Hello, Nevada!

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At first we thought crossing the Utah-Nevada state border might be a bit boring, after being totally wowed by southern Utah during the past few weeks.  But on this route into the state we enjoyed stretches of gorgeous mountain ranges, a vast treeless valley floor, and seas of sagebrush on dry desert. Continue reading

The Beauty is in the Details – Valley of Fire State Park, NV

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Valley of Fire State Park

I thought two posts would cover our stop at this gem in Nevada, but there’s so much breathtaking beauty here that I had to cover some of it in more detail.  I promise this is my final post on Valley of Fire!

Valley of Fire State Park

Massive Aztec sandstone that forms the red rock of Valley of Fire, seen from the Pinnacles Trail

After taking the scenic drive and hiking around the area, we revisited the valley (pictured above) at sunrise and again at sunset to further immerse ourselves in details of the formations.  We wanted to answer some questions, like how did all of these colors and textures come about?

We knew from past experience that the presence of iron gives rocks that red hue in the soil and mountains.  Tumultuous earth events over millions of years, plus the handiwork of wind and water erosion over time have left us with the incredible vistas here.

Valley of Fire

Geologic forces and erosion in other places we’ve visited have left landforms that took our breath away.  But the forces that created Valley of Fire are concentrated in a relatively small land area when compared to places like the Pictured Rocks in Upper MichiganPainted Desert in Arizona, Artist Pallete at Death Valley or the badlands in North Dakota and South Dakota.  The colorful array of rocks, swirls, patterns and folds are always extraordinary, but this place was really top notch!

Valley of Fire

As usual, my photos can’t do justice to what we saw, and be forewarned that this will be a rocky post!


These photos were taken at Wash #5, the 5th dip on the scenic drive.  If you don’t want to leave your car in the wash, park at Lot #3 and cross the road to follow the Firewall Trail. Then prepare to be awestruck!

Valley of Fire

Valley of fire

Valley of fire

Slot Canyon, Valley of Fire

Valley of Fire

Valley of fire

Rock peelings

Valley of fire

Valley of fire

Our question as to why there are such color differences in the rocks was answered by a visitor center display.  It advised that the Aztec sandstone does indeed derive its characteristic red color from iron oxide in the rock.  How the iron got into the various layers is a subject of debate among geologists.  Some theorize it leached downward through the porous sandstone through overlying rock.  But others note that some areas in the upper layers are white and do not contain iron oxide.  This suggests that the rocks have actually been stained from the bottom up by water circulating minerals from the iron-rich layers beneath.  Whichever is true, the result is gorgeous!


Back I went at the end of the day to have another look around.  First I went out onto the Fire Canyon Trail to check it out.  We had not followed this short trail because we’re not crazy about hiking in deep sand.  But what caught my attention here were the desert plants that seemed to glow in the sun’s reflection as it bounced off the red rocks.

Desert Almond

Desert shrub, Valley of Fire

Brittle Brush

From there I drove back to the scenic road and stopped at Lot #2 for a walk down the hill. The sun was low and the rocks were aglow!  I named this area the Peachy Swirl Sundae or Orange Sundae.  I was happy to be all alone, and so giddy that I didn’t know which way to point my camera!  Sure enough, the formations at this time of the day had been transformed into a dramatic and lively landscape.

Valley of fire

Valley of Fire

Valley of fire

Valley of Fire

Valley of Fire

Can you spot the car out there?  The scenic road runs right by these brilliant formations

Valley of Fire

Valley of Fire

Valley of Fire

This was such a stunning place that I eventually put my camera down and just sat there savoring the panorama until the sun dipped below the horizon.  I was blown away!

Sunset at Valley of Fire

And this is just the beginning of our adventures in the land of multi-colored rocks.  Our next stop begins a 3-month adventure in the mother lode of vividly-colored rock formations – Utah!

 white-tailed antelope squirrel

A White-tailed Antelope Squirrel says, “Come back soon, I’ll be waiting for you!”


Next up:  Hello, Utah!


Those Wondrous Rocks – Valley of Fire, NV

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2016-03-05-NV-1420868.jpgOur scenic drive into Valley of Fire (click here if you missed it) and the breathtaking trail explorations left us wanting more.  Fortunately we had a week to explore this park, and did we ever rock out!

