Monday, October 23, 2017

Reno, the first days

The first day, after nearly missing my flight because my alarm clock died and consequently making a record-setting dash from my bed to the airport via Uber and onto the plane in just a tad over 50 minutes, I managed to arrive in Reno. And talk about service! Within twenty minutes of me getting off the plane, I was driving out of the airport with my rental, everything taken care of. Vegas, kiss my ass--Reno knows w to do it.
I next grabbed a horrible Chinese lunch and a room in a rather crappy two-star motel for the night, and then I got cleaned up, took a nap, and went to see the sights:
It's not the Vegas strip by any means, but then it doesn't have all that Vegas crap revolving around it either. I liked it.

Next morning, it was off to get some warmer clothes and then invaded California and headed up to Donner Pass.

I did stop at the state park there and saw where the Donner Party had their epic cook-out in 1846, and then I headed up to the pass proper where I parked and hiked up to the old original transcontinental railway line, which is now a hiking trail overlooking Donner Lake.

The first hill climb and the look back to my car down on the road:

Chest pain, but what a view!

Donner Lake.

Support wall for the rail bed built by the Chinese laborers with just hand tools in the early 1860's:


The rail bed. The trail here passes through a mile and a half of concrete show sheds to keep the snow off the tracks lest it derail the trains. The original line was abandoned and is now a historic hiking trail, but because it's in California, everybody's kids have spray-painted graffiti on just about every inch of it.

Snow sheds and tunnel, outside:
And inside:
All that history, ruined by punks. There should be a law forbidding the sale or possession of spray paint by anyone under 30. But the Californians hiking here seem to think that it's "art" and somehow ok.

The snowshed, viewed from outside:

And more Donner Lake. Just because I'm up here, dammit.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Home!!

Scraped the frost off my rental Saturday morning and drove it to to airport, turning it in with just under 900 miles on the odometer. (It had 51 when I got it...new car and I was the first driver.) They didn't even check it for dents but I was careful not to put any on it despite a fair bit of off-road use on the Jeep trails and old mine roads, and the money I spent to run it through the car wash was probably well spent.

Then it was a flight back to New Orleans via LAX with just an hour lay-over, and American was nice enough to bump me up to the better seats for the long leg back and one of the choices for in-flight movie was Casablanca so I flew back in style with Bogie. I am convince though that babies should have to be checked along with the rest of the baggage though. One cried all the way from Reno to LAX and as far as I could tell, the parents didn't do jack to try to silence it. I mean damn...play with it, give it a bottle, pour the baby a shot of vodka...anything.

But I got back and made it home, just in time to play with two attention-starved dogs for a bit and then head out to the Krewe of Boo parade.

And I ran into my friend Amy, university professor by day, Camel Toe Lady Stepper by night.

Amy was busy marching in the parade, so I connected up with Beth, my NOPD pal, to watch it go by. Beth also likes her some Halloween.
And we had the best place to watch it--right in front of a liquor store so we were anything but thirsty as the parade went by.

Here's the Sirens marching, just one of several marching krewes in the parade.

From hiking in the snow to his, all in 24 hours. Too much. But where else can I come back to a parade like the whole city was happy to have me back?

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Last hike


One last hike today, about five miles, up to almost 9,000ft., above the snow line. Yep hiked in the snow today.

Then back to Reno, and a nice dinner at a Basque place that I'm now quite fond of. Morning means I take the rental back, with just under 900 miles put on it. And as much as I tried to baby it on miles of jeep trails and off-road tracks, some jerk somewhere put a door ding on it. Seriously? Nice machine but no passing power at all, especially at higher elevations.

Best display of karma: watching a jerk in an SUV with New York tags hop-scotch up alongside everyone else, trying to pass everyone else in line one vehicle at a time on a winding mountain road, only to see it brought to the same screeching halt as everyone they'd passed when we all got to a spot where they'd shut down one lane of the two-lane for a couple miles and were running alternating traffic with a pilot car. Speedy got to sit there and wait right along with the rest of us.

Great trip. Gotta do this again soon. 

