I’ve said this before, and I continue to think it… I really have to plant myself in some horribly ugly and unappealing place so that I can get caught up on my work. The more I hike and explore, the more work I give myself to do!! Today… most of it anyway… is a work day. I’m a good month behind on blogging, so that goes to the top of the list!
Soooo… after a great trip through central Oregon I dropped into California from Klamath Falls and traveled through Modoc National Forest for what seemed like a very long time. It’s a beautiful place, but since I had only a few days to make it to Reno I didn’t venture far off of Hwy-139 to see the Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge, or the Lava Beds National Monument or any of a few California State Parks I could have seen. Instead I thought I might find a campsite at Eagle Lake or Honey Lake which both appeared large and much closer to my route.
I was already past Eagle Lake before I realized that the campground (which may or may not have been open) must have been somewhere on the other side. Since Honey Lake was still ahead of me and I hadn’t reached the point of road-weary yet I chose to keep going. Much to my befuddlement Honey Lake, which appeared quite sizable on the map, was nothing more than a dry lake bed as far as I could see. Thinking I might happen upon a gem of a spot along the way I kept going… all the way to Reno.
I put Reno on my route so that I could visit my niece Madeline who had just moved a long way from home to start college at University of Nevada Reno. When I discovered that her sister Natalie was flying in for their homecoming weekend I extended my visit to include the weekend so I could spend time with both of them. In my family university+autumn=college football so we wrangled up a couple extra tickets and went to the game together. Unfortunately the Wolfpack lost to the UNLV Rebels that day, but it was fun hanging out with the girls on campus and at the game.
The following day I packed a picnic lunch, loaded up the dogs and picked the girls up for a road trip to Lake Tahoe. It was a gorgeous day, but cold and extremely windy. We drove all the way around the lake stopping at a few scenic vistas and hoping to find a protected cove where we could enjoy our meal together. Although there were plenty of picnic spots to be found, none were hidden from the frigid blustery winds that day.
After traveling almost all the way around the lake we arrived in South Lake Tahoe. The wind was still howling and by this time our stomachs were too, so we took a vote… picnic in the car or find a warm restaurant. It was unanimous… we “yelped” and found a great local burger joint to satisfy our hunger.
On the drive back to Reno the wind only got stronger. While traveling north on I-580 we came upon a flashing sign indicating that all vehicles over 25′ must take the next exit. If we’d been in my motorhome we would have been battening down for the night right there. Having fought high winds in The Beast before, I would have been happy to oblige. I know from experience that fighting strong gusty winds in a motorhome this size is nerve wracking, exhausting and can be quite dangerous. As it was… with my kayak on top… it was unsettling enough in my Honda.
I had hoped to do some portraits of Madeline for her Mom and Dad while we were at Lake Tahoe, but the wind made that an impossible task. Before dropping the girls off on campus I made plans to pick them up in the morning for a quick session before I headed south.
As it turned out winter came during the night and dropped a layer of snow on the surrounding mountains. That made for some delightful photo ops, but it also delayed my departure. Chains were now required on part of my path to Mammoth Lakes. I have chains for my car, but since I tend to stay off wintery highways in The Beast I see no need to carry the extra weight for the motorhome. Actually, I hate to think what a set of chains for this rig must weigh!
The following day, although it was still snowing, the roads were clear enough for me to head south. This was my first experience driving The Beast in the snow and I’m happy to report that she handled herself quite well… or so I thought. I made a few stops along the way to shoot some scenic vistas, and when I did I kept noticing an odor… something smelled hot. I checked under both hoods, watched the dash lights, and knew it wasn’t the smell of hot breaks. I was puzzled, but there were no auto shops along the way to pull in and ask for help. With a weary eye and more frequent stops I continued south. One stop I made was at Bodie State Historic Park near Bridgeport. The park is roughly 13 miles off the highway on a rugged country road, so I left my motorhome parked at pull-out near the start of that road and drove my car in. This “ghost town” was really quite amazing and the images I gathered there while walking with my dogs in the snow are too numerous to add to this post, so… you can check that out here… The Ghost Town of Bodie.
The next stop was at the Mono Lake visitors center, but it was a brief one since they were closed. I walked around for a bit to see the lake from that vantage point but didn’t stay long because it was “bloomin’ cold”! The hot odor was only apparent when I stopped, and not after starting the engine again after it had been sitting for awhile. It continued to puzzled me but all I could do was hope to find some sort of service station soon.
As I made the turn off of Hwy-395 toward Mammoth Lakes I noticed a couple of truckers outside of their rigs at a large pull-off and quickly pulled over behind them thinking they were likely to be more qualified than most to help me assess the problem. I walked over looking like an atypical damsel in distress I’m sure, since my “big rig” was darn near as big as theirs, but they were happy to oblige. One of them sniffed around both motorhome and car until he zeroed in on the problem. Broken seal on my rear axel… leaking oil onto my breaks… which made the oil hot and smoky.The GOOD news was there was a Goodyear in town that could help me. The bad news was they were closed until morning.
So I found the only open campground within miles and spent my night worrying. By mid morning I was at Goodyear hoping for the best… a new seal… which would cost me the rest of the day and a few hundred bucks. I took advantage of the unexpected downtime on a gorgeous day by doing a little tour of the area. That lead me back to the June Lake Scenic Loop I had driven past the day prior and and back to Mono Lake as well.
When I got back to Goodyear that afternoon I was informed that I had bigger problems than we had hoped. The damage included (and apparently began with) the bearings. Long story short… I remained camped for a few days at Goodyear while parts were ordered and replaced. Fortunately for me the Mammoth Lakes Goodyear is managed and staffed by some very nice guys. Many thanks to them for accommodating me and getting me back on the road!
While in town I discovered a nice dog-friendly hiking trail and a great little restaurant called Toomey’s. Not only did they have free WiFi, but a surprisingly gourmet menu for a place that seemed like a deli. I spent enough time working (and eating) there to find out that they are expanding, so if you ever go to Mammoth Lakes be sure to stop in for a meal!
If I had to be stuck somewhere for three days I can’t think of a better place than Mammoth Lakes, but I have to admit I was happy to get back on the road. I was finally heading to Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks… two places I’d been waiting to see for a very long time. Along the way I happened upon another very cool place called the Valley of Fire. Lots of amazing experiences and unbelievable images from those places coming soon, so stay tuned!