The park didn’t have extensive trails, but the ones we followed took us past many intriguing rock formations and colors that wowed us again and again.  The story of how the earth moved to cause the folding, thrusting and shoving of ancient seas millions of years ago resulted in what we saw as a geologists’s dream.


Pinnacle Trail

This was our first trek, and it led us to a cluster of sandstone towers.  The high gray mountain ridge here is made up of the oldest exposed rocks in the park, estimated to be 550 millions years old.  The red rocks in front of it are younger, “only” 66 million years old.

Pinnacles Trail

An open desert hike this time

After going around the southern edge of a ridge of dark gray-green rock and doing a bit of scrambling, the pinnacles came into view:

Pinnacle Rocks

On this trail we were fascinated by eroding large and small sedimentary rocks cemented together by minerals:


Steve touches a piece of wood that was cemented among sedimentary rocks

After climbing the pinnacles we were rewarded with beautiful scenery in every direction:

Pinnacles Trail, Valley of Fire

The shrubs near the top of the pinnacles displayed a bluish-green tinge that made Steve take notice:

Pinnacle Trail

A bluish tint on the sage brush

Approaching our campground, we stopped by groups of ancient sand dunes that have hardened over millions of years.  This is part of the cluster seen on my header image:

Valley of Fire State Park

Prospect Trail

Another trail we followed took us behind those huge sandstone formations that make up most of the state park.  We began our hike from the campground and crossed open desert before hiking into the enormous sandstones.  The cacti were beginning to bud, and we could only guess how vibrant this area would be in a few weeks.

The sandstones here are ginormous, weathered by wind and time and forming odd shapes and forms.  These formations were originally sand, mud, silt or lime that became stone over 300 million years ago.

Prospect Trail, Valley of Fire

I looked like a blue ant standing among the sandstones

Prospect Trail

Playing and climbing amongst incredible weathered rocks

Brittle brush

Blooming Brittle Brush against the rocks

Prospect Trail

Is that a pig though the rock window?

Valley of Fire State Park

The trail ended at White Dome Rock, and the oppressive dry heat was getting to us so we headed back.

Prospect Trail

Looking up at a high canyon wall

Natural Arch Trail/Elephant Trail

We had planned to see the natural arch on this trail, but after walking a while in deep sand in the wash we decided to try another trail.

Mesozoic Muds

These red deposits are called mesozoic muds, which will turn purple, pink or lavender when exposed to air

Natural Arch Trail

Deep sand isn’t our favorite kind of hike, let’s try something else!

It’s a good thing we detoured to the Elephant Trail just up the road.  The Big Horn Sheep were out for their breakfast in big numbers:

Desert Big Horn Sheep

A herd having breakfast…

Big horn sheep

…while a family does lookout duty from the top of a rock

Back at the campground, Betsy was parked right in front of a large sandstone rock that Steve wanted to conquer:

Atlatl Campground

Atlatl Campground

Betsy’s hidden behind that big rock

We spent a day exploring in and around our campground, and checked out whimsical formations that were close by:

Sandstone Arch

A Sandstone Arch, an example of what happens when water and wind find weak places in the rock that erode faster than surrounding stone

Beehive Formation cross bedded rock

A beehive – persistent winds over millions of years created this masterpiece

Yawning Indian

A yawning indian – can you see it?

I’ll stop now or you’ll be yawning like that indian.  But the beauty is in the details, as you’ll see in my next post!

Next up:  It’s really in the details







This Valley’s on Fire! – Overton, NV

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The drive along the north shore road from Lake Mead National Recreation Area was a colorful and rocky landscape that lead us to one of Nevada’s hidden gems, Valley of Fire State Park.  I must warn my readers that this post and several succeeding ones will be laden with geologic rocks in various forms, shapes and colors.

Steve was happy that the road was well paved, unlike the many crappy roads in Tucson, AZ.  Since it was so nice, he was able to enjoy the scenery more than usual as we negotiated the curvy and hilly roads snaking through the dramatic landscape.

Las Vegas Bay

Are we there yet?


Looks like we’re getting close…


OK, we’re there!

