It’s been a busy time for me, what with going back to work and all, and I’ve been working some overtime for special projects in addition. My regular days off are Mondays and Tuesdays. I was going to work some overtime today, which I was not enthusiastic about because it was going to cut into my time off, but then just before I left for work my boss showed up at my residence and told me that the people I was going to be accompanying had decided not to come by today, probably because it snowed last night, so I didn’t have to come in after all. This was excellent news, since it meant I had the day off but was already up and able to enjoy it. Also, there’s snow on the ground. Only about an inch, and it’ll melt fast when it warms up, but it’s still nice.
March 23, 2009
March 14, 2009
Tomorrow I start work again. It’s the same basic job I was doing before, but this time I’ll be getting paid for it. Not a bad situation to be in.
March 10, 2009
I stayed last night in Barstow, then drove all the way to Albuquerque today. That was kind of a lot of driving. But the trip is now complete, and it was a good one.
March 9, 2009
Hey, so remember when I didn’t get into my first-choice grad school? Well, since then I’ve gotten into the other three I applied to. So I’m pretty happy about that.
In other news, I’m in San Luis Obispo, which is a very pleasant little city. I started down Highway 1 from Santa Cruz this morning, stopped for a while in Monterey, which is also very nice, then continued down to here. The scenery on Highway 1 is fantastic, of course, and I took some pictures which I’ll put up soon. Ultimately, though, that’s kind of a lot of narrow, winding road going along the edges of sheer cliffs above a gigantic ocean. I’m glad I did it for the experience, but I’m not eager to do it again any time soon.
When I’m done with whatever I end up doing here I’ll turn east and see how far I get tonight, which will largely determine whether I get back to Albuquerque tomorrow or the next day.
March 6, 2009
I left Reno yesterday morning and was able to cross the Sierras on I-80 with no trouble at all. I stopped for lunch in Sacramento then headed straight to Santa Cruz, where I met my friend and went out to dinner and then to a bar, with no chance to post an update on my travels (sorry about that). I’ll be pretty busy while I’m here, so I don’t think I’ll be able to post regular updates, but I’m not going to be doing a whole lot anyway, so there won’t be much to report. Santa Cruz is kind of an interesting place, and the UCSC campus is beautiful. I may take some pictures if I have time.
March 4, 2009
The Spanish word nevada means “snowy,” and today amply demonstrated its aptness in this area. It snowed in Carson City last night, so this morning there was quite a bit of snow on the ground when I went out and took pictures. I then headed up to Virginia City and took some more. Virginia City is really up in the mountains, so it was hardly surprising that there was a lot of snow everywhere. It was quite cold, too, so I didn’t stay all that long.
From Virginia City I continued going north to Reno, where I drove around a bit and took some pictures. When I was done there I set out on I-80 going west, intending to cross the Sierra Nevada and head to Sacramento.
Alas, the snow had other ideas. It began soon after I crossed the state line, as the highway began to climb higher into the mountains, and by the time I got to Donner Pass it was very heavy and rather nervewracking, particularly given all the eighteen-wheelers around me. Traffic gradually slowed to a crawl and then a stop, and the CalTrans guys were out in force directing people around. We finally got moving again only to be directed right off of the freeway and back on going the other way. I guess there was an accident or something; in any case, the road was closed off. I got off as soon as I could, in Truckee, and tried to figure out what to do. I could have just stayed in Truckee, but it’s a very small and rather upscale town, the kind of place with lots of fancy shops and an economy geared mainly toward selling real estate to rich people. There are a handful of motels there, but they seem to be very expensive and mostly of the “secluded ski chalet” type. Not exactly my kind of thing.
So, given the circumstances, I did what seemed like the best alternative, which was to go back to Reno and stay there. I got back on I-80 and headed in that direction. The freeway was eerily empty, with only a few other cars, which was a striking contrast to the hordes of people trying to go the other way. There was still a bit of snow for the first part of the drive, which made me a little nervous, but it turned out to be nothing problematic and it began to peter out around the Nevada state line.
A few miles after I crossed back into Nevada, the car behind me suddenly began flashing police lights. I thought it seemed a bit odd that the cops would be pulling me over, since I was going quite slow and there was no way I could have been speeding, but I obediently pulled off the road and a Nevada state trooper came up to me and asked for my license and registration. He said I had drifted over across the white line dividing the road from the shoulder a couple of miles back and he wanted to make sure I wasn’t too tired to drive or anything. I assured him I was fine, and he seemed satisfied with that, but he still ran my license and registration then called me back to his car. He didn’t give me a ticket or anything, just a warning, but he then asked me if I had any illegal items or large amounts of cash in the car. I said I didn’t and he asked if I would consent to a search, since they were trying to crack down on stuff going across the state line. I consented but said there was hardly anything in the car at all and they definitely wouldn’t find anything interesting. They went ahead and searched the car, after I signed a form stating that I consented to the search. First the cop’s partner took a drug-sniffing dog all around the outside, which apparently didn’t turn up anything, then the cop himself looked through the inside of the car and through my bags. As I had said, there was nothing there, and the cops let me go. They were very friendly throughout the interaction, and it seemed clear that they were just looking for pretexts to conduct searches. I’m not sure how I feel about all that, but I figured I’d put it down in writing so there’s a record.
Once I got into Reno I checked into a Motel 6 and went to eat at a Korean restaurant near it. The waitress was very funny. I ordered pan-fried kimchee, and she was very impressed that I liked it. She asked me if I had lived in Korea or had a Korean friend, to which I replied no, that I just liked it. Apparently it’s not the sort of thing white people often order or like. There was a ton of it, plus a bunch of sides, so there was no way I was going to finish it, and she brought me a box without my even asking for it. It was a pretty entertaining experience in all, and now I have a bunch of delicious leftovers. So the day wasn’t the best of the trip, but it ended up okay.