And once I'm back: pictures!!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Down for the night. Gardnerville, NV

Spent a good chunk of Thursday morning hiking above Tonopah. Found a few more open shafts but all vertical, including one that I'm pretty sure went directly to 1500 feet without so much as a "stay back, stay alive" sign to keep people dumber than me out. Good rough terrain hiking up to 7,000 feet sure gets the blood pumping, let me tell ya.

Then it was a long but seriously scenic drive back west to cross over into California to intersect highway 395 and up towards Carson City. I stopped for some more hiking at Parum Crater, an old volcano near Lee Vining, and that pretty much punched my exercise ticket for the day--I'm still old, out of shape, overweight and sick in addition to dealing with the altitude. But I got it done with a minimum of chest pain, so it's all good.

More scenic roads, then a fabulous Basque dinner in Gardnerville, NV, and suddenly the little motel down the block looked good, especially since it was now full dark and a weather event is expected tonight.  I'm staying here, and then one more day spent in Carson City and back up to Reno and a fly out Saturday morning. Thus far not a single thing has gone wrong or been cause for regret this week. I'm loving life.

This means that the dogs probably sold my house while I was gone.

Change of direction

Leaving Fallon yesterday, I changed direction and headed south for Tonopah directly, bypassing Ely and Elko and cutting a couple hundred empty miles driving off of the trip. Looking at Google Earth on the iPad (Thanks, Al Gore!) I saw some promising areas to check out around Tonopah, and I rolled down to poke around back out in the desert above town. I found a lot of old mines, but alas, all either bat-gated or vertical shafts which I'm not prepared for. Got a bit more target shooting in, in particular with some shots at an old abandoned engine block with both .38 and .357 rounds--and there is a difference--and after dinner in town I found a nice secluded campsite on the mountain above it and settled in for the night as dusk fell. 

It's morning now, and having been stirred from my sleep by two damned jackrabbits racing through my campsite at dawn, I've come down for breakfast. Now I aim to poke around a bit more than begin my drift back towards Carson City and Reno.

And I seriously need to wash this Jeep before I turn it back in. It was Charcoal Gray but it blends with the desert quite well now.

Best roadside sign seen so far: "Will Rodgers never met Harry Reid!"  

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Heading east...and Top Gun!

After coffee and some target shooting on BLM land this morning, I headed out east on why 50 today. Ran through Fallon, NV, and you know I just had to stop at Fallon NAS, Home of the US Navy's Top Gun training center, to see the airplanes. I had no trouble at all getting on base, and once on, I called that expert on on things Navy and cool, Old NFO, for some recommendations on what to see. And as usual, he did not disappoint. I took some pics of the static display aircraft that were there, including numerous old Russian/Soviet fighters that the Commnists were apparently nice enough to "donate" over the decades. then I drifted on over to a couple flight lines where I was able to see and photograph both F-18 and F-5 jets all prettied up in Aggressor colors. I was respectful of the signs and didn't go where prohibited or photograph any of the buildings or communications antennae but it still felt kind of weird to just be wandering about openly taking pictures and none of the people was saw me doing it even gave me a second glance. Obviously they're not worried, which probably means nothing classified that I can accidentally get pics of.

I stayed for bit and watched some jets fly, and now I'm back in Falln proper. Gassed the Jeep and getting lunch while I plot the next couple of days, and then it's off to Ely before I return either via Elko or Tonopah. Tomorrow or the next day. I haven't decided yet.  It's nice not to have to.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Today so far

Drove down Six Mile Canyon and saw some more wild horses. That can't possible ever get old. I drove up some old jeep trail two-tracks to check out some mine sites on BLM land but didn't find anything accessible. I did kind of feel like a prat taking this brand new SUV with less than 270 miles on it back on these 4WD trails but I took it very slow and careful and didn't so much as scrape a skid plate or brush a tree. Got a little target shooting in at an improvised range that some locals apparently set up. And unlike the ones in MRE urban areas, it was neat and clean with a minumim of debris and almost no casings scattered about. Whoever uses this spot police up after themselves nicely so I followed suit and left no evidence of my visit behind.

