How We Roll
The trip took a little longer than it would have if we had taken the GPS-recommended route, but we were buoyed by the signs of civilization that we passed. And then we reached that pinnacle of civilization…Las Vegas. Our route took us through town and it’s a wonder we didn’t get in a serious accident given all the rubber-necking we did. But Las Vegas is another story…
We got back on 395 and headed south. Our GPS wanted to take us on another wilderness road through Death Valley, but based on our recent wilderness adventure, we decided to save that for another time. So we stayed on 395 and headed toward Las Vegas.
We felt like criminals and looked around furtively to see if any law-enforcement types were in the area. We didn’t see any so we skulked back to our motor home and left.
The next morning we took a walk around town to find some breakfast. When we returned, I saw a sign, nearly obscured by tree branches, that I hadn’t seen the night before in the dark. It said, “No overnight parking.” As we looked around, we saw 2 more of those signs, all affixed to leafy trees, all facing the same direction…which was NOT the side facing us when we pulled into the parking lot.
We ended up staying about 40 miles farther down the road in Bishop, California. When we pulled into town, I saw a sign that said, “Free RV Parking at City Park.” We thought, “What a friendly town!” and followed the signs to a large parking lot adjacent to some play fields. We pulled into a long space (clearly for RVs) and settled down for the night.
We finally got off of CA 120 and turned onto US 395, which for the most part is a divided highway with two lanes on each side. We stopped at a mountain resort town called Mammoth Lakes for gas and food. By this time, it was around 7:00 PM. Because we’re cheap (it was already dark and we knew we’d be leaving early), we moved on rather than paying resort prices for one night in an RV park there.
Tioga Pass is at the eastern edge of Yosemite and once you cross it, you enter the Inyo National Forest, another wild, beautiful place. But you are still in wilderness for miles. There are not many gas stations in a wilderness area, as you might imagine. We did see one…offering gas for three times the going price (ok, that might be a slight exaggeration). Thankfully, we had filled up before we started the trip and had plenty of fuel to get us back to civilization.
It seemed like an eternity until we saw the sign that identified Tioga Pass. Once we got there, though, there was still the task of going back down the mountain.
Did you watch the movie, The Long, Long Trailer (recommended in an earlier blog)? I’m certain that Yosemite is where they filmed some of it! If you’ve ever sat in the passenger seat of a motor home, you know that from that vantage point, it looks like you’re hanging out over the edge of the road. When you’re on a mountain road in the outside lane and you look down into empty space…it makes for one breath-taking,white-knuckle drive!
The winding roads we saw in the Sierra Nevada don’t have many safety features, such as guardrails. There are curbs made of asphalt instead…so you can tell when you’re about to go over the edge. There aren’t many pull-outs either, unless you consider an open space littered with rocks and tree branches on the side of a cliff a pull-out.
CA 120, mostly a two-lane highway, wound its way up the mountains to an elevation of nearly 10,000 feet. It was cold up there! We got out at one of the many vistas to take some pictures and nearly froze since we had dressed for the warm, sunny weather in Vacaville.
Our GPS had us turn toward Tioga Pass, which is a high mountain pass through the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The GPS is programmed to take us only on roads that are safe for the height (no low bridges) and weight (roads suitable for big trucks) of our motor home. It also takes us the fastest way, given the other parameters.
We entered the park and almost immediately drove through some seriously burned out areas. There were wildfires in Yosemite last year from August through October. Many of the camping areas and hiking trails are still closed, but some have reopened. People are starting to visit the park again.
When we realized that was where we were heading, we were excited. Yosemite is a beautiful, wild, rugged place with lots of hiking and camping opportunities. We hope to actually stop and do some hiking and camping there in the future, but this time it was just a drive-through.
It took us on I-80, which is pretty much where I expected to stay at least until we reached Lake Tahoe. Turns out, our GPS had other ideas. It took us east on a smaller highway, CA 120. It runs through Yosemite National Park.
We stopped in Vacaville on our way to Arizona. When we left there, we decided not to take I-5, but to go east, then south, and stop in Las Vegas. We headed out around 10:30 AM on a warm, sunny October day and entered Las Vegas city center into our GPS.
Eastern California has a lot of wide open, uninhabited spaces. Just sayin…it’s the perfect place for the rugged individualist…or the fugitive on the run from the law.