March 3, 2009
I left Bishop in the morning and headed north on 395. I was intending to go all the way up to Carson City that way, but when I got to Mammoth Lakes it was snowing heavily and chains were required to keep going on 395 up into the mountains. So I turned around after eating lunch in Mammoth Lakes and headed into Nevada. I went by Boundary Peak and through a few ghost towns and near-ghost towns, one of which, Luning, had a rest stop where I stopped and took some pictures.
The first real town I got to was Hawthorne, which turned out to be a really interesting place. I stopped there for gas then did a little exploring and picture-taking. It’s a very small town, but it’s in such a sparsely populated area that it actually has quite a bit of stuff in it, and it’s right next to a military base that seems to keep it going economically. It also has a classical music radio station which was the only station I could get for significant portions of my drive today.
From Hawthorne I decided to head back into California and see if I had missed the worst of the road conditions on 395. It turned out I had, and while it did end up snowing most of the way to Carson City, it was never bad enough to require chains and I was fine with just four-wheel drive. By the time I got into Carson City and checked into a motel the snow had turned to rain.
March 2, 2009
I spent the morning taking pictures of Lone Pine, then drove down to the interagency visitor center at the south end of town. It has a nice little pseudo-museum. One of the main agencies involved in it is the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, which owns much of the land in the Owens Valley, so the interpretive material on the famous conflicts over the valley’s water has a definite tendency toward glossing over the rough parts and emphasizing the city’s current efforts to help the valley.
When I was done at the visitor center I continued heading south and went all the way around Owens Lake, which is virtually dry thanks largely to the efforts of the city of Los Angeles, then back north through Lone Pine again and beyond.
My next stop was Manzanar. This is, as you might expect, an emotional place. There’s actually very little left of the camp; when it shut down the government gave he useful buildings and equipment to the local towns and sold most of the rest for scrap. The only building still left in place is the old high school auditorium, which is now the visitor center. It has a museum which is quite new and, like many new museums, very elaborate and interactive. I found it a bit overwhelming, especially with the use of sound, but that’s really just a matter of my personal preferences. There was a ton of information there.
The rest of the site is basically a driving tour through what’s left of the camp, with signs indicating where various things were. At most of the stops what’s left is at most some foundations, with a few trees or other plants where the gardens were. There’s a sort of haunting beauty to the place, which is only compounded by its emptiness and the knowledge of what was once there.
One interesting side note about Manzanar: the federal government didn’t own the land. When the army decided to put a relocation center in the Owens, it leased the land where the abandoned town of Manzanar had been from its owner, and the War Relocation Authority operated the camp under that lease until it closed it at the end of the war. The owner, of course, was the city of Los Angeles.
When I left Manazanar, I headed north to the town of Independence. I stopped there and looked at the Eastern California Museum. Now this is an old-fashioned museum: mostly exhibits in glass cases with limited signage. There’s a ton of interesting stuff there, though, including a very detailed Manzanar exhibit, some stuff on the history and geology of the Owens Valley and the surrounding area (including an exhibit on the water conflicts with a decidedly different spin from the interagency visitor center’s), and one of the finest collections of Paiute and Shoshone basketry anywhere. The baskets were what particularly fascinated me. The fineness of some of the work is just unbelievable. I’d seen a lot of baskets like these in the various museums I’d seen earlier in the trip, but the difference here was the sheer number of them. Case after case of exquisite work. Definitely worth seeing.
The museum was actually a bit disorganized when I was there, as they seemed to be in the process of doing a major reconfiguration. It looked like most of it hadn’t been significantly altered in a very long time, so it’s probably a worthwhile effort. In any case, I suspect that quite soon the feel of the museum will be rather different, although as far as I could tell the stuff on exhibit will be more or less the same.
From Independence I kept going north to Bishop, where I got a room for the night. Bishop is similar in many ways to Lone Pine and Independence, but it’s bigger. It has more services as a result, but it’s not quite as quaint and picturesque. Still, seems like a nice place.
Overall, I’ve been very impressed with the Owens Valley. It’s too bad LA took all the water.
March 1, 2009
I left Las Vegas in the morning. My plan was to head to Death Valley, but there are several possible routes and I wasn’t sure which one to take. On the spur of the moment I decided to go south and check out Mojave National Preserve on the way. It’s a pretty interesting place, and I ended up spending quite a bit of time there. From I-15 I headed south into the preserve and through a forest of Joshua trees until I got to the visitor center at Kelso Depot, which was formerly the train station of the small railroad town of Kelso, little else of which survives. There are a bunch of exhibits in the museum, which is very well-done. There’s a bunch of other stuff in the preserve as well, and I wasn’t going to be able to see it all, so I decided to focus on seeing Zzyzx. This involved going back up to the freeway and down again, but it wasn’t very far and it was totally worth it.
Zzyzx is a fascinating, very weird place. It’s basically a spring in the middle of the Mojave Desert on the edge of the salt flats of Lake Mojave where an eccentric radio preacher built a resort in the 1940s and used it to promote his quack medical elixir. None of this was legal but he somehow managed to keep it going until 1974, when the authorities caught up with him and the government took possession of the resort, which eventually ended up as a research center for California State University inside Mojave National Preserve.
When I was done there I ate in the nearby town of Baker and headed north through Shoshone to Death Valley. It was almost sunset by this point, so I only managed to get to Badwater Basin in time to take any pictures, but that was the main thing I wanted to see so it was okay. I continued in the dark through the rest of the park to the small town of Lone Pine, where I got a motel room. Lone Pine is kind of a neat little town. I’ll take some pictures tomorrow.