Then it was down into Dayton to try to locate the old Sutro Tunnel portal, a holy grail fore history buffs and mine explorers. Back in 1860, German immigrant Adolph Sutro came up with the idea to tunnel into the lower levels of many of the large Comstock area mines to help with drainage of water--a major problem in these mines--and to improve ventilation. The mine companies loved the idea until they realized that his tunnel might also be used to haul rock out of the mines and that he stood to get paid nicely if that happened. They tried to stop him over the years but to no avail. He finally broke through into the workings in 1878 after tunneling over six miles through solid rock, but by this time the mines had gone deeper so the drainage benefit never really came off. Sutro sold his tunnel--now used for haulage--and moved to San Fransico where he became mayor. This tunnel connected to several of the largest mines though and I'd loved to have used it for exploration but for two problems: first, a cave-in blocked it a ways in, and second, it is privately owned by the Comstock Foundation and they have a rather unfriendly caretaker living on site, a one-armed fat guy with a serious bad attitude who lived up to the description given to me by everyone I'd talked to yesterday. He's locally infamous for his rudeness and hostility towards visitors. 

Now I could kind of understand not wanting to have everyone and their dog showing up at all hours and just poking around without so much as a by-your-leave, so I did the courteous thing and dove up slowly, right to his little shack, then walked up and knocked on the door to politely ask permission to take a few pics of the portal. I migh has we'll have saved us both the trouble--the guy was the biggest asshole I've met in some time, and right out of the gate with no provocation. "No you can't see it! The property is closed and you need to get off it right now!" Now we were less than a hundred yards from the famously historic portal and I could just see it from where we stood. I really tried to placate him by explaining that yes, I understood that it was closed to tours, but that I'd come to see him out of respect to ask the small courtesy of just a few pictures. "You need to just get the fuck out of here," he snarled.
"Not a problem," I told him. "I'll go, but that's a pretty poor way to talk to someone who isn't being disrespectful to you in the slightest."
"This property is owned by the Comstock Foundation. If you want to see it, find out when they do tours. They aren't doing them now though." 
"Ok, that's great. I'd love to check with them.  Can I get their contact info from you?"
"You can go look it up on the Internet. From someplace else. Now get out of here,"
"Fine. Have a nice day." I turned to walk back to my Jeep and saw that he was following me back to it, a glower on his face. I also noticed that he didn't appear to have a weapon, yet here he is being totally disrespectful to someone he doesn't know. Not that he was in any danger from me--and I was armed--but not everyone who happens along is like me. Push enough people with unnecessary disrespect and bluster and eventually you're likely to meet someone equally nasty who will push back. Law of averages. And especially stupid to do it where you live because you've now got to be on defense 24/7. A little courtesy is always smart when you're all by yourself out in the middle of nowhere, especially if you're obviously in poor shape and only have one arm. Yeah, I think I'd be nice to people if I was I his shoes, but that's just me. And from what I heard from everyone yesterday, he's always like this. Here's hoping that it doesn't come back to bite him on the ass one day.
Even in my case, I was tempted to come back after dark and take a look inside that portal just to spite him. From what I could see, would have been child's play and in years past I'd have done it just because. But I'm older now, and I have a security clearance to safeguard, so I'll take the high road and go find other sights to see. 
Still: Murphy's rule #17: "Don't be a dick to people strange to you until it's time to be a dick, and even then don't let your mouth write checks that your body can't cash."

Off to see more sites.

Yesterday

Up and out. After a quick breakfast, I bought a couple of long sleeve thermal shirts because I'm not in Southern Louisiana anymore and then I headed off to an urgent care to try to knock the last of my persistent cough out. I almost left when they told me that the wait was an hour and a half, but then they told me I could leave my number and go do other things and they'd text me when me time was close. Well that was good, so I went off to meet Mike, a reader of this humble blog who just happened to be in Reno today, up from Texas for a conference. We dropped in on a couple of pawn shops, one of which had quite a few old firearms that I was interested in, but alas, they were all priced too high. By way of example, they had a lightly sporterized Rock Island 1903 Springfield, low-number but with a WW2 parkerizing job and a 1945 barrel. Stock was chopped but otherwise ok. They wanted a grand for it. I offered $500, which was still too high but I do have a stock for it at home and the bore looked good, but they wouldn't come down below $650. Oh well. Mike and I horses around there for a while and kicked a few more tires and then we went to a casino and got coffee and swapped German Shepherd pics. And his wife Stacy is a big Murphy and Belle fan, as most readers here seem to be for some reason. Finally I had to head off to my appointment but Mike says he's going to come to the NRA convention in Dallas to peruse the wares and meet all of the other bloggers on the sidebar that he's not met yet.

