Lake Tahoe!) with - at its peak - sits a tiny stone castle-like building.
It's actually a part of what's called "Vikingsholm"
- a summer place built in 1929 by Lora Josephine Knight. While the main house is on the shore (and done in a pseudo-medieval Scandinavian style...it's quite nice, really), the building on Fannette Island
was actually a private Tea House, of all things.
After a while (and a bunch of pictures), we headed back to the car. My original plan had
been to take the 89 the rest of the way around the lake and then head up to Truckee (and then back to Reno), but we'd had our fill of cliff-driving and so instead headed back to South Lake Tahoe and the 50.
Right where we'd gotten on it originally from the 28, the 50 curves due-east and heads towards Carson City. And being an interstate, there was a lot
less "plummeting to a painful death" driving involved.
Since we were heading that way anyway - and it was still early afternoon - we stopped at a now open Nevada State Railway Museum
The museum is surprisingly small. Inside sat some of the last remaining stock of the Virginia & Truckee Railway
, along with smaller mementos and models of now long-gone engines.
We spent about an hour walking through the museum building proper (they had a nice display on "Chinese in Nevada" when we were there) before we headed out to the car-barns behind the main museum building.
There the museum stored the trains it used on its short oval of track during the tourist season. Also within were cars that were in a less...restored state.
One of their big projects right now is restoring an old self-propelled railcar - a gas-powered "McKeen Motor Car" from 1910
, to be precise. In a lot of ways, the aerodynamic styling was ahead of its time - spoiled only by the vastly underpowered engine that drove it.
We talked with the guys working in the car barn for a while, I road a handcar (nearly fifty feet!) and then left just as the museum was closing for the day.
Heading up the now familiar 395, we spotted a sign and pulled off the road near Washoe Lake and headed towards Bower's Mansion.
The Bower's Mansion
was built in 1863 by Lemuel Bowers - one of the new Comstock Millionaires - and his wife, Eilley
. They spent, well, big-$$$ building the thing but, unfortunately, after his death, his wife lost it in 1878 and the place then became a resort until 1946 (there's a hot springs on the property - currently running a swimming pool). It's been restored and now sits in a fair-sized park
that overlooks Washoe Lake to the east.
We wandered around the park for a while, then finally headed back to Reno and our hotel (and Mel's...).
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All Non-Linked Pictures Copyright 2004 - David William Johnson