"It's one of the most scenic drives in California," I tell my son.
"When does the scenic part start?" he replies.
Can't say I blame him all that much as you have to drive through a lot of ex-urban, partially developed desert land that would be more suited for a role in "Breaking Bad," before you get to the good part.
Prisons, large subdivisions, and the roads that are ill-suited to so many newcomers pushing into these communities just on the other side of the Cajon Pass from San Bernardino put a damper on this part of the drive.
"Be patient, it will be scenic in awhile."
Gradually, the last of the gargantuan Southern California's metropolitan sprawl passes by and we get to a more empty desert scenery sprinkled with ghost towns and lonely gas stations serving as rest stops for weary travelers.
Once we climb the grade that separates the desert from Owens Valley at the appropriately named Little Lake, the scenery does change dramatically.
The mighty Sierra Nevadas line our left side view. It's not long before we pull over for a restroom break at Lone Pine to take a gander at snow and cloud draped Mt Whitney in the distance (see picture at the top of this post).
Still, my jaded son is going "I've seen mountains and desert before."
Oh well, you just can't please all the city lovers sometimes.
Soon, I'm pointing out historical points that my wife is slightly more interested in than Tim.
"There's the courthouse where they tried Charles Manson (in Independence)...John Wayne stayed at that hotel while shooting westerns in those rocks to the left...that mound on the left is a mass grave for earthquake victims...(and, most poignantly of all) that big, green building is all that's left of Manzinar."
Tim perks up a bit when we stop at Jack's Restaurant in Bishop...which will always be Jack's Waffle Shop to me...where it was a mandatory meal any time we drove up to Mammoth in my skiing days.
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Bishop also marks the point, about 3/5 of the way to our destination, where I need to fill the gas tank again so we stop at the Paiute Casino and gas stop at the end of town where my wife also buys some Indian fry break being cooked up in a little trailer in the parking lot.
Back on the road, we soon pass the aforementioned Mammoth Mountain, covered in a fat snow-filled cloud (hope it's a good season for them), then climb over Sherwin Summit at over 8,000 feet to get to Mammoth's sister resort of June Lake.
Lee Vining and Mono Lake are next. Every time I drive through here, I think of Clint Eastwood's "High Plains Drifter," which was filmed along the shore.
Bridgeport is next, a town that gets so snowbound in winter that it'd make you think you're in Montana rather than California, with it's gas prices more than a dollar a gallon higher than what we paid in Bishop. It gets so cold here that the Marines use it for cold weather warfare training at the Mountain Warfare Training Center located nearby.
Through the Walker River Canyon, where a tragic bus accident happened years ago and 3 airborne firefighters are memorialized with dozens of t-shirts and a roadside plaque near the spot where their C-130 tanker crashed fighting a blaze.
After this beautiful but sad canyon drive, Topaz Lake marks the state line with the ubiquitous casino. Down a hill, Gardnerville and Menden mark our entrance to Nevada's Carson Valley and our ultimate destination while we're here to take a look and see if we might want to retire here.
That's for tomorrow, though, as we continue north...maddeningly...along the highway as the governments here have decided to throw up an unsynchronized signal every now and then, turning a half hour drive into an hour plus when we finally reach our hotel in Reno, across the street from the Harrah estate.
It's been a long, nearly 10 hour drive but you can see the whole thing compressed into 6 minutes in the video above. For now, we'll turn in to our room at the Homewood Suites and continue this house hunters thing in the morning.
Copyright 2014 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved
Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2014 - All Rights Reserved