Doc had me rolling in half an hour with some new meds and a scenic but crazy two-lane highway took me over a mountain range and deposited me in Virginia City, where I found countless tourist trap stores, most of which are closed for the winter. I also found several mine shafts, all bat-gated, which isn't a surprise this close to town, and a couple small herds of wild horses, which seem to roam wherever they please without much bother or fuss.  I knocked around for the rest of the day, then found a nice room at a crazy low winter rate price that was nicer than anyplace I'd been staying at thus far so I dug in for the night and walked back down the road for a passable pizza. Then I found a small bar with three customers--two local women and a lab named Benny--and I sat down for one drink, which turned out to be a few when I found out that the bartender is a retired Nevada Trooper, and small world of small worlds, we've got some common ties. We swapped tales for a while and at the end of the night he wouldn't touch my money just to long as I promised to come back again today, which I probably will.

The night sky back outside town was incredible, with no light pollution to mess it up. The walk in the dark, back up the hill I'd come down in daylight, seemed a fair bit longer somehow. But there was no one out there far as I could tell besides me, the horses and b'rers Smith and Wesson. 

Now I'm off for a bit more exploring. No rush, no stress and no plans that have to be adhered to. I may stay here and I may move on. I haven't decided, and I don't have to do a damned thing between now and my Saturday morning flight back out. This is how every day shoul be.

Monday, October 16, 2017

My travels thus far

After a stupid-panicked first leg of the flight, I had a nice second leg. The aircrew bumped me up to the better seats and I wound up sitting behind MMA legend Ken Shamrock for three hours. He was my hero back in the 90s when he was just starting out beating up on the Gracies. I saw him once back then and he was awesome. And I got to see a lot of him on this flight too as he stood up in the aisle every half hour or so and did some stretching. Ain't never seen that on a flight before, but I wasn't about to tell him he couldn't. 

We landed, and I walked off the plane right to the Enterprise counter and they confirmed my reservation and put me being the wheel of a brand new 2018 Jeep Compass with just 51 miles on it, and they had me driving away within twenty minutes of my getting off the plane, a far cry from Vegas where I had to wait in line for over an hour and a half just to get to the reservation desk. "We're not Vegas, Sir. We're Reno. We treat people right," the rental guy told me. And they didn't press me even once to buy their overpriced insurance, unlike the Vegas guy who practically threatened me with every sort of calamity if I dared drive using just my existing policy, which, like most, covers rental cars same as your primary car. As a result of the niceness here, I will not be beating this Jeep to death on trails and two tracks like I did the Jeep SUV I got in Vegas. It pays to be nice to people that you give nice things too.

Because I was still under the weather, I grabbed a room, showered and napped for a bit then as dusk headed downtown to see the aren version of the Vegas strip. I found it much easier to navigate and take in, and the casinos weren't quite as flashy but they were also nowhere near as obnoxious and the people we much friendlier, especially some Reno street cops I spoke to. They're still trying to get a handle on Nevadas's new legal marijuana dumb decision, and everyone is shocked at how fast several large new pot dispensaries popped up within days of the vote. Lot of money was obviously sitting back waiting for that. And since it seems so out of character with rural Nevada, I asked them what happened in NV to bring this about. Every one of them shook their head: "Californians." They move out of California to escape the taxes and laws that they voted in there and then they turn around and start voting for the same stuff wherever they land. (Gee, just like Massholes and New Yorkers on the east coast...) east or west though, migrating liberals are like locusts, only less endearing.

