Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Day 19

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

This was supposed to be an easy day - just shoot over the pass and drop down into Sacramento.  Only a little over a hundred miles - no problem.


This was our first clue that the day was not going to go as planned.  And this was the first and much lower pass between Tahoe and Truckee.  See those thick clouds, billowing in the distance?  And that white stuff on the ground?

Not funny.  So not funny.

Arriving in Truckee, we found the highway closed, and snow falling heavily.  Hurray for Jax Diner.  Might as well stop for breakfast and some hot cocoa.  Yes, it was snowing.  You can't tell in the picture.  The roads in Truckee were just wet, but the pass is about 1400' higher (just over 7200', in case you wanted to know.)

We couldn't help overhearing the conversation at the table next to us - a local man - and we asked him what he knew about the conditions and road closure.

Oh, don't worry about it.  They'll open it back up in an hour or so and require chains.  But you can head over Route 40 any time you want, and there's no chain control.

Kerry thought that was a fabulous idea.  Me, not so much.  Because if there's any chance I'm going to get stuck in the snow I'd like to be on the main road where someone will come along and help me.  Or at least find me.  Call me crazy.  And my Dodge Caravan, as much as I love it, is not exactly winter-worthy.

There was a certain amount of grumbling and mumbling.  And we bought the chains.  And within an hour the state patrol had road blocks at every highway entrance and would not let you on unless you had a 4-wheel drive vehicle carrying chains, or had them on your tires.

Heading up I-80 we were reminded of where we were and what happens to those who aren't prepared. 

Hard to believe we'd come from 100+ and playing in the pool... to this.

See that road off to the left?  Yah.  That's Highway 40.  So glad we didn't attempt that route, as I'm told it's much steeper than I-80.

Beautiful?  Yes.  In the mood to enjoy it?  Not so much.

As we got higher the road was still passable, but we could tell the plows had been busy by the piles beside the highway.

Ironically, we got over the pass just fine, pulled over and removed the chains, and then it began to sleet and the road conditions were the worst of anywhere.

Well, let me tell you, this was a very happy sight!  That's Sacramento in the distance.  Sunshine, palm trees, and dry roads.  Hallelujah and Amen.

We had big plans for this somewhat surreal day, so we swung by the KOA first to get checked in.  Thankfully they weren't exactly busy and were able to give us our keys before noon, as we knew the office would be closed by the time we got back.  And isn't this a picturesque spot?

Yah, the cabins were a bit close together, but most of them were empty and quiet.  Here's the view from our porch.  *happy sigh*

This KOA also came with a not-so-picturesque-and-very-drunk man, but the staff handled him quickly and efficiently.  Yah.

That was not part of today's plan, but adapt and overcome, right?  Onward to the California State Railroad Museum, in Old Town Sacramento.

Yes, I took a bazillion photos, many at Kerry's urging.  While I enjoy trains to a point, this was really a day for the boys.  The museum has real trains, not just models.  You can get right up close to them and touch them.  Some have platforms built up and you can look in the windows and see how they were set up back in the day, and others you can go right inside.  If you're a rail fan, and passing through Sacramento, don't miss this.

Love the snow shed - something we're familiar with up here in the Cascades, as well.

This cab-forward engine was enormous.  Very impressive.

Well-informed volunteers happily told us all about the equipment and history, and let the boys explore many of the trains.  Here's Tate in the cab-forward locomotive.

My one beef with this museum, like the one at Donner Memorial Park, is that it was hopelessly under-lit.  I can understand art museums being cautious about light, as it can accelerate deterioration.  But the trains?  Really?  Why does it have to be so dark???

Gunnar spotted something that made us feel like we'd come full circle.  The "Lost" Golden Spike.  When the Central Pacific and Union Pacific were set to meet at Promontory Point, Leland Stanford brought a golden spike, which was not left in the railroad (duh), but returned to land developer David Hewes, and later donated to Stanford University, where it is today.  It was made and engraved in a rush, and had the date of May 8, 1869 on it.  Well, the dignitaries didn't arrive until May 10, and the ceremony was delayed.

Turns out a second spike was also made, and engraved properly and more carefully.  David Hewes' family kept it secret for over 100 years, until in 2005 a descendant sold it.

So there's your history trivia.  And here it is, in Sacramento.  The "Lost" Spike.

My favorite part of the museum had to be the 1920's vintage sleeper car, complete with very realistic motion and sound.  Doesn't that look cozy?  A little too cozy for two maybe, or maybe not ;D

Gunnar pretended to be one of the kids in the Polar Express movie.

We spent several hours exploring the museum, and the boys were getting a bit loopy.  Gunnar is investigating the art work on the fruit labels.

And Wyatt and Tate amused themselves with magnets.  They just needed a break.

Among the many joys of this vacation, some of my favorite times were meeting new friends.  Well, not new, but now-in-real-life, as opposed to what Tate refers to as my "computer-generated friends."  And they are just as wonderful in person as they are online.  They're the Real Deal.

I first met the lovely and talented Rachael (who has all but given up blogging, but I'll link anyway)...

