Today was a travel day that started off with mundane scenery and ended up with the spectacular San Rafael Swell. For most of the morning we drive through the uninhabited parts of dry Nevada and the salt flats of Utah. At lunchtime we find ourselves in Salina, UT where in 2009 we had stopped on one of our cross-country trips at Mom’s Cafe.
Last time we ate there I got their homemade chicken soup which included a chicken-made bone. Today I order a chicken sandwich sans bones. The weirdest thing is that no one there is masked. Not the patrons or the servers. It is a little scary.
Then we are back on the road heading towards the San Rafael Swell. I really wanted to see the amazing geologic feature again as we had gone through it quite quickly last time. Today we stop at the overlooks and read the explanations. It is so grand!
The San Rafael Swell is a section of the earth’s crust that has been eroded and exposed by the upward tilt of the land so that you can easily see millions of years of the earth’s history. In fact in one section you drive right through it. The pictures cannot totally catch the colors and depth of the formations.
Our first stop is at Salt Wash.
Our next stop is at Devil’s Canyon.
As we are approaching the gap in the San Rafael Reef I take a few pictures out the front window of the car.
Our last stop is at the Spotted Wolf Overlook.
Finally a view from the car as we descend.
Soon thereafter we arrive in Green River, UT. It looks like there are only two places open for dinner and the commentary on the reviews say how crowded they are and how you have to wait a long time to get a table. The pictures show communal type tables. I am not ready for this with a bunch of unmasked strangers. So we decide to shop for something to eat at their one small grocery store and make dinner in the room. It is no worse than the dinners we have had in Carson City or Ely.
All the hotels we have been to tackle the pandemic breakfast differently. In Sonoma we were given the “Grab ‘n Go” paper bag, in Carson City we ordered from a pre-set menu of pre-made items, and here in Ely we went one at a time into the food area where we told a staff person what to put on our plate. Everyone must wear masks in all the public areas of the hotel. I look forward to when I can pick out my own bad breakfast mask-less.
This morning’s outing is to the Nevada Northern Railway Museum and steam engine train ride. It is very chilly this morning, only 26F when we get up with a stiff breeze blowing. We put on a lot of layers. I have six layers plus a scarf and gloves. I am not used to cold weather.
While we wait for boarding time we wander around the train station taking pictures of the train and various items of interest.
There was a thriving copper mining industry around Ely in the late 1800s and up until 1983. The boom time for the town was during WWI. The smelting of the copper was done in a nearby town.
We hear the “All Aboard” and grab some seats for the slow ride to the copper mine with its towering hills of slag. We hear the story of copper mining and see points of interest most of which are broken down coal tipples or dynamited tunnels. We learn about how to use a wye to turn a train around.
After de-training we walk around the site and look at the museum. Two train museums within 3 days is a lot. Then we head off to find some sort of lunch and end up at a Subway standing in a long line. We take our sandwiches back to the room and have out lunch there.
Later in the afternoon we take a scenic ride on the Success Loop. For us it is closer to being the Disaster Loop. Luckily we have had off-road disasters before and know when to bail.
We are riding along enjoying the scenery and pass through some aspens. There are patches of snow on the ground. Uh-oh, we are gaining elevation and the patches of snow are now on the road and we have skidded twice. Then we see the road ahead is entirely covered with snow. What to do?! We know it would be a really bad idea to get stuck out here in the middle of nowhere. It was bad when we were in our 50s and it would be much worse now that we are in our 70s. We must abort the trip and somehow turn around. I get out to inspect an area that might look promising for a K-turn. But its not. I am slipping in the mud that the melting snow has created. I sink in to the tops of my shoes. If we try to turn around here we will get stuck in the mud.
I and my filthy shoes get back in the car and the only solution is to back out down the dirt road until we can find a wide spot that is not too muddy. John does a great job backing which is hard on his neck. He takes little breaks between episodes of back up. Finally we find a spot that we think will work and John turns the car around and disaster is averted. Yay!
And now it is time for dinner. Tonight we are eating at Margaritas, a Mexican restaurant in the Prospector Casino next door to our hotel. I order shrimp fajitas (with mushrooms?) and John orders chicken enchiladas with a poblano sauce. The chips and salsa are good. We are hopeful. But at the end of the night we are trying to rate our three meals today. The categories are Bad, Worse, and Worst. Both John and I decide that our semi-soggy bread on our lunchtime sandwiches does not down-rate it enough to make it lose the top spot at Bad, breakfast comes in at Worse, and dinner is Worst. Even the good salsa and chips and the tasty guacamole cannot pull it out of the bottom. We are starting to rethink our dinner strategy.
Not too much going on today as we spend most of the day driving from Carson City to Ely, NV. We make a stop at a McDonald’s in Fallon, NV for breakfast. Unfortunately we cannot eat inside so we make do sitting in the car.
