Friday, September 4, 2015

CALIFORNIA/NEVADA: Highway 395 and Nevada's Capitol - Carson City

After crossing the border we’re no longer in the Golden State. We’ve stepped over to a new metal…the Silver State of Nevada. Coming up on highway 395, the mountains drop away from under the road, giving way to the green expanse of the Carson Valley, guarded on the south by the towns of Gardnerville and Minden.

The steep, rocky Sierras still peer at us on the left where they hide the beautiful Lake Tahoe just over that ridge.

It’s not long before we roll into the capitol of the state, Carson City.  It’s not a huge place…Vegas and Reno are both much bigger…and before we know it, we’re downtown and hungry.

Smack in the center of downtown is the Nugget Casino where we can while away a little time at the slot machines and roulette table before heading into the coffee shop to get one of the great under $10 prime rib dinners you’ll get in a casino. Not Morton’s, but for the price it’s hard to beat this tasty, tender slab of meat served with baked potato, veggies, and salad.

We need to keep heading north where we’ll find Washoe Lake. Turning in from the highway, it’s along the eastern side of the lake…home to a family of bald eagles…where we’ll find our bed for the night at the Deer Run Ranch run by David and Muffy Vhay.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia
Rick Cooper under CC BY 2.0 license

The Vhay’s run an alfalfa farm here and David built this eco-friendly inn into the hillside near the barn.  The name comes from the herds of deer that roam the alfalfa fields where you can see antlers sticking up above the stalks.

It’s a wheelchair-accessible escape far from the busy cities and highway nearby. Bullfrogs croak in the pond and owls nest in the barn. Many varied guests…from the family looking to get back to nature to the gentleman who comes into town for a brothel tour…enjoy the quiet surroundings.

Over breakfast, after David tells us about the brothel fan (he’s not here today), he explains the process of growing and, more importantly, selling the alfalfa nearby. He gives discounts to local ranchers who come and pick it up, saving him the cost of delivery.

Upon checkout, we travel slowly along the banks of the lake looking for the eagles but are not having luck today. It’s back on 395 as we head up the the “biggest little city in the world,” Reno.

We try our luck at the Horseshoe Casino but the heavy smoke and the depressing empty buildings nearby tell us we should move on.

North of the city, we finally leave the ribbon of asphalt that we’ve been celebrating these last two weeks and head west on the big Interstate 80 back towards California.

A bit west, over the state line, following the river of the same name, we end up in the cute town of Truckee.  Truckee is a legendary train town. The station still serves passenger trains coming up from the Bay heading for Denver and Chicago.

The downtown area surrounding the station holds many boutiques, high priced snack shops, and a couple of really good restaurants.

After spending some time here, we turn south at the end of town and follow the Truckee River up the mountain to its source on the north shore of Lake Tahoe where we picnic on deli sandwiches and throw fish food to the giant…and I mean GIANT…rainbow trout living in the protection of the “no fishing” zone where the river begins.

From Reno, highway 395 continues its course back across the border along California’s eastern frontier, into Oregon and the cold, high country desert before reaching Pendleton and crossing over to southern Washington’s tri cities of Pasco, Kennewick, and Richland.

Continuing north, you can follow it to Spokane and beyond, where it finally terminates across the Canadian border where it meets highway 3 in central British Columbia.

Not this trip, though. We say goodbye here in the beautiful high country on the border of Nevada and California on the edge of Lake Tahoe, not far from the mythical Ponderosa.

Truly a different take on California, highway 395 is a beautiful road connecting some of the most lonely, stark, and historical areas of this Golden State.

Copyright 2012 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved


  1. Holy smokes! Are those fish or sharks in your photo? They're massive! Looks like you're sure making the most of your journey!

  2. Those are fish...rainbow trout to be exact and they are HUGE

  3. Now I'm craving prime rib. Doubt I'll find it for under $10, though.

  4. There's a lot of cheap prime rib in Nevada but the trick is to find a GOOD cheap prime rib...not so easy, there's a lot of bad stuff out there.