Under clear and sunny skies and with a full tank of gas, Morgan (the dog) and I left Las Vegas on our way to South Lake Tahoe. I finally figured out how to get Carmen (the GPS) to keep me off interstate highways and on the secondary roads I prefer: Pick a town along the route I want and have her guide me there. We headed to Pahrump, NV, turned left onto Bell Vista Avenue and followed it to route 190 and into Death Valley. At the entry to the park, a band of motorcyclists, several vehicles filled with foreign tourists and I formed a caravan and made our way to the overlook and on to Furnace Creek.
Furnace Creek is the lowest point of Death Valley at 190 feet below sea level. Even though it was only 11:00 AM and I’d only been driving for 2 hours, the temperature in Furnace Creek was 25 degrees higher than when I left Las Vegas; 90 degrees. It gets hot there.
From Furnace Creek we followed route 190 into the Owens Valley and on to the town of Bishop on route 395. The Owens Valley has an interesting history. Once a thriving agricultural area, the land is now returning to desert. In the early 1900s the city of Los Angeles had outgrown its water supply. To bolster its supply, an aqueduct was constructed to the Owens Valley and water rights acquired to Owens Lake. By 1926 the lake was dry and the farmers had no water to irrigate their crops. Water rights in California have always been a struggle and remain so today. If you are interested in more information on the Owens Valley water wars, go to the following link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_Water_Wars
Route 395 runs along the east side of the Sierra Mountains. As moisture from the Pacific Ocean falls as rain on the western side of the mountain range, little is left for the eastern slopes. Whilt the west side has thick forests of pine, the eastern side is scrub brush: Equally beautiful and majestic, just in different ways. Heading north on Route 395, I passed Mono Lake, which was also involved in a water war with Los Angeles but fortunately in this case, Mono Lake won.
My original plan was to visit the ghost town of Bodie, just north of Mono Lake but, due to getting a later start than I planned, spending more time than anticipated in Death Valley and stopping in Bishop to utilize the free wifi at the local Starbucks to complete some family business, I arrived at Bodie much to late to visit. It was dark when I was getting near Lake Tahoe and it was then that I discovered that Carmen was exacting her revenge for all the times I had over ruled her choice to put me on interstate highways.
Following Carmen’s guidance, I roared past the exit that I assumed I needed to take to Lake Tahoe. I realized just how off I was when I was on the outskirts of Carson City, NV. Carmen was still cheerfully directing me to follow the highlighted route. She finally had me exit onto a narrow two-lane road headed for the side of the mountain range. It was dark, I wasn’t convinced that this was the correct route and I was hungry. When the road started climbing the mountainside, I knew exactly where I was. Many years ago, something like 35, my girlfriend at the time, Maria, and I took a road trip to stay with some family friends in Lake Tahoe and to see a show in Reno. We were young and, like many young people, I did things, which, as an adult would be considered foolish. After the show, the time being around 1:00 AM, we (OK, I) decided to take the back roads back to Lake Tahoe as I thought it would be faster. We ended up lost (no such thing as GPSs in those days) and VERY low on gas. I was freaking but tried to appear to be calm as to not worry Maria. She was just as freaked, having seen the gas gauge on empty, but tried to appear calm so as to not worry me. Ah, young love…. Somehow we managed to find the back road over the mountain and into Lake Tahoe. The very same road I was now on. Being on that road again brought back strong and wonderful memories of Maria. She was my first true love and, even after 35 years, we still remain close. Although we don’t see each other very often any more, when we do, we pick right up where we left off, like no time has passed. You never forget your first true love. Perhaps Carmen routed me the way she did to remind me of times gone bye.