It was a sunny morning on the 15th when we left Swan Lake in Vernon at about 8 am. We could see the fog bank from the coast to the south but it didn't effect us at all. The trip to the border at Osoyoos was uneventful except for a rock we took near Winfield to the front of the RV making quite a hole in the fiberglass. We arrived at the border at about 11:30. It didn't seem too busy but they were sending every recreational vehicle to an agriculture check. We couldn't believe they were actually finding stuff in people's fridges - oranges, tomatoes, apples - best to have absolutely no fresh fruit or veggies in your fridge! We stood outside while the agent went inside and looked in the fridge and some of the cupboards. We passed quickly with flying colours! We were there about a 1/2 hour.
This is a new route for us - Hwy 97 to 17 to 395 to I-84. We stopped in Tonasket for a quick lunch at a diner. The countryside is similar to the Okanagan with orchards and vineyards as far as the eye can see. We stopped for fuel in Moses Lake then Wal-Mart to fill up the fridge again. By the time we came out of Wal-Mart it was pouring rain and it was almost dark when we arrived at Sage Hills Golf & RV Resort, 14 miles south of Moses Lake. It rained for a lot of the night and about 6 am the wind started. There were some very large gusts. We decided to modify our route, based on information we received before we left about wind. We were on the road again by 8:15, heading down 17 and 395 to I-84. We drove east as far as Caldwell, Idaho. Beautiful scenery, very little trees, high altitudes. We stayed at Ambassador RV Resort for two nights.
On the 17th we headed the 25 miles into Boise with the car. Larry bought a new iPhone 5. We went to the Old Idaho Penitentiary where we saw a video and took a self-guided tour. It was very interesting. Over 13,000 prisoners did time here between 1870 and 1973. Both males and females were housed here. There was a big riot in 1973 where inmates burned a lot of the buildings. Some of them are closed because they are unsafe. It is one of four Territorial Prisons open in the US: Yuma, Montana, Laramie WY, and Boise. We've now been to three of them! There used to be one in Minnesota but it is now condos.
An added bonus at the prison is a private weapons collection. They were owned by J.C. Earl and only a third of them are on display with an estimated value of $2 to $3 Million dollars. The State of Idaho was the only one who would commit to keeping the collection together. There were lots of guns - including many automatic weapons as well as an amazing collection of Bronze Age knives and spears and intricate swords.
We then found a Skippers for lunch. This used to be one of our favourites when in Washington State. They all used to be corporate stores but have been recently sold as franchises. This particular one had good food but the bathrooms were disgusting. We headed back to the park to enjoy the sunny afternoon.
The 18th was travel day. Travelling down Hwy 95 we encountered some fire damage - 30,000 acres that happened in July this year. We were planning to stop in Winnemucca NV for the night. We got fuel then headed for the park we had chosen. We found that they did not have any sites that would accommodate us without unhooking the car so on we drove. We were only 192 miles from Reno and it was still early. We arrived in Reno late afternoon and booked into the Sparks Marina RV Park for three nights, instead of two. We contacted our Yuma friends Jim and Cheryl and arranged to meet for lunch the next day.
On the 19th we went to Cal-Neva in downtown Reno for old times' sake (a good cheap meal) then drove around and saw that most of the casinos are still in the same old buildings! Reno does not depend on gambling like Las Vegas does. There are many pockets of new housing with large malls. Downtown was quiet, except for tourists, but not particularly run-down or dirty. We went to Jim and Cheryl's house and decided to go to the Peppermill for buffet lunch - we're pretty full by now! Then we headed out to Pyramid Lake, about 30 miles away. The lake is the geographic sink of the Truckee River Basin. It is fed by the Truckee River after leaving Lake Tahoe and enters the lake from its southern end. There is no outlet, with water leaving only by evaporation. The salinity is approximately 1/6 that of sea water. There is a large colony of rare White Pelicans along the lake.
Major fish species include the cui-ui lakesucker, which is endemic to Pyramid Lake and endangered, the Tui chub and Lahontan cut-throat trout (the world record cut-throat trout was caught in Pyramid Lake). Cheryl also pointed out the large number of little white shells in the coarse sand. We then went back to their house after a little drive around their neighbourhood (including the Manzanita Mansion) where Cheryl had a wonderful roast cooking in the crockpot.
