One More for the Road

Tuesday, December 11, 2012 Road Junkies 0 Comments

Westward Ho, Day 38:  Sacramento, CA, to Reno, NV

Another day, another scenic California highway.  This morning we headed east on the route traveled by the hordes of speculators that flooded to California in the mid-1800s in search of gold.  Thankfully we were not traveling on a horse or in a covered wagon.  And what is now US Route 50 is a modern paved trail across western California.

US-50
Route 50 runs from suburban Sacramento west through the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, following the American River through its canyon before climbing with the river to its source at Echo Summit (elev. 7,382).  Quaint little towns like Placerville and Pollock Pines appear among the heavily timbered mountains.

Once we had summited, we began our trek down to the Lake Tahoe Basin.  The road descended the side of a steep mountain, eventually leading around a curve where Lake Tahoe came into view.  With an average depth of 1,000 feet, Tahoe is the second deepest lake in the U.S. (behind Crater Lake).

The lake in sight at last
Lying on the border of California and Nevada, Lake Tahoe is a major tourist destination, home to numerous ski resorts, outdoor recreation centers, and, on the Nevada side, casinos, of course.  We didn't tarry long because we had an appointment to have our car serviced in Reno, but we had to stop for a close-up look at this stunning lake.

Lake Tahoe
Leaving the city of South Lake Tahoe, the 50 winds up the eastern shore of the lake in Nevada.  To carry the highway north toward Carson City, road builders blasted a tunnel through Cave Rock in 1931.  The local Washoe tribe, who consider the rock sacred, were none too pleased about what they considered a desecration to their ancient tribal lands, but they were not consulted.  Nor were they asked in 1957 when the second tunnel was bored in the process of widening the US-50 to four lanes.  More recently, the Washoe have been given more voice on how the area of Cave Rock is used.

Cave Rock Tunnel near Zephyr Cove, NV
Once we left the lake shore, the 50 took us quickly to Carson City, Nevada's capital.  Rather than returning there tomorrow as we originally planned, we decided to visit the Capitol building today.  (More on that in another post.)  Then it was on to Reno to have our car serviced.  From Carson City, we drove on the newly completed I-580.

The still pristine I-580 opened in late August.
As we entered the freeway, signs warned about strong winds through the Washoe Valley, and prohibited high-profile vehicles such as tractor trailers and RVs today.  Leaving the valley, the highway climbs through the mountains before descending into Reno.

Having no knowledge of the city of Reno (pop. 225,221) except an misconceived stereotype of an outdated gambling mecca, we were very pleasantly surprised.  Though the city has hung on to its old slogan of "the biggest little city in the world," its economy is no longer dependent on gaming and liberal divorce laws.  The development of distribution industries and outdoor recreational opportunities have rejuvenated the city.  Many of the older casinos were torn down or converted to condos, and an abundance of new commercial construction has given the city a real facelift.

One of many attractive Reno commercial areas
To be sure, casinos are still a significant presence but they no longer dominate the city.  Our service appointment at Acura was very efficient and pleasant, and we were not surprised to learn that the dealership ranks #1 in the nation on measures of customer satisfaction.

After spending tonight in Reno, near the western edge of the state, tomorrow we will traverse Nevada on the purported loneliest highway in the U.S. and land in Ely, near the eastern border.

More Photos from Today

Dramatic terrain changes as we drove east on US-50 toward Carson City
Leading the nation in customer satisfaction.  Must be the cookies and Starbucks coffee they serve.
With more than 2,000 hotel rooms and ten restaurants, the Peppermill is one of the top five employers in Reno.