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