Sunday, September 25, 2011

Virginia City, NV: A Step Back in Time

Virginia City is located about 15 miles NE of Carson City, Nevada.  In the mid-1800’s, Virginia City became a very important city after large lodes of Gold & Silver were discovered.  It quickly became a Boom Town of over 30,000 people. Like many Boom Towns it drew savory & unsavory characters alike.   While most Boom Towns from that era became cities with other forms of commerce or a Ghost town, Virginia City continues to bustle in much the same state as it was 150 years ago.

 Tucked away on the side of a mountain, the town has managed to protect its history and yet adapt and remain relevant in todays society.   Much of the town is made up of historical buildings.  The walkway is still wood planks.  There are saloons, casinos, museums and shops.  The city plays host to Ghost walks, has a train ride from Carson City to VA. City and has a number of major events that include car shows and Ostrich races.  My first visit was during a BMX Motorcross event.   The streets were packed and it was a _crazy_ time!  I choose to revisit when town was a little less akin to the way it was in the 1800’s! 

On my revisit I enjoyed the stain glasses windows of the Church, as well as, a stroll through the town and the very old cemetery.   It is a pretty relaxed town, Dog was allowed to hang out several of the stores and the open-door casinos. She was not allowed in the church.   I guess casinos have always been a little more accepting of some things than churches!    Yes, it is a bit touristy but still worth a visit if you are in the area.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Finding my 'Inner Gatherer' .. Pine Nut Gatherer that is!

So I set out on this warm September morn to do some Pine Nut gathering.  I had never really considered gathering pine nuts.   My previous pine nut gathering experience involved going to the grocery store on special occasions when I could afford the $5 for the little bag of the precious nuts.  Being a Burbite I never really thought about people out in the wilderness among the squirrels and critters actually harvesting pine nuts from the trees. That is, until my visit to the BLM office yesterday, where they had 3 inquires on pine nut gathering in 20 minutes.  Not wanting to seem naive, I waited till the office was empty of visitors and inquired what the pine nut deal was all about.  The lady gave me instructions, wrote down directions to where I should go and said this was a yearly event for her family.
When I got home I looked up Pine nut gathering and found numerous videos on the subject ...   Apparently _many_ folks go pine nut gathering, especially native americans... who knew?    This morning I set out with my handwritten directions and new found wisdom feeling all ‘hunter & gatherer’-ish.  As I headed up the dirt roads, carefully following her direction at each fork and finally getting into evergreen type trees, I realized I had no clue on which type of pine tree I was looking for!  There were several different kinds of trees with pine needles.  After a brief panic I decided that surely any type of pine tree with pine cones would be fine or certainly I would have come across someone in my YouTube research who gave a warning to stay away from xyz tree.  So I continued. (Long live YouTube!)
Finally when I had gone my ‘30 - 45 minutes from the last fork in the road’ I saw pine cones and stopped.  I used gloves to pick with and put them all in my Trader Joe’s paper sack.  To say Pine Cones are sappy is an understatement!  The sap came through my gloves.  I had it everywhere!   The videos neglected to tell me to wear long pants to walk through scrub brush and to watch out for snakes and scorpions!  Still I was feeling pretty good about being all ‘natural’ .. out in the wilderness gathering nuts for my dinner table.
When I gathered all I could at this spot I moved up the road and stopped again to take a pic of a lone flower.   This is where I met Tom.   Tom was heading to town on his ATV and stopped to let me know I had missed flower season.  It turns out that Tom is a prospector who has lived ‘up in the hills’ in the area for 12 years.  When I mentioned I was gathering pine nuts, he smiled slightly and told me I was “too early”.   He expounded upon ins,outs and when of gathering.  He looked in my bag and told me my pine cones, sappy though they were, probably hadn’t had time to develop any nuts yet!  Noticing the sap on my hands, he had me rub my hands in the dirt then gave me a pair of his gloves so I could drive without getting sap on everything.  He questioned me on back country survival knowledge & readiness, shared stories of the characters and  misdeeds that occur ‘in the hills’ and along with his warnings, gave me directions to a spring where I might be able to find some flowers.

Feeling a little deflated and not finding the spring amidst a myriad of unmarked roads, I picked a few more cones that looked ‘more done’ and headed home.  The sap was beginning to be quite annoying.   It was on both hands, in the crux of my arm and having moved my hair back more than once, I had clumps of hair sticking together as well!  I am sure I looked like a flunky pine nut gather.  My native american ancestors I’m sure are appalled!   Even after a shower and sponge scrub down I am still finding patches of sap!!  I have my pine cones in my bag in the sun where they are suppose to stay for about 10 days.. then I am suppose to try and extract the nuts ......if mine even have any nuts.  So much for finding my ‘inner gatherer’.  I don’t think I will even attempt the hunter part!   $5 for 3 oz of nuts? ... Sounds like a bargain!