The next morning, after a prime rib and potatoes breakfast that was big enough to have choked a bear, I hit the road and headed west to invade California. I first went to Truckee for a bit more coffee and then headed over to Donner Lake to see the place where the Donner Party got snowed in while trying to cross the Seirra Nevadas back in 1846 and threw that infamous dinner party to die for. (Yep--failure to bring enough groceries meant cannibalism or starvation back then. Über Eats wasn't coming by with a sack of burgers.) Then I took old Hwy 40 up to the crest and saw the rail bed where the first transcontinental railroad was cut through the maintains by hordes of Chinese laborers. The rail bed, mostly tunnels and massive concrete snow sheds, is a hiking trail now, though it took me some climbing to get to where it was from where I parked. I hiked a bit of it, enjoying the views of Donner Lake and Truckee far below, then descended back to my sinfully new car. 

Next stop was Lake Tahoe. I drove down to the north edge then drove around it, admiring the clear blue water. And because it was there, I hiked a steep trail to the top of Eagle Rock just to enjoy the view and show all the Californians what I could do with my newest walking leg. Yeah, it never got old watching groups of folks climb to the top all out of breath, congratulating each other on the tough climb, only to see me there casually greeting them with a smile and nonchalant "hi" as I sat there in my shorts letting the sun gleam off my nice new prosthetic leg. 

Now that they're all gone though, it was a workout. Oy.

Then it was down and around the south end, and every time I thought that it could not get more scenic, it did. Wow. And tons of nice houses all around it, and not a beater car in sight. Who are all these obviously rich folks and how do I get in on whatever money game they're all playing?
Finally, with dusk coming on, it was back over to Minden, where I had to stop by the airport to see Minden Air's famous firefighting fleet. This company was built on surplus military aircraft used for firefighting and I just had to see what they might still have. I found them, but the only thing I could see in their yard of interest to me was a stripped and gutted P2 Neptune and what looked like a clapped out Cessna 0-2A but turned out to be a Model 337 instead based on what I could see through the fence. If I get back down that way during business hours I'm going to stop back in and see if I can't get shown around a bit. Then it was back into town for dinner and a few drinks before turning in early. After all, I am still sick.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

So much for planning and preparation, vacation edition.

So last week's planned vacation trip to Reno got clipped by Hurricane Nate and it was moved to this morning. I managed to reschedule the flight, the car rental, the rooms...everything.

Tuesday I got sick, and Wednesday night I was in the emergency room at midnight with a sinus infection and bronchitis. But I couldn't change the trip again so I had to go. And I was feeling a fair bit better yesterday so I figured it'd be ok. Heck, better sick in Reno than sick at home, right? 

All my meds got me crossed up when it came time to set the alarm last night. I woke up at Five AM when my phone dinged to announce my fight departure from the airport almost twenty miles away...at SIX AM!

What were the odds I was ever going to make that flight?


I'm blogging this from Dallas Fort Worth Airport now, during my layover.  I made the damned flight. 

From a sound sleep in my bed to sitting on a plane at the airport in just over fifty minutes, with the dogs fed on the way out the door. I did it. I'll be buying a few minor items to replace stuff that got left behind in the rush but all of my essential gear made it too. 

Sucks to be the people sitting next to my unshowered self, but Reno, here I come! Let the vacation blogging commence!!

Monday, October 09, 2017

Post-storm Sunday morning.

One the storm threat was gone, I took the dogs for breakfast.


True to form, Belle was in her glory with Katie, a friend who happened by.

And Murphy was never one to let a distraction go to waste.
"I can has mimosa?"

Then it was off to watch friend Beth shop for dresses.

She bought one, too. For $265.

"What do you think?", she asked.
I was thinking that's a thousand rounds of ammo at 26.5 cents a round. But I didn't tell her that.

Murphy, after shopping:

Yeah, you and me both, boy.

Seen while walking...



So I guess the car's owner in unemployed?

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Here we go

First storm band from edge of Hurricane Nate. Dogs seem less than pleased.
Can't say as I'm pleased, either. But it is what it is.

Equipment test fail

So I've been running my one operational generator every couple of weeks just to make sure it stays functional. And it has always been fine, right up until this morning. I turned the fuel on, switched the power switch on, and pulled the cord...SNAP! The cord broke and most of it retreated back into it's housing. With hurricane half a day out. Fucking wonderful.