The weather continues to be beautiful. On the 20th we went up to Virginia City for a look around. The road up is quite windy with great views but newly paved and very smooth. Virginia City is an old mining town, founded in 1859 and had a population of about 15,000. It can be said that it was the birthplace of Mark Twain. It was the discovery of the Comstock Lode (silver) that built the town. They are now reopening the mine which can be seen to the south of the town. It is quite touristy but still interesting. We went down the other side (15% grade) and ended up passing through Carson City, then back up to the RV park. Jim and Cheryl joined us for Happy Hour and we went to Outback for dinner. Our last evening with them and we look forward to seeing them again next year. Jim has been undergoing cancer treatment since we left them in Yuma in February and we wish him well with that.
A word about Sparks Marina. The RV Park is part of the area called Sparks Marina. The lake itself was a flooded area from the Truckee River and they never let all the water go but made a beautiful lake out of it. There are two beaches, a dog park, which includes a swimming area for them, fishing pier, 2 mile walking path (which Maureen walked), volleyball courts and playgrounds. There are also condos at the water's edge. The Marina contains an estimated one billion gallons of water. Average depth is 60 feet, with the deepest point being approximately 120 feet. The park spans 81.01 acres.
The 21st was another travelling day. We headed back along I-80 to Hwy 50, down that to Hwy 95. It was our original plan to only go as far as Tonopah. There was an "RV Park" of 20 sites at the Tonopah Station Casino. When we arrived they were all full. There were lots of RVs on the road. Since it was still quite early we decided to push on. There was a place further along on Hwy 6 called Warm Springs. We thought there might be something there - a bar and grill long closed - that was the only building. This was at a fork in the road to Hwy 375, which we took. Many, many, many miles of barren land with the odd mountain poking out of it, some quite high. There were a few mountain passes but nothing particularly dramatic. When we came to the junction with Hwy 93 South, we went past an RV park at Alamo, but it was still light so on we went. We decided to aim for St. George which was to be our next destination anyway. Hwy 93 to Hwy 168 to I-15 to St. George. 532 miles later, and 7:15 at night (actually 8:15 mountain time) we arrived at McArthurs Temple View RV Park. Of course the office was closed so we picked a gravel site near the front. The next morning we went to our real site.
Quite early on the 22nd, Jack texted wondering if we had had breakfast. About an hour later when we got up, we decided to meet him for breakfast. Jack was Larry's boss at Electrohome in the mid-70s for 14 years. He's lived in St. George with his wife Louise for 25 years. He then drove us around to see his city, of which he is very proud. The bulk of St. George is very new. Having been a dry state for most of its existence, there are now approximately 300 liquor licenses available in St. George. We drove by the house of Jacob Hamblin. He was a Western pioneer, Mormon missionary, and diplomat to various Native American Tribes of the Southwest and Great Basin. During his life, he helped settle large areas of southern Utah and northern Arizona where he was seen as an honest broker between Mormon settlers and the Natives.
Louise was receiving a Paul Harris Fellowship at the Rotary lunch so that's where we went for lunch. The first person we met was Andy who is 102. The speaker was the president of Dixie State College, soon to be an accredited university, and he gave a very interesting presentation. Jack drove us around some more. We saw the new airport and also a Wake Board Park out in the middle of the desert. There are a lot of red rock mesas surrounding the city.
On the 23rd, Jack and Louise picked us up and we drove to Springdale for lunch to the Majestic View Lodge. Then we did a quick drive through the lower part of Zion National Park. It has amazing rock formations and we will have to return one day to do it properly. We were on the way to their cabin in the mountains - about 2 1/2 hours from the RV Park. The road was good and we eventually came to pine forest. Their cabin is 9 miles along a gravel road through part of Dixie National Forest. There are still some huge old growth pines in there. Their cabin is not really a cabin - it's a beautiful home. It is powered completely by propane and solar. Jack did a lot of scrounging for items before and during the building process, including a set of kitchen cabinets, a china cabinet and a vanity which had come out of a new show home - the person who purchased the home didn't like them - but they are perfect here. They got the fire going and it warmed up quite quickly. We had BBQd steak for an early dinner then headed back down a different way. This route included the summit of 9,896 feet and a very windy downhill road with 4-8% grades the whole way. Thanks Jack and Louise for a very busy, informative and entertaining two days.
Off to Las Vegas on the 24th for a rest!!