Follow up:  Indeed my Pine cones just oozed sap & turned brown.  I harvested one unedible pine nut!  Trader Joe’s here I come.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Touring Tahoe

I am not usually a fan of Lakes that are heavily commercialized.  I prefer the serene mountain lake over jet ski’s and ski boats, but I have to say, that in spite of the commercialized part of Lake Tahoe .. it is a tremendously  beautiful lake!   The blue colors are amazing and seem to change throughout the day.
North Shore
This is the second deepest lake in the US and it is a _big_ lake.  The loop around the lake is 72 miles.   They say around 1/3 of the lake lies in Nevada & the rest is in California.  You know you hit the Neveda line when you start seeing casinos!  I was told to go check out the CalNeva Casino where there is a state line marker that went through the casino.  I did but it seems the CalNeva has lost a bit of its luster since it’s hey day when the Rat Pack were popular.  Instead of there being a competition between the states along the lake there seems to be a bit of competition between and the north and south shores of the lake. 
Eagle Falls
We picked up a map from the North shore of the lake that put the map’s legend on top of the South shore’s commerce area!  South Lake Tahoe definitely is there and is bustling with lots of shops, restaurants and casinos.    The North shore has smaller towns with shopping areas that are more spread out & less concentrated than on the Southside.   I personally liked the Lake Tahoe ‘middles’ where   it has been left natural and there are great view points and trails down to the lake.  Many of these area’s have fees to get into but there are several pull-offs with nice views and trails to the lake as well.
One of the most popular, and one of my favorite spots as well, is Eagle Falls at Emerald Bay.   The colors in the bay are beautiful and in the spring Eagle Falls is roaring.  It’s a great place to take a picnic lunch and just hang.  You won’t be alone but the people watching here can be interesting as well.

For RVers with big rigs, there are some restrictions on the west side of the lake loop along Rt. 89.  It does get very winding and narrow with hair pin turns.   I’d stick to keeping my rig between South Lake Tahoe and Tahoe City and the east side of the lake if you are over 28’.  I am staying in Carson City, NV which is about 12 miles from the lake, where the prices are much cheaper and it is a bit warmer.  (The downside being it is desert instead of tall pines, its windy and a bit noisier than the Lake area.)  It is an easy drive over to the lake to catch the activities on the North or South Shore and at the many surrounding ski areas.  There are a lot of events and entertainment around the lake in addition to the boating, kayaking, hiking, parasailing and cruises that are also popular in the area.    All and all .. not a bad place to be!  :-)

Dog enjoying some shade at the South Shore's StateLine Restaurant

Monday, September 19, 2011

Touring in my home town: St. Louis

Union Station - Downtown St. Louis

I haven’t lived in St. Louis for over 15 years.  When I do return, I have my favorite haunts that I like to visit.   The Missouri Botanical Gardens, Grants Farm and Ted Drewes Frozen Custard and the Hill neighborhood to name a few.
The Hill's - Amighettis Bakery - far side of the street

When most people visit St. Louis, they visit the Arch, the Old Cathedral and maybe the Brewery and move on down the road.  But St. Louis has much more than the Arch to offer.  In addition to the Zoo and the whole Forest Park area where the 1904 World Fair took place, St. Louis has many neighborhoods offering their own unique set of restaurants, shops and experiences.  To name a few, there is the Central West End, the Loop, Grand South Grand, the Shaw Neighborhood, Soulard’s,  and my favorite “the Hill”.   

Gelato on the Hill

The Hill area was originally settled by Italian immigrants and while the residents are from many ethnic backgrounds today, the neighborhood has still kept it’s Italian identity.   You know you are on the Hill when you start seeing the red, white & green fire hydrants and banners saying “The Hill”.   Here you will find narrow streets with Italian restaurants, markets, and bakeries tucked in among the small brick homes.   There are restaurants for every budget and the food is fab.  I rarely eat Italian elsewhere in the country because I have been spoiled by the Italian food in St. Louis.  I made a few trips to the Hill in my visit this summer.   
Vince Mantia, Mantia Fruit Co.

Despite having grown up in St. Louis I continue to find new places to go and see.  Thanks to my Uncle who played 'Tour guide for a day', I discovered some new sights and sounds and learned a bit of history as well.

Our first stop was the St. Louis Produce Row where he introduced me too Vince Mantia, president of the Mantia Fruit Company.  Vince told me stories of his father coming over on a boat and starting their Fruit Co that has provided fruit to St. Louis eateries and grocers since the 1920’s.  Produce Row is apparently where most of the bulk produce is purchased from in St. Louis.  My restauranteur family members, of whom I have several, apparently did all of their shopping here.  It was an interesting visit as we picked up fruit for the Soup Kitchen my Uncle volunteers at.
Making my Malt @ Crown Candy Kitchen

Next we visited Chili Mac’s, which had previously been my Grandmother’s Coffee Shop.  We had some great Chili and reminisced with the owner John who bought the shop from my grandmother.  Then we were off to Crowns Candy Kitchen. Crown’s Candy Kitchen has a national reputation.  In fact their Malts were just featured on the the Food Network.   They serve food in addition to having candy and malts.  I had to go for the Malt though & indeed it was good.  I think I will have to go back.
Services in Polish  .. who knew!?