Valley of Fire S.P. is located just 50 miles northeast of the bright lights of Las Vegas.  It’s named for the red sandstone formations that have been carved by shifting sand dunes that were formed and solidified during the age of dinosaurs.  It’s really an island of red rocks in the desert, and because the sun was hitting it at just the right angle when we arrived it looked like the rocks were ablaze.  Amazing!

Valley of Fire State Park

We arrived early in the morning, as the campground sites are on a first-come first-served basis.  At 40′ plus a car we had a choice of three spots, and fortunately site #24 had just been vacated.  Although many of the electric/water sites were very out of level, we were able to get close in this one (Steve’s review here).

The forecast for the following day called for wind and possibly rain, so once we were hooked up we immediately drove the scenic drive.  I had seen pictures of this park, but we were not prepared for the out-of-this-world landscape here!

White Dome Road, Valley of Fire SP

At the start of the scenic drive the road gradually climbed through these deep red monoliths consisting of Aztec sandstone.

We first pulled over at the Petroglyph Canyon Trail, where evidence of human use of the area was etched on the canyon walls.  Nobody knows the meaning of these symbols, but the art reflects the thoughts of these people 4,000 years ago.  The trail was short, but walking through deep sand along a rocky drainage area made the going a bit difficult.


What the heck are they trying to say?

Not only did the petroglyphs keep us constantly looking up at the canyon walls, but also the many eroded rocks in fascinating forms grabbed our attention..

Petroglyph Canyon trail

A juggling act amongst the rocks

Mouse Tank

At the Mouse’s Tank: a pocket of stagnant water supposedly helped an Indian named Mouse survive while stuck here in the 1890’s

At the summit the road opened up to reveal an amazing display of rocks in many colors, aptly named Rainbow Vista.  We parked and climbed up a huge outcropping to enjoy a 360-degree panorama of 150 million year old colored rocks, canyons, domes, ridges and valleys.  The panel described the view as a wild and virtually untouched wilderness carved from sand deposited during the time when dinosaurs walked the earth.

Rainbow Vista

Its spectacular, its amazing, its surreal!

Rainbow Vista

White Domes Scenic Byway

Looking down the scenic road we drove in on

Next we swung by Fire Canyon Road and viewed the dramatic change from white to red in the sandstone which was caused by small quantities of iron that produced rust-like stains.

Rainbow Vista

The hikers looked like ants as they trekked toward Fire Canyon

Fire canyon

Fire Canyon Road

I name this formation “two hearts beating as one”

Back on the road, we drove slowly so we could ogle the many layers of multicolored rocks. There were pull-outs and parking lots that allowed more close-up exploration, but for now we just drove leisurely as we “oohed” and “aahed” on our way to White Dome Rock.

“Wow!” was all we could say at every turn.  The short White Dome Rock Trail showcased a little bit of everything here, and a walk in the cream-colored sand led us past a slot canyon where we gawked at massive formations with contrasting colors amidst the Mohave Desert landscape.

White Domes Trail

Clusters of rounded, cream-colored sandstone mounds

Slot Canyon, White Domes Trail

White Domes Rock

We saw a sign that listed movies that had been filmed in the area over the years.  We plan to keep our eyes open for them to see how the locations were used.


After a short hike we backtracked and stopped at parking lot #3 to access the famed “Firewave”.  It’s reminiscent of the Coyote Buttes in the Vermillion Cliffs, which are called “The Wave”.  Since we haven’t been able to get a reservation at The Wave so far, we’re content to see a sampling of it here.  This place is incredible and I’m running out of adjectives to describe it!

Firewave, Valley of Fire SP

That rock is called Gibraltar

Firewall, Valley of Fire State Park

Steve striking a pose at the Firewave


The scenic drive and short trails can be done in a day.  For those of you visiting Las Vegas, take a day off from gambling if you have a car and make a day trip out here.  It’s a seriously wild place, with the fascinating details yet to come!

Valley of Fire sunset

This is why the park is named Valley of Fire!

I took so many photos that I couldn’t decide which ones to post, but you really need to come here and see this fascinating place for yourself.