... through Dan's blog, Biblical Christianity.  She and I have spent hours on the phone commiserating, encouraging, laughing, and listening.  And through the meta on his blog, Kerry and I have also come to know Dan.  Our boys have been corresponding by email.

And learning we were in the area, Dan and his gracious and hospitable wife Valerie invited both families - ours and Rachael's - over for a chili feed.  Can I just tell you how wonderful that was?  Inviting a bunch of strangers to your home, and blessing them with a delicious home-cooked meal?

Fun times!  Eight kids met and played and battled with nerf swords and guns, and if there was a harsh word anywhere I didn't hear it.

Here's Rachael and her girls - Emily, Kate, and Sarah (if I got them in order), with their permission.  Adorable, yah?

Dan's family is more private, and so not pictured, but I think the cat is fair game.  If that is, indeed, a cat.  I believe Sarah, on the right, seems to have her doubts, too.  ;D

And the adults?  Well, the only moments of quiet came when everyone was eating.  No lack of lively conversation with this bunch :D

As we reluctantly said our goodbyes and pulled out of the driveway I said, "Well that was a lot of fun!" and the boys objected strenuously.  Obviously "a lot of fun" was a criminal understatement, from their point of view.  And Dan, Valerie, Rachael, Phil... consider yourself invited to visit any time you want.

What a day!  Tahoe, snow, palm trees, the lovely KOA and the inebriated guest, the RR museum, dinner with friends... was it really all one day?  Crazy.  But crazy good.

Day 19 Miles : 158          Total Miles : 4051


The Squirrel said...

Sure... Fly through Superior with nary a word, but hang all day with the Phillipses & the Starkes... Like I wouldn't have fed y'all...


(Wish we could have been there, too! Great crowd to be hangin' with!)


Q said...

Snow and drunks and friends? ADVENTURE! :)

Felicity said...

Oh my goodness - what a lot in one day! But as you say - crazy good!
The idea of driving in the snow gives me the creeps, but probably because I don't know anything about it... ;-)
Is your car a Dodge Caravan? Mine looks just like it, but it's a Chrysler Grand Voyager. Same thing, different name??

Herding Grasshoppers said...

Felicity - yes, it's a Dodge Caravan. Same parent company as your Grand Voyager, but you may have a few more "bells and whistles" :D

I fear that somebody (ahem MR. SQUIRREL) may never forgive me! Wish you could have been there, too!

Q - yes, that day probably gets the award for the day with the most... um... variety.

DJP said...

That was terrific fun, so glad you could all come over.

And that is the immense and beautiful Hagrid, who's also been pictured on my blog.

I've had the exact same feeling as you, going over a snow-buried I-80. I was sweating and tense in my first real snowstorm, and Valerie was singing "Let it snow! let it snow! let it snow!"

leah said...

Now that is a FULL day - I am SO glad you bought the chains and headed over the main road. I remember a story about a family that got lost in that area of the world and ended up building a snow cave. Thank goodness they were eventually found, but there were lost toes and very traumatizing experiences! Always good to play it safe in the part of the country that gave rise to the Donner Party!

Boo to the drunk guy in the campground - it is good to know that the KOA will get rid of those bums quickly. And what a fun visit with friends in Sacramento (after the trip to the train museum).

I'm kind of sad that your vacation entries are coming to an end - time for the Grasshopper group to go on another one!

Herding Grasshoppers said...

Yah, we were a bit tense, going over the pass. Though we're used to snow in the mountains up here, we don't (intentionally) take the van out on slick roads - we have a 4Runner (Kerry's vehicle). At least I could comfort the boys with the reminder that we had sleeping bags, food, and water sufficient for several days, should we get stranded, though there was no real risk of that.

But Dan, look at the wonderful trust Valerie had in your mad-driving-skillz... she was singing! I confess to being nervous. Not in Kerry's ability, but in the van's.

If you can keep your momentum going (and in check) you'll be okay, but all it takes is one person stopping on a hill, and it can be impossible to get going again. Ugh!

But what a fun evening! The boys are still talking about it - wishing you all lived closer!

Herding Grasshoppers said...

And in awe of the Magnificent Hagrid.

Rachael Starke said...

It was a blast. Fastest couple of hours ever.

I love Sarah's expression with Hagrid the Cat Mountain. I'm disturbed by mine with that pie. Just a tad too authentically Stepfordish.

I loved that another lady got to learn what I'd learned already - that Dan Phillips has the sweetest wife in the known world.

Abi's Blog said...

Your trip over the mountain in the snow makes me nervous and scared just sitting at my desk! I drove over the Beartooth highway north of Yellowstone and even in the sunshine it was almost too much for me. (Joe refused to drive!)
Love hearing about your adventures with your family.

Herding Grasshoppers said...

Ah, Rachael, I hope that anyone seeing the pic can tell we're laughing and having fun! And amen to Valerie :D

Abi, those highways are HIGH!

The dB family said...

Please tell me that you journalled as you went along because that is one very full and wonderful day you experienced. I still can't believe you went from snow into sunshine and shorts again. What a day!