After that we head further on U.S. 50, the loneliest highway in America. We stop at the famous or infamous Shoe Tree. We have visited the original shoe tree in 2009 but that tree was chain-sawed down by vandals in 2010. It seems, though, that people wasted no time making another shoe tree in a nearby tree. (A shoe tree is a tree that people throw their shoes to catch on the branches.)
In any case it was good to get out and stretch our legs!
We drive on and on through some very dull and some very spectacular scenery. We arrive in Ely, NV shortly before 3 PM. We stop at a Carl’s Jr. where there are only two tables available for use and they are already occupied. We spend our lunchtime in the car eating burgers that I know we should not eat.
We reach the hotel round 3:40 and after looking at Ely on the way in decide we will have plenty of time tomorrow to see anything we might want to see. After a shower and a short nap (for me) we get dressed for dinner. I am concerned that we will not look fancy enough. I need not have worried.
We go to Mr. Gino’s Italian Restaurant. I have made a reservation. After all it is Saturday night! When we get there three tables are occupied. We opt for a table hiding in the corner where we will be away from other people’s breathing. Mr. Gino’s is like some restaurant that your parents took you to in the 1950s.
I order shrimp arrabbiata and John gets lasagna. I am able to dress my salad with oil and vinegar. I send John on a hunt for salt at one of the empty tables. At this point everyone who was here when we came in has left. Salad with some doctoring is okay. We order glasses of wine. I get Chardonnay and John orders Cabernet Sauvignon. His wine is so bad that he does not want me to even taste it. I have decided that the restaurant’s algorithm for pricing wine is whatever a whole bottle cost is what they should charge for a glass. It is $6.
Our entrees come and my shrimp in spicy sauce is not terrible. The shrimp could have been cooked more and the pasta less. It is covered with melting cheese and a bread stick. John has lasagna. Wait, what’s this, two more tablesful of people come in. We decide since it is 8 PM that they must be Spaniards dining way too early or Californians who left Carson City later than we did. Anyway the dinner gets a C-.. It is not terrible. (I cannot believe I am blowing my diet on this less than mediocre food!)
Today we continue our exploration of Carson City, NV and where better to begin than at the Nevada State Museum. The building that houses the museum is an amalgamation of an original older building and a modern section. Ingenuously the architect has made the connection point to look like a mine headframe. We mention that fact to the cashier when we are buying our tickets and she admits to never noticing even though she has worked there for years.
The museum has a large section devoted to rocks, dinosaurs, and ancient mammals all of which are or were plentiful in Nevada. Many fossilized dinosaurs have been discovered in the area.
After the rocks and animals we take a look at settlers’ houses and handicrafts and the evolution of modern Nevada.
We then take a look at a mine mock-up. Mining is a big deal in Nevada and we learn a lot about mining and all sorts of jargon which will be exceedingly difficult to work into every day conversation. Carson City is near to Virginia City home to the gold and silver of the Comstock Lode.
Lastly due to all the silver being generated by the mining, Nevada petitioned the federal government to finance a mint. For about 23 years in the late 1800s, Carson City minted silver dollars with their CC imprint on them. The press is still operational but only mints commemorative coins now.
We pick up a sandwich for lunch and go back to the hotel to eat our lunch and have a little down time. Around 2 PM we venture back out to visit the Railroad Museum. Unfortunately only half of the museum is open but they charge us full price nonetheless.
In the main building there are several engines and cars in tiptop shape. It seems that the Virginia and Truckee Railroad excelled at supplying the movie industry with old steam engines for the movies. The movie studios returned them mostly in really good shape. Here are a few of the trains we saw.
There are interesting maps on the floor showing the route and the time it took to get to Promontory Point where they drove in the golden spike. The track coming from the East took a few months to get from point to point but the track from the west took four years to cover the much shorter distance through the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Next we decide to take a look at the Governor’s Mansion a few blocks away. The Mansion is situated in a middle class American neighborhood although it is much bigger than most of the houses near it. It is built in the Classical Revival style. The governor’s home was built between 1908 and 1909 specifically as a home for the governor.
The rest of the neighborhood looks like the kind of neighborhood I grew up in, nice, but not too nice. People have multiple vehicles parked around their houses. A few have dirt driveways and various “antiques” in their yards or on their front porches. Most of the houses look like they were built after WWII. So it is an interesting mix. I also cannot say anything laudatory about the governor’s landscaping. It is early Spring here but maybe someone could have put down some new mulch or picked up the empty plastic bottles that I see here and there.
After thoroughly checking out the Governor’s Mansion we make our way back to the hotel where we loll around until almost 7:30 PM. We guess we better find some dinner. Our choice to night is called Pho Country which the internet says is open until 9PM. Except it isn’t. The sign on the door says only take-out between 7 and 8 PM. Now we are in a scramble to find somewhere that is open. We end up at Miss Lily’s China Bistro where although there is a lot of traffic at the take-out window, we are the only people inside. We order our usual Chinese restaurant order, moo shu pork and Mongolian beef (extra spicy). So much for my good intentions to eat reasonably for dinner.
