…and back It’s a beautiful sunny day and we’re on the road to Reno. We were last there in October; there is more snow now, but thankfully not on the road. (An ominous voice somewhere outside my consciousness says “Just wait, buster.”) Our lunch stop at Jack in the Box. OK, its fast food, but it is fast and unlike other burger joints, it has a broad selection of tasty menu items and it’s cooked when you order. Be nice if they paid some attention to the ambience… not to mention the restrooms.
My mission is to drive Brian to Lovelock NV, about 70 miles east of Reno, to pick up a Tacoma he bought on E-Bay. Carol’s mission is to go shopping while we’re away. Brian has guests – Ken-the-kilt-guy and his wife Leigh – so Carol and I went straight to the Peppermill Sports Book to watch Butler kick K-State butt and West Virginia send Kentucky home.
Sunday, Brian dropped Ken and Leigh at the airport and went to his office for a bit of catch-up. Sadly, I missed the drive through the desert, as the Tacoma guy brought the truck to Brian. For a late lunch, I grilled hot-dogs from Fatted Calf served with grilled Acme buns – stuff I brought from SF for the occasion – a step up from Saturday’s fare on the foodie chain. Michigan State led Tennessee by a point with 1.3 seconds to go… the Tennessee half-court heave at the buzzer was UGLY, sealing an MSU win. Duke had no trouble with Baylor, rounding out the Final Four.
After dinner, we played a game of Homer Simpson CLUE. That was fun (‘cause I won) (Marge in the Nuclear Plant with the necklace). MONDAY First thing Monday, Carol followed me as I took Brian’s Camry for an oil change. B is fixin’ to sell it, since now has a wikkid Toyota Tacoma truck, dark green with a big “Off Road” logo on the back quarter. We went from there to Legends featuring outlet stores for every National Chain you ever heard of. Whoop! But it’s well designed and landscaped, using their one-percent art for sculptures of Nevada State Bird, Flower, Tree and so on. On this day, it was really windy, a portent of things to come.
Of course, lunch was involved and we sampled Cadillac Ranch, big place, mechanical bull and decent food for what it is. Place was mainly empty, so Leslie, our waitress had plenty of time to chat us up.
There was so much food that when B joined us, there was plenty for him, as well. After, I went with B to pick up Camry. Place is a two-bay former gas station with a tarp across the front to ward off the dust and wind. They specialize in Smog Checks. B chatted up the owner… figured he’d ask about three grand for the Camry… guy said it sounded about right. (Turns out he sold it on Craig’s List for $2850 cash, in less than 24 hours.) I found a sheltered, sunny bench in Brian’s back yard and read “The Orange and the Blue, Letter from Ukraine” in The New Yorker. Sounds like their elections are as feckless and negative as ours. Dinner was planned at BOOMTOWN, a casino hotel on the California-Nevada border. Live Whole Lobster Buffet from Friday through Monday. Can’t pass that up… $25 (half for seniors)… all you can eat.
Brian had four, Carol and I had two each… the coleslaw was really good. The lobster was good in an unadulterated steamed way. The clientele was definitely on the workingman side of the spectrum… didn’t see any free spending tourists.
The TV weather folks were all excited about a “blizzard raging in the mountains,” although the sun was shining in Reno Tuesday morning. Brian pulled up the weather on his iPhone; it soberly reported high winds and heavy snow for Tuesday, tapering off, but lasting through Thursday. Not a good day, we figured, to drive over those mountains to SF. Brian offered us his AWD Subaru, and that would be possible since he promised not to take Sadie out in our car. After Brian was off to work, I went in search of chain info… I hadn’t used chains since Roanoke on our 1967 273 Barracuda. I loved that car, ours was bright blue with a black interior, sleek and fast. Alas, it was stolen from the South Roanoke Apartment Village parking area. Those were the days, I was young and fearless. On this day, my bones were filled with anxiety about mountains, chains, snow, wind, you name it.
Started looking for chains at Home Depot in the nearby shopping center. Tire chains? Nope, go to Auto Zone at Pyramid and McCarren. Not too far. By now the wind was roiling and the weather gods were spitting snow into the Reno basin. At Auto Zone, I learned that tire chains are sold by the set of two, $40 for standard, $60 for deluxe, and I only need them for the drive (front) wheels. The deluxe are coated wire in a WWWW pattern, rather than the regular chains in a HHHH pattern. That’s good to know, and I thanked them. Back home, I called the 2010 Census and cancelled my appointment to take the qualification test. We’re stayin’ over. Brian called and said to meet him at Carolina BBQ for lunch… he’s got a coupon. Our bargain eats continue.
After lunch, my anxiety ruled; I went and got the deluxe chains. I felt better instantly.
Carol and I made Spanish Fish Soup for dinner, loosely based on a recipe in Brian’s new Spanish cookbook. Made fish stock with a large salmon head, paprika, saffron, bay leaf, onion, celery, carrot, water, wine; strained. Poached cod, shrimp, scallops, crab legs in the stock. Yum.
Wednesday morning, the TV weather dudes were saying that mountain winds had decreased, snow showers goin’ on, chains required at high elevations. We set off at 10:30 and set the trip odometer to zero – didn’t want to get to Donner Pass before noon. The roads were clear but wet… not a lot of traffic other than 18 wheelers. Lots of fresh, white snow along the side of the I-80.
As we climbed into California on the backside of the Sierras, I was relieved to see a Jaguar and a low slung BMW pass us… we’re not the only two wheel drive autos out here. We passed a number of big-rigs at the side of the road, putting on chains, but there was no sign yet of organized chain installers or “STOP – Chains Required” signs.
At mile 40, 11:20am we did see such activity just past the Donner Lake exit. “CHAINS INSTALLED $30” Guy in a green and silver jump suit is waving us over… “Chain Installer” emblazoned across his back. “Turn your wheels toward me… back up a little… more… more… STOP… turn wheels forward… pull forward a little… done.” Repeat for the passenger side. Carol handed the guy 30-bucks. “Speed limit is 30mph with chains,” he said.
We pulled out behind a blue-green Nissan Sentra with Arkansas plates, through some serious slush onto the clear, wet road. Chains were quite bumpy at low speed, but at 30mph, just a smooth, rumbley presence.
We went over Donner Summit (elev 7239) and started a long, downhill grade. Carol said she saw a sign, “chains required for forty miles,” but after 10 miles we reached a chain removal area. $15 for chain removal… such a deal. We were on our way.
We stopped at Burger King in Auburn for lunch. Jack-in-the-Box is way better, but their restrooms suck, and we didn’t feel like taking the time to go into Newcastle for that nice Italian restaurant. All in all, the drive home was surprisingly easy, just expensive.
Back home, I took the dirty salty filthy car to the car wash, but it started raining and when I got there, the car wash was closing. Well, a little fresh rain won’t hurt. I can wash the car tomorrow.