Sunset at Valley of Fire



Next up:  Life is in the detail



Zip, Float, Hike – Lake Mead, NV

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We had thought a week at Lake Mead National Recreation Area would be long enough – wrong!  Being active in the Nevada heat induced us to take a couple of days off to just lounge around and enjoy the view from our site (Steve’s review of Lake Mead RV Village here).  But what is it that wore us out, you might wonder?

First we spent a day walking over 14 miles on the Historic National Railroad Tunnel Trail (if you missed that story, click here).  On other days we zip-lined over the top of Bootleg Canyon, drifted lazily down the Colorado river, and finally we hiked out to the Arizona Hot Springs.  Between all of those activities and trying to explore the area a bit, time flew by.

Zipping over Bootleg Canyon

When Dave and Faye visited us last Christmas, they mentioned that they’d had a great zip-line experience at Boulder City.  That was enough for Steve to list it as a “must do” while at Lake Mead.  Steve had zipped over the Royal Gorge in Colorado, and he’d been ready for more ever since.  And I must have been feeling a bit crazy myself, as I decided to join him!

The 4-segment course run by Flightlinez boasts over 1.5 miles of zipline cable running different lengths and at progressively lower elevations down Red Mountain.

The day began with  a scenic van ride to the top of the mountain, with a light-hearted narration containing historical, geological and ecological information along the way.  That was followed by a short but fairly strenuous hike to the 3,800′ peak of the mountain, with Steve carrying the trolleys we would use for our zips.  The views of Las Vegas, Lake Mead and the Eldorado Valley were awesome from up there.

Steve packing our equipment to the top, as I carried my not-so-heavy camera


Just moments before our first launch

Click below to see our first zip down the mountain at 60mph:

Zip Line Bootleg Canyon

When you see flags out to the side it means get your legs apart and prepare for a quick stop!


When I looked around after the first run I noticed a lizard had been watching me – he doesn’t seem impressed!

Our fun lasted for about three hours and covered 8,000′ on the cables.  Between runs we relaxed and enjoyed the vistas, and even spotted a trail that John and Pam had followed here.  Red Mountain is known for its Bootleg Canyon Mountain Bike Park, an internationally renowned venue for mountain bikers with different types of trails designated as “epic rides.”  We saw some bikers hitting the trails below, but we’re pretty sure zipping down was a lot easier.

Red Mountain

We saw two bikers coasting down the mountain

Lake Mead, Nevada

Looking down at Fortification Hill at Lake Mead

Las Vegas Skyline

Las Vegas skyline with Mount Charleston as the backdrop

It was quite a thrill and we had a blast!

Floating through Black Canyon

The following day we embarked on a 12-mile river rafting trip.  It followed part of the river’s 30-mile section designated as the National Water Trail of the Lower Colorado River Black Canyon.  We learned that it’s one of only 16 National Water Trails, the only one in the southwest and the only one that passes through a desert.

Our adventure began near the base of Hoover Dam, and almost under the Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, giving us a different perspective of these man-made marvels from below.

Power Plant, Hoover Dam

The powerhouse at the dam

 Hoover Dam

This was a slow float downriver through historic Black Canyon, and it passed rock walls that rose up to 2,000′ above water level.

Black Canyon National Water Trail

The canyon’s name comes from the black volcanic rock in the area, believed to be between 20-40 million years old

Our informative guide taught us to note that the east (Arizona) side of Black Canyon, which has steep volcanic cliffs, was cut by water – while the west (Nevada) side has more gently rolling hills formed by erosion and basalt flows.

Double Crested Cormorants

Double-crested Cormorants on the cliffs

Floating along, we saw several sandy beaches, stopped to examine active hot springs and rode into Emerald Cave, one of several caves on both sides of the river.

Hot Spring

One of the hot springs spouting on either side of the river – and VERY hot!

Emerald Cave

Inside Emerald Cave where the water glimmered like emeralds

Black Canyon National Water Trail

The volcanic dike to the left is named Dragon’s Back, and just to the right of it can you see Abe Lincoln’s profile?

Black Canyon National Water Trail

Our lunch spot on a sandy beach

In 1934 the Civilian Conservation Corps built a gauging station in the Black Canyon on the Nevada side.  It’s purpose was to determine the impact on the environment after Hoover Dam was completed.  Engineers measured the height of the river, water flow rates and water purity.  But the most interesting story was how the workers commuted across the river to work each day.