Today we started a two week road trip, a kind of celebration of being fully vaccinated. Our first destination was Carson City, NV, the capitol of Nevada. The city is named after the Carson River which was named after Kit Carson by his friend and fellow pioneer, John C. Fremont. They came across the area and the river when searching for a way to get over the Sierra Nevada mountains. The pass they found is named Carson Pass and is at an elevation of over 8000 feet.
Here are some pictures from the day.
After lunch we went for a walk in the historical district where the State Capitol Building is. Nevada entered the Union in 1864. The building was constructed between 1869 and 1871 in the Neoclassical Italiante style. It is set in a park with other various government buildings nearby.
After checking into the hotel we took showers followed by a lie-down. For dinner we found a Mexican restaurant, San Marcos Grill, and had various seafoods.
John and I planned a treat for ourselves and went out to lunch, dinner, and stayed over at hotel for the first time since February, 2020. I have to admit that not being able to go to restaurants for over a year probably helped a lot with staying on a diet but now that we are semi-free to do so, I have to figure out strategies to make good choices.
Since we were scheduled for a wine tasting at Imagery we decided to go to Salt and Stone in Kenwood first. For lunch I ordered mussels and John ordered octopus. Seafood, as a long as it is not fried, is always a good choice. Giving John my bread is also a successful strategy for me but probably not for him.
Our lunch was followed by a wine tasting at Imagery Winery. We sat outside and it was a perfect Spring day to do it. Flowers were blooming everywhere and the temperature was just right.
After our tasting we made our way to the BW Sonoma to check in, have a little rest, and get cleaned up for dinner. The hotel is very near the square in Sonoma and it is an easy walk to EDGE, the restaurant associated with Stone Edge Winery.
We had a four course meal paired with wines which had us eating hamachi, a salad, halibut, and buttermilk ice cream. Of course these were not simply the item on a plate but each course was carefully prepared with delicious accompaniments.
It was so great to go out again. We still need to be careful but now that we are vaccinated, we feel much safer than before. We are looking forward to more outings and travel soon.
Alex is turning 15 this year. I cannot believe it!! It seems like such a short time ago that she was just a little kid. Ah, well, I guess we all get older (and older.) John, Sarah, and I took a trip over to Jon and Ryan’s house for a little celebration. Of course since it is still pandemic time and not everyone has been vaccinated, we celebrated in our masks outdoors. Jon, Ryan, Leigh, and Sarah cannot wait for it to be their turn to get the vaccine.
Here are some pictures from the day –
We gave Alex some Spring clothes which is not terribly exciting but I know will be appreciated when the weather warms up. (If it ever does!!)
On Wednesday, our last vacation day, we played some tennis and, for Jonathan, a round a golf. The original idea was that John would play golf too. John decided to give his weary muscles a rest and spend the afternoon doing laundry and getting packed.
We got some yummy pizza from Bella Marie’s, had a salad and drank some wine. John and I knew that we had to eat something which we haven’t had since we started this diet 1 1/2 years ago. Pizza with Italian sausage and sautéed onions and garlic, wine, and a salad with real salad dressing (inclusive of oil!) certainly filled the bill.
At 5:55 AM MST Thursday we hit the road for home and only 11 hours and 5 minutes later (4 PM PST) we were home. Jonathan and I tend to push the speed limits a bit and our stops were brief so we were home a little more quickly than usual.
We had so much fun on our trip. It was such a welcome break from pandemic living. We played lots of tennis, Jonathan went golfing twice, the hiking was spectacular even if we didn’t find what we were looking for, and mom and Jon had plenty of shopping and cooking times! I am already looking forward to doing it again!
I found some interesting looking hikes not too far from our base in St. George. The Bowl and the Vortex are mostly in a slickrock area in the Red Mountain Wilderness near Gunlock and Veyo, UT. Veyo is famous for its cinder cones and there is still a lot of volcanic rubble around. To reach the slickrock area we had to hike a very difficult downslope full of sharp basalt rocks. I needed help from John and Jon’s steadying hands.
The trail was not well marked and the hiking guide just said to follow the cairns. What cairns!? We would come across two or three close together and then nothing. So although we hiked around the area for almost 3 hours we never did find the Vortex. Luckily the area was beautiful and there were very few people about so our hike was pretty nice regardless of whether we found our goal!
Pictures from the hike-
Our reward for all the hiking was a delicious steak dinner with tater tots and collards and corn. Cooking together has been a highlight of our vacation.
After dinner we took a walk over to our old house. It appeared that someone was home this time!