We left sunny Las Vegas after 9am, topped off the gas tank and went north into the desert. Mama is my co-pilot for this leg of the journey, and she chose to drive the first leg.
The desert north of Las Vegas is a wide valley, with mountains on the horizon. The mountains are bare earth and jagged; the valley floor is covered with rocks and sage brush. Some areas have a few joshua tree cacti; other areas have forests of them. Occasionally the desert highway reaches the end of the valley and takes you over passes among the hills, only to give way to more wide valleys.
We stopped for lunch in Beatty, Nevada, and had a little lunch at Rita’s Cafe in the Stage Coach Casino. Mama had a garden burger, I had a club sandwich. Later I checked out Death Valley Nuts and Ice Cream, bought some pistachios and a map.
We hit the road again, and saw more miles and miles of rocks and sage brush. We climbed steadily in altitude, and pretty soon we were in the hills of the Inyo National Forest, where the bristlecone pine trees grow. Before I knew it, we were in California winding through the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas, descending occasionally into valleys, only to wind back up into the mountain passes. At one point we were driving through a forest of blue spruce, where they had blasted sides of hills away to make room for the two lane highway. The closer we got to Mammoth Lakes, the more ponderosa pine we saw.
By the way, CA 168 is spectacularly fun to drive; there’s an 8% grade on the way up, and 8% on the way down, and crazy tiny curves where the recommended speed is 15mph. I took them pretty easy, but they came up fast, one after the other, carving into the sides of the hills. It was so curvy, mama got a little dizzy.
We got into Mammoth Lakes around 4pm, checked into the motel, and took a little nappy nap. Later we got in the car to explore, followed Lake Mary Way to the Twin Lakes, took some pictures, and head back into town to find dinner. We went into the Chart House (warning: ambush music) to look at the menu and then came out laughing… way too expensive for some frozen seafood in the mountains. We ended up at Base Camp Cafe across from our motel, which turned out to be much more real. I had a fried chicken salad, mama had turkey chili.
Big day tomorrow; it’s a two hour drive through the Yosemite National Park through the east gateway to the Yosemite Valley. We’ll see what we can see there, and then drive three hours to Daly City.
I’ve still got the Las Vegas mindset, which is ‘it’s screaming hot outside.’ However, here in Mammoth Lakes it’s been a lovely 75° F (24°C) and I’ve been so cold I’ve needed my hoody. La A tells me it hasn’t even reached 70° in the Bay Area, she was so sick of not seeing the sun, she left for Oregon. Anyway, I’m worried it will be cold tomorrow. We’ll see!