Colorado River

The station could only be reached via a small cable car pulled across the river by the worker

Gaugers would spend months at a time in isolation monitoring the river.  The gauger’s house was on the Arizona side and getting to work involved a strenuous hike followed by a self-propelled pull across the river.  The station was in operation for 10 years, and the remnants of this crude method of water testing demonstrate the endurance of the human spirit in isolation and remoteness.

Colorado River

Catwalk along sheer cliffs that the workers navigated

Colorad River

Cable car used to transport the gauger to the station located on the Nevada side

Who knew that just a few miles from the neon lights of Las Vegas is such a quiet and refreshing place to recharge and get away from it all?  This area is really a great place to kayak, and we saw several folks doing just that.  Our tour ended at Willow Beach on the Arizona side of the river.

Hiking to the Arizona Hot Springs

There were many trails to blaze in the Lake Mead area, but we pick one that John and Pam had followed because it had a reward at the end.  The Arizona Hot Springs consisted of thigh-deep hot pools in the bottom of a deep, narrow slot canyon near the Colorado River.  To get there we took the White Rock Canyon route,  following a wash downhill to the river with the canyon towering over us to provide welcome shade.

White Rock Canyon

White Rock Canyon gets its name from the many huge white boulders that were carried down the canyon by flash floods from Wilson Ridge.

Once in the canyon we followed the riverbed a ways to Hot Springs Canyon.
Just before the springs we reached a 20′ dry waterfall with a ladder, the only way to continue to the springs.

Not sure we want to go into the hot springs that badly!

Upon arrival we discovered several people were already bathing so we decided to head back.
Arizona Hot Spring

Peekaboo, anybody home?

The towering volcanic canyons cooled us off, and the blooming wildflowers brightened the muted desert landscape.  There were so many different kinds and colors that Steve shook his head while waiting patiently for me to get photos.
Near the end of the hike we met Mike, a retired volunteer who hikes trails in the area to pick up trash thrown on the trail by thoughtless idiots.  A real nice guy, and in excellent shape for his age due to his long daily hikes.
Arizona Hot Spring

Male version of a bag lady, and he is really carrying trash! Thank you, Mike

We did a lot on this stop, but we’re already planning to come back and explore more of the trails.  For now, onward to a lesser-known Nevada gem!


Next up:  The Valley is on fire!



Walking on Man-made Marvels – Lake Mead, NV

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Nevada State LineAs we crossed the state line into Nevada, we had officially started the 5th year of our journey – we were excited!  Nevada has many excellent things to offer besides “Sin City”, one of them being the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.  Mind you, we have since discovered several other natural gems in this state, and some of them will be detailed in future posts.  But for now let’s talk about a couple of human creations.

The construction of Hoover Dam, completed in 1935, harnessed the Colorado River and created two lakes – expansive Lake Mead and Lake Mohave.  These lakes and the vast rugged desert land surrounding them became Lake Mead National Recreation Area, the first one in the United States.  Our campsite at Lake Mead RV Village was within this recreation area and featured a commanding view of the lake and surrounding mountains.


This guy is in camper heaven!

The nearby Historic Railroad Tunnel Trail is a national recreation trail that follows the route trains took while hauling supplies to build Hoover Dam in the early 1930’s.  We were eager to take an early morning walk on this very popular easy and flat gravel trail.

Historic Railroad Tunnel Trail

The rail bed of the former railroad to Hoover Dam runs along and through these hillsides


The trail by itself would have been only 4.4 miles round trip, but we started from our campground and continued on to Hoover Dam.  And since by then we were close to the Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, we added a walk across its span to really rachet up the miles.

The journey was more than we’re used to, and ended 14.1 miles later with sore legs and foot blisters.  If we were to do it again we’d start from the trailhead at the visitor center, which would cut almost 5 miles off the trek.

Boulder Basin, Lake Mead

Yellow wildflowers dotted the hillsides overlooking Lake Mead

We passed through five tunnels leading to Hoover Dam.  They were all 25′ in diameter, oversized to allow huge penstock sections and large equipment to be transported on the railcars.