I sipped my Malt as my uncle narrated the points of interest in the Polish section of St. Louis & on some of the historical buildings in downtown.   I learned many new interesting facts on our trek and appreciated the tour.  Can’t think of a better way to tour my hometown!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Summer Time Woes.....

After my little ‘Come to Jesus’ incident in the mountains, I thought a trip to St. Louis to see my family might be a good idea.  I hadn’t visited in over a year and have young nieces and a nephew that I can’t get hugs from via Skype.   I was also a bit tired of the cold temps still happening in Carson City.  So on a whim, I packed up dog and the car and made the trek to the Lou.  I left in a sweatshirt with a ski jacket and when I hit Nebraska I hit a wall of heat.  It was so hot that I had to switch to driving at night because my car AC wasn’t working.  I considered turning around at this point because I am _very_ heat sensitive and was questioning the wisdom of the trying to do anything in the heat.  I keep going & by the time I got to St. Louis the heat indexes were in the triple digits!  It got better within a couple days but the plan was to visit and go before the real heat hit in July.

On Father’s Day, Dog was chasing a rabbit and collapsed.   Her entire back end was paralyzed.  Ten days,  3 vet hospitals  and thousands of dollars later, Dog was able to leave the hospital and begin rehab.  This meant we weren’t going to get to leave before the heat came and come it did.  It was one of the top 5 hottest summers on record in St. Louis.  Dog did 6 weeks of Rehab and walks with a limp, but she is walking and has adjusted well.  I stayed in the AC with occasional forays outside where within minutes I would get sick from the heat and spend hours recuperating.  My car apparently wasn’t hip on being in the Midwest either and had 7 stays in the shop!  All this made for a _very_ long summer, where I revisited that moment of pause that I had in Nebraska more than once!  Mom’s ‘3 week' guest turned into a ‘3 month with a special needs dog' guest.  Thankfully she didn’t boot us out.
All in all, I did have a great time with family and friends and my time with the ‘little people’ was priceless.  St. Louis is a nice city, that has much too offer but in record breaking heat it is not the best time to enjoy it.  I am happy to say that Dog & I both are back at home in the rig in Carson City.  It was a little questionable at times whether either one of us would make it back at all!  I’ve told my family that they can come visit _me_ next time!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Windy, Wild & Woolly drive on Hwy. 395

I had really enjoyed staying in Pleasant Valley but being on a time frame to pick up folks north of here, I had been watching the weather so as not to get caught in any wind storms on the next leg of my trip over the mountain passes.  I decided yet again to head out the day before the high winds were to arrive.  Unfortunately, not far out of Bishop, I was in the middle of high winds.  Eventually DOT decided to post the high wind warnings suggesting that ‘high profile vehicles’ not travel!   Of course, at this point I have had the top tipping in the wind thing going on for a bit but couldn’t find a place to pull over or to turn around.  Then again I hoped I had already been thru the worst of it & ahead would be better.  It was not, instead I hit sideways snow and changing wind directions.  I could barely see the road.  To say I was white knuckling would be an understatement.  I was drenched in sweat, couldn’t breath & could hardly pry my hands of the wheel when I finally found a somewhat sheltered place to pull over along Mono Lake.
Now the winds were pretty bad .. straight line crosswinds are never good in a motorhome but I had driven in worse coming out of Vegas a couple years ago.  This time, being a couple of years older & having to go over 3 passes that were double the elevation of Bishop, my body didn’t handle it so well.  I made it to Bridgeport Marina RV park which was only 90 miles from where I started.  90 _very_ long miles!  
The next day I ended up in the ER at a hospital an hour from Bridgeport.  They surmised that I hadn’t had a heart attack .. bonus..  and should rest.  So that I did.  The manager & staff at Bridgeport Marina were delightful.  He checked on me several times to be sure I was among the living, offered to take care of Dog, have a doc come and check me out or help me with whatever I needed.   They were extremely nice!  The views of the reservoir there are quite fab too.  A reservoir surrounded by snow capped peaks, great sunsets, what more could you ask for!  It several days before I was up to drive again and 2 weeks before I started feeling back to normal.
I guess that is one of the downfalls to traveling alone.  If you get sick you’re stuck!  If you’re gonna get stuck Bridgeport Marina is a good place to be.  Thanks guys .. I appreciate your help!

(This post was from April .. catching up!)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...