Long before we reached Napa I had been in contact with Laurie Brown about our route. We were trying to figure out how to get to the Placerville area east of Sacramento to visit with her and Odel for a couple of days, then get back south of San Francisco to Hwy 101 to continue down the coast. This led to email exchanges about how to navigate around the big California cities - San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego, and well, I finally concluded this was more than I wanted to take on. So I ever-so-gently mentioned to Steven the idea of ditching the coast in favor of a different way altogether. He was profoundly against any changes, as photographing the California coast was something he was looking forward to. Sigh.
Then Laurie sent an email suggesting we make our way over the Sierras and travel south on Hwy 395. She went into detail about all the stunning and beautiful sights we would see on this route and best of all, she sent photos! It took Steven about a nano-second to agree. I was so happy!
Since we adopted Scoopy from Laurie and Odel, we have been blessed to have their ongoing support and advice. Not only have they kept us off a couple of "suicide routes", but having fulltimed in Scoopy for nearly a decade, they know every inch of her and her systems and graciously answer our many questions. Best of all, they are just loads of fun to hang out with.
From Napa we had an easy trip to the Placerville Elks Lodge. We spent a lovely evening at Laurie and Odel's home, catching up on all the goings on in our lives. We made plans for the next day to drive Hwy. 50 to Lake Tahoe, the purpose of which was two-fold. 1) Laurie knows all the great hikes, sights and restaurants along this route and 2) we were scouting it to make sure we would be comfortable driving Scoopy over the pass as we made our way to Hwy. 395.
When I first asked Laurie about Hwy 50, she thought we'd be better off to avoid it. Then she and Odel drove it the day before we came and decided it was doable. As we made our way in their Prius over the nearly 8000 ft. pass, we discussed how to keep Scoopy from overheating and kept an eye out for pullouts. We further discussed our stops and what to expect once we were on Hwy. 395.
Visualizing Scoopy at 8000 ft. Yikes.
We had a great day hiking, taking in the views and enjoying lunch. We also had fun showing off Scoopy's upgrades. It's funny, I had forgotten about the new shade on the driver's side window, but Odel noticed it and pointed it out. Like I said, they know Scoopy inside and out.
We stopped along the way to see the wonderful scenery at Emerald Bay.
Two trees at Emerald Bay Two Chouters at Emerald Bay
Old growth and generally gnarly trees at Meiss Meadow made for some fun photos
Hiking at Meiss Meadow. Laurie and Odel relax after a yummy lunch
We said our goodbyes and settled in for the evening. Even if I am brimming with confidence about the next day's travels, I still lay in bed and freak out a little. I had read a little about Hwy. 50, including posts from those who say avoid it. There were some hair-raising descriptions of "the cliff", a point on the highway that appears to drop a few thousand feet into Lake Tahoe. It doesn't, but when I am laying in bed thinking about it, it might as well.
When we woke up on our departure day and looked out the window, all we could see was fog. We couldn't tell if it was local, or if it engulfed the region. Laurie posted on Facebook that it was clear at her place, about five miles away, and before long it lifted and we were on our way. Hwy 50 turned out to be a gorgeous drive and the only time I freaked out was when I thought Steven might not get a good photo of "the cliff".
Fog at the Elks Lodge “The Cliff” and a sign reinforcing the treachery ahead
We continued through Lake Tahoe and on to Carson City, NV to make the turn onto Hwy. 395. Our destination was Lee Vining, CA, which was a long day for us. But the views were spectacular. We geared down for the climbs, but Scoopy's engine still kind of overheated and the warning thingy screamed at us - twice! We managed it, just like we had discussed, and everything turned out fine. Odel mentioned we might want to gear down sooner, and as soon as we began to anticipate the climbs, we never had another issue. See? Still learning!
I have no doubt that if we had gone this way without any idea of what to expect, our trip would have been a frightening experience and we would have totally freaked out. But we didn't and the trip was awesome. As much as I didn't care for the climbs, I loved, loved, loved the descents. I just flipped on the engine brake, coasted down and soaked in the views. And they were spectacular!
We got settled in the park in Lee Vining in plenty of time to mosey out to the Mobil Gas Station for dinner. We had been told the food was delicious, and it was. We spent a lovely evening at our campground among the aspens and with a view of Mono Lake. But what a difference a day makes. The next morning, Steven went out to the lake to get in a little photography, but I called him and said "let's get going, right now!"
Dinner at the Mobil Restaurant hit the spot. It lived up to its reputation!
Our campsite at Mono Vista RV Park, complete with McGyver-style step support!
Sunset over Mono Lake
The wind had really picked up and I was beginning to think we might have to stay put. Winds were steady at 20-25 mph, with gusts up to 35 and they were only going to get worse, so either we stayed, or we got the heck out of Dodge asap! I don't know yet what my limit is when it comes to wind, and as far as I was concerned, there's only one way to find out. So, we hit the road. Destination: Lone Pine, CA.