Day 54

Trip Start Dec 24, 2011
1
47
55
Trip End Feb 27, 2012


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Flag of United States  , California
Thursday, February 16, 2012

Day 54
Tracy is very concerned about our drive today. He doesn't like snow at the best of times, but for today, if it has snowed excessively the pass over the mountains may be inaccessible and he won't know till he is at the gate. He had expected the snow from the previous fall to have melted, however the evening temps have been very cool and it hasn't melted and probably won't for a good while. As we are having breakfast, I kid Tracy about the possibilities of more snow. He is mortified that I should even think of it. Tracy has hired a vehicle. Nothing special, so no four wheel drive, no snow tyres, he doesn't own snow chains and truth to be told, I doubt he would be employed as a driving instructor anywhere.
The car is packed and off we go. One of the places we are going to go through is Donner Pass. It has the unenviable history of a family being trapped by a snow storm and dinner was sometimes the two legged variety, rather than the usual four legged variety, so not all of the Donner party was able to be rescued. This happened some time ago, however, a local of Tahoe had been trapped for three days in the recent downfalls. We are off for the day's adventure and after the first half dozen turns we are lost. We duck into a servo and get pointed in the correct direction and we are off down the road at eighty odd mph.
We are heading first to Lake Tahoe which is about two and half hours away. We are slowly moving up to the mountains and we arrive at Lake Tahoe. We do a quick drive around the town and find parking under one of the casinos. We walk around the small town which has the state line running down one of its streets. Nevada on one side of the street and California on the other. I am surprised that they haven't made more of it. There is just two small street signs. Morning tea is on the list so we venture into a casino and find Tracy's favorite coffee haunt. There is a floor to ceiling fountain that is two storeys high with an area for kids with every electronic game machine any kid could wish for, that is decked out like a forest. The support pillars are decorated like a tree trunk with branches and fake foliage with four squirrels at each corner of transition from pillar to floor. It is not very busy but there are still people at the one armed bandits. There is a restaurant on one of the higher floor which has a viewing area and up we go for some pics.
It is close to midday and we are behind schedule for meeting up with another of Carmen's cousins where will be staying the night and having dinner at a local restaurant. We head off to Emerald Bay. This is somewhere near the north end of the lake. This is the pass that Tracy has been worrying about. It is a two lane tarred road which has no guard railing on either side. Should you have a slip up, venturing off the road on either side would end up in an end for end roll for about 1000 feet or till your vehicle was wrapped round a tree. I can under Tracy's apprehension about this pass especially if it was covered in snow. Still I kid him that it is wide enough to over take a semi trailer with your eyes shut.
The view is spectactular. The colour of the water is a deep rich azure blue, Emerald Bay on our right and another bay on the left. Emerald bay has history to it. There is a small island about one third the way up the bay. The care taker of the island unfortunately had some bad luck. During one winter he was on his way to the island. It isn't far to row so off he goes. The weather turned sour and his small row boat capsized and into the ice cold water he went. It was some time before he was rescued and as a result he amputated two of his own toes.
Further down the track, he decided he wanted to be buried on the rock island. He built a timber vault, rowing the timber out to the island. Again, after he completed the the vault, he was on the water and the weather went sour. Over the boat goes along with him. This time, he lost more than his toes. lt appears his body was not found, so presumed dead by drowning. The poor bugger.
Later, a very smart lady, (whose name is on a photograph), finally petitioned the authorities to buy some land. She purchased two hundred acres that included the Emerald Bay waterfront and the above mentioned island. She had a rock tea-house erected atop the small island with all of the required building rock rowed from the main shore to the island and carried to the apex of the island where the tea house still stands. A one mile walk from the road with your bags will see you to the sleeping quarters/hotel that was also built by the same lady. She wanted a particular look using rock and had constructed a european style house with conical style roofs where required. The picture at the lookout said the house was there, but I couldn't see it through the trees. Maybe I can find it when I look at the pictures when I get home.
Back in the car, and we are way behind with more things to see. We top the mountain and head down the other side and pass many homes secreted within the bush as well as winter rentals. When it snows properly up here it must be a real sight. We follow a quick running stream that I imagine is usually frozen, and we head down into Squaw Valley, a home to the winter Olympics, 1960. It is very picturesque as the terrain passes by. The snow disappears as we descend into the valley and is very similar to the Leeton - Griffith agriculture area of home. Very flat with blossoms already out on the fruit trees and many wind farms on the ridges. The temp starts to rise and it is warm in the car as we chase the setting sun. We join the city's highways as peak hour hits and we grind our way to Tom and Betty's place where we will be staying the night.
In late afternoon, we arrive in Woodland, which is north of Sacramento. They live in this beautiful three (or four storey, depending on whether you count the widow's walk - five, if you include the theatre, laundry and bathroom in the basement) Victorian house (mansion is a more appropriate description) - dating from 1876 - it is utterly magnificent. There is a library, parlour and dining room - a kitchen and family living area (this area is a glass panelled sunroom, imported in sections, by a previous owner, from England - three bedrooms, four bathrooms, an office (Both Betty and Tom work from home - Betty's office is in the house, while Tom's is out the back) - plus the basement rooms and Tom's attic workshop - all interestingly furnished, in the period and other complementary vintages. Our bedroom is just gorgeous, in fact, every room is delightful and charming. We enjoy a glass of wine before walking to a Mexican restaurant on Main St - it used to be a bank - and it is couples dining in the vault area - more wine, a margarita or two, and delicious food - I try carnitas with my tostada, which tasted really good. They brought Peter's creme caramel with its own little birthday candle and sang happy birthday - which he just loved! After dinner, we strolled back to the house for some post-prandial port, continuing conversation and eventually sleep. We are fortunate to have this opportunity to spend time with Tom and Betty, share a meal and enjoy their very generous hospitality - the beautiful house is just a bonus. We have so much in common - it's just too bad home is on the opposite sides of the world.
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