Trains passed through these tunnels during the dam’s construction

Along the way, plaques displayed what life was like during construction of the dam, and the hardships that the worker’s families endured.  These were some extremely tough and resilient folks!


Lake Mead National Recreation Area

With the dam completed, workers left and the area where they’d lived became Boulder Beach

Lake Mead Recreation Area

BEFORE – The landscape and the river’s southward path

Lake Mead Recreation Area

AFTER – Lake Mead is up to 500′ deep, WHEN FULL

We continued a couple more miles to walk on two modern marvels.  First, Hoover Dam, which is considered one of the exceptional engineering achievements of the 20th century.

Several walking tours are offered there, and we highly recommend them to all visitors.  We opted out this time, as we had taken one during a visit several years ago.  We also skipped the visitor center this time, as a courtesy to other folks who probably wouldn’t have wanted to smell our sweaty bodies after all that walking!

Intake Valve- Hoover Dam

Intake towers on the Arizona and Nevada sides of the river

Bath tub rings, Hoover Dam

The light-colored “bathtub ring” marks Lake Mead’s historic high water level in 1983

Hoover Dam

Standing 726′ above the dam’s base, on 4,360,000 cubic yards of concrete.  Amazing!

The art at the dam’s Monument Plaza, including Winged Figures of the Republic, was created with a message.  The artist believed that the orientation of many ancient structures included messages from their creators to people of the future.  Oskar JW Hansen designed the art here with that in mind.  For descriptions and meanings click here.

Click here for stories and essays about the dam itself.

Winged Structures, Hoover Dam

30′ high Winged Figures of the Republic

Satisfied that nothing major at the dam (except the very low water level) had changed since our last visit, we headed for the Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge.  Now this was something we hadn’t seen before!

Mike O'Callaghan - Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge

The highest and longest arched concrete bridge in the western hemisphere

The bridge is perched 890′ above the turquoise Colorado River, and wedged between the rocky cliffs of Nevada and Arizona.  It was constructed to re-route most traffic off the narrow and busy two-lane road atop the dam.

Mike O'Callaghan - Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge

The pedestrian walkway to the bridge consisted of several short switchbacks

Mike O'Callaghan - Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge

An array of interpretive plaques about the project lined the pedestrian entry

If you have a fear of heights this may not be your kind of experience.  We learned that eight people have jumped to their death since the opening in October 2010.

Mike O'Callaghan - Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge

Total length of the bridge is 1,905 feet, making it the longest single-arch span in North America

Mike O'Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge

These informative plaques along the span described its construction techniques

The pedestrian walkway provided us with spectacular views of the dam from a new perspective:

Hoover Dam

Hoover Dam as seen from the Arizona side of the bridge

Hoover Dam

Looking down at tourists on the dam

Nevada Arizona Stateline

Two states separated by one step on the bridge walkway

Colorado River Bridge

Where all da cars at?

Mike O'Callaghan - Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge

The two men from Nevada and Arizona for whom the bridge is dedicated

The walk from the bridge entry to the far end of the span is 1.3 miles, and there’s no exit on the Arizona end.  After walking across and back we were more than ready to head home.

Back on the trail we cooled off a bit while walking through the tunnels again, and took a break to enjoy the panorama of Lake Mead.

Lake Mead

It was a long day of learning many superlatives about these man-made marvels; Hoover Dam as a great American technological achievement, the Mike O’Callaghan – Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge supported by the longest arch in the western hemisphere, and Lake Mead as the largest reservoir in the U.S. (when full).

And for us personally, it was the longest walk we’ve taken since starting our adventure.

What a day it was!


Next up:  Zip – Float – Hike – Yay!




A night in civilization, at a parking lot!

Comments 12 Standard

After soaking in the natural hot springs and enjoying a therapeutic massage with Karin Pine (who managed to hit all the spots that needed healing) at Tecopa Hot Springs, it was time to get rolling again.  The view while on highway 127 W continued to keep a smile on our faces and the camera shutter clicking.

After only a couple hours of  landscape-gawking, we made a (diesel) pit stop at Primm Valley near the stateline of Nevada and California.  We thought it might be fun to hang out at the casinos there for a free night of camping, plus we could fill up Betsy’s 100-gallon tank with reasonably-priced fuel.


