Across the West
Hello California. Today our van flew across the huge empty state of Nevada in the brilliant sunshine with unlimited views in every direction. This is where the driving gets pleasurable. It would be great to start the trip here, rather than icy Massachusetts, but then we would miss seeing our granddaughter in Kansas.
Life with baby Fiona was busy. For a week and a half we helped transport her to her Montessori daycare, and took care of her hard-working parents as best we could. Highlights of Lawrence, KS, outside of seeing family, include a well-appointed and attractive college town (Erin our Daughter-in Law is a hydrologist with an appointment at Kansas University) and the Yarn Barn, a yarn store with extensive supplies where I stocked up on crocheting materials for the trip ahead.
Park City, Utah: Galleries, restaurants, Whole Foods, busy parking lots with fancy cars, culture… all the amenities of city life nestled into the glittering white Wasatch mountains. No wonder this city is growing at a fast pace, Covid has fueled the exodus from the coasts to this once sleepy ski resort. Property values are skyrocketing and construction is everywhere but the lack of water and threat of fire is limiting expansion; it is the western conundrum. Despite the lack of new snow we had great time skiing and visiting with college friends.
Then on again through Salt Lake City, past the endless Bonneville Salt Flats to Wendover, Utah, site of the WWII airfield where the Enola Gay took off to drop the atomic bomb on Japan. Wendover is next to West Wendover, in Nevada, where a requisite wall of casinos, the native cement flora of the state, sit on the border. We stopped at Valmy, Nevada for another night at a rest stop. Idling trucks and the pounding base of heavy metal music punctuated our evening there. At least it was warm enough to cook outside the van.
Winnemucca, Nevada is where I found solid WiFi in order to conduct my online color class. Known as a stop on the transcontinental railroad, historically it was the site of brothels and a Chinatown created by Chinese immigrant railroad workers. It was also the spot at which early settlers on the California Trail forded the Humboldt River.
AND… Winnemucca is just a fun word to say. Johnny Cash used it in one of my favorite songs: “I’ve been Everywhere”.
According to Wikipedia Winnemucca was named for legendary Chief Winnemucca, of the Northern Paiute tribe, which loosely translated means “one Moccasin”. His daughter Sarah Winnemucca was an advocate for education and fair treatment of the Paiute and Shoshone tribes in the area. Their family all learned to speak English, and Sarah worked as an interpreter, scout and messenger for the United States Army during the Bannock War of 1878. In 1883, Sarah Winnemucca published the first autobiography written by a Native American woman, based on hundreds of lectures she’d given in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic. It has been described as “one of the most enduring ethno-historical books written by an American Indian.” I would like to see Sarah’s story worked into an historical novel my bookgroup could read.
But enough history.. and saying Winnemucca….we had places to be. In another few hours we made Reno, Nevada and sped over the border into Truckee, California.. tomorrow we will see our son Stoddard and his girlfriend Kira and friends and ski at Palisades (formerly Squaw Valley). Our warm tidy little house is near Donner Road which heads up to the Donner Pass. Donner pass is where the Donner Party, that made it past Winnemucca, had a tough time in the snow at the end of the California Trail. If you don’t know that story you can look it up yourself on Wikipedia. Ugh.
Fortunately I am not a settler. Tomorrow is my self initiated “spa day” at our Air B&B cabin. I want to do yoga and maybe even the exercise program (good intentions) to keep me fit during van travel, followed by a long bath and application of the moisturizing face mask I got for Christmas. Then I will watch the next episode of “The Gilded Age” in bed. I can’t wait.