Desperado We parked in one of the biggest parking lots we’ve ever seen, behind Buffalo Bill’s Hotel Casino where we had the place almost to ourselves that night.  It was so huge that Fedex and McDonald’s use it for a couple of hours a day as their transfer point for trucks heading east and west.  Steve was amazed at the show they put on as several tractor-trailer rigs arrived and then transferred one or two or three trailers to other trucks heading to their appropriate destinations.

Since we don’t gamble, why stop here?  Is there anything else to do other than gambling?  Oh yes!  Buffalo Bill’s houses the one-time tallest roller coaster in the world, the Desperado.  In fact, it made it into the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s tallest roller coaster in 1996.

Steve rode this coaster with his Dad soon after it was completed, and again with me in 2000 (it scared the bejesus out of me).  Since this was sort of along our route, he planned to ride it again.  This time he is doing it alone, no sir not me, I’m done with roller coasters, no thank you.  And so he did a tripeat alone on the Desperado and was happy as a clam after his exhilirating 2 min and 43 second ride.

Desperado2Across the freeway is another interesting attraction, if you know who the outlaws Bonnie and Clyde were.  Personally I didn’t know anything about them until we went to Whiskey Pete’s Casino.  We visited the free mini-museum depicting their outlaw careers.  I learned that Bonnie and Clyde, in their early twenties, were a notoriously violent bank robbing couple during the depression.  The museum holds the actual bullet-riddled car they were in when they were ambushed by a police posse.  Also displayed were Clyde’s clothing and other personal effects.

Having been in the quietness of the desert for many days, this was a fun stop in the midst of the noisy casinos, at least for one night.  After purging our water tank of the Tecopa mineral water, we headed on to Arizona, the Grand Canyon State….back to the desert landscape we go!

A break with family and friends, then onward!

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Eagles Nest RV park

The morning we left Tionesta, CA

Feeding Goats

Steve fed the goats before bidding goodbye

Since we are back in CA where we began, we decided to take a break from our travels to visit family and friends as well as unloading some unwanted items from Betsy.  Our drive took us from Tionesta to Susanville, to Truckee in California and finally we parked at Sparks, Nevada.  We followed the Volcanic Legacy highway, scenic byways and along the way we saw beautiful autumn colors on display, huge ranches of happy cows and migrating birds.

CA 89 Happy Cows from California

Truckee is only a 3-hour drive from our old hometown of Tracy, CA, yet we had never visited the Donner Memorial State Park.  We spent a day checking out the park and driving around the lake with our good friends Vic and Pam.  Of course, this was the location where many members of the Donner Party spent their final days.  We had heard about the Donner Party, yet we had not really learned the detailed story.  Their fate is known to be the dark side of the California dream, one of the most gruesome stories of the Old West: The Donner Party.

Pioneer Monument

Pioneer Monument, the base measures 22 ft high, the height of the snow during that terrible winter of 1846-1847

In April 1846, a group of Midwestern families left Independence, Missouri, bound for California. Their wagon train rolled over the Great Plains and through the Rockies, but was seriously delayed when a “shortcut” leading southwest was anything but.  A breakdown in civilized behavior followed: the emigrants quarreled constantly; one man killed another; an old man was left on the trail to die. When their provisions and oxen were consumed, the desperate emigrants finally cannibalized their dead friends and relatives. Eweww!  Forty-one of the 89 would-be settlers perished.

While Betsy was parked in Sparks, Nevada, Steve took care of his doctor’s appointment and most importantly the air chamber leak on our Sleep number bed.  I drove down to the East Bay where we used to have our stick house and dropped off the extra stuff at our storage room.  I spent bonding time with my sisters Thelma and Becky in Pleasanton, nieces and nephews, Joel and Hazel in Roseville and friends Fely and Lita in Sacramento.

Alta Mont Pass

Our old stomping grounds, the Altamont Pass on Highway 580

When the bonding and visiting was over I drove back up the mountain and met up with Steve where our friends Manny and Elvee from Sparks prepared a delicious and sumptuos feast.  We are still enjoying the leftovers!

It was so great spending time with our good friends and family, but because the weather is trying to catch up with us we had to resume our migration to the south.

Here are some snapshots that I managed to capture while having fun.