Day 54.

Day 54 - Las Vegas, NV, to South Lake Tahoe, NV

Run - None

From the eyes of Charlie

Unlike many other fast paced trips I’ve taken over the years (in which at the end I would proclaim, “Wow, I can’t believe it’s over now, where has all the time gone?”), on the Running Road Trip, I can definitely say I know exactly where that time has gone. It’s gone to hot afternoons spent napping in the sunny passenger seat of a purple 2012 RAV4. It’s gone to late nights writing blog posts, sifting through blog-cover-worthy photos, while fighting off heavy eyelids. I’ve eaten amounts of hot chips over the span of a few days that would make any mere mortal’s knees quiver, we’ve all become professional post-run “tick checkers”, snarfed down countless bowls of hot oats, raisins, and nut butter before our 6:30 am departure time, and my favorite part...engaged in hours and hours of involved conversation with fantastic runners and generous hosts from all corners of this great country.

Today was no different. Today, I spent part of the toasty afternoon napping in the passenger seat of our beautiful, trusty RAV4 steed. Today, I dove into a quick bowl of oats and raisins (but no nut butter!). Today, I resisted buying a bag of $1.69 spicy chips at the gas station (seriously, it’s impressive how consistent the price of a bag of chips is in gas stations across the country). Today, we didn’t run so there were no ticks to check! Today, I’m writing the blog! Today, we got to hang out with Scott, our very generous Couchsurfing.com host in South Lake Tahoe. The guy is renting a beautiful, spacious condo just ten minutes from the lake, nestled in a classic Tahoe pine forest. And get this!! His place has a large second story wooden patio, with a large four person tent complete with its own queen sized air mattress and pillows! When he pointed it out during the house tour, I called DIBS! I’m serious when I say that the two outdoor showers I used on this trip (in New Hampshire and in North Carolina) were two of my top 5 trip experiences. Now I get to sleep outside while in Tahoe, but also not have to set up the tent or blow up the air mattress. Such luxury!

The drive we did today was such a grab bag of beautiful scenes in the American West. We began our journey in the concrete metropolis of “Lost Wages”, NV. As we climbed and climbed farther northwest, the suburban sprawl just kept going and going. There were identical, light brown, Spanish-style, single family homes “from the 200s” stretching for probably 20-30 miles northwest of Vegas as we drove out of town on Hwy 95. After a quick, expensive gas pit stop (you can never be too careful in the desert), we drove through the driest and most majestic desert in North America: the Mojave. Stretching for miles and miles ahead of us were wiggly joshua trees, unforgivingly hot and rocky mountains, and of course the ever-present gently sloping plains populated with a uniform distribution of hardy desert flora. After about two and a half hours of desert rambling, we started climbing through the easternmost mountains in southwest Nevada, the very mountains that slice through Death Valley National Park. As we climbed and climbed, we started to escape the deadly rain shadow, and began descending through taller and more coniferous trees and shrubs. We wound through the hills for the next hour, as the roads became more and more windy, even descending to “one lane, yield to oncoming traffic” for about 1000 ft, we popped out onto a descent into my favorite valley in the USA: the Eastern Sierra.

The Sierras never fail to blow me away. As Sadie whipped us around another tight corner of CA-168, I laid eyes on those majestic peaks for the first time in over a year. The only way I could discern their jagged forms from the uniform blue of the skyline was from the distributed, high-albedo (aka white) patches of frozen water strewn across their many peaks and high alpine valleys. As we continued to descend through the semi-arid mountains of far eastern California, the Sierras would pop in and out of view, teasing us incessantly. Finally, we pulled off onto a small dirt turnout, and gave Bailee a chance to recover from carsickness while the rest of us basked in the glow of the rough and tumble Sierra Nevada peaks ripping up out of the valley below.

The reason I love this valley so much, as well as its mother road US-395, is the feeling of enclosure you get while speeding north as the mountains press ever closer to your vehicle. We took a quick food pit stop in Bishop to eat homemade burgers and fries (veg + gluten-free friendly!) at Bishop Burger Barn, and one near Mono Lake to stare at California’s great salty lake. At this point I was in the drivers’ seat, but a little over an hour after passing Mono Lake, my eyelids started to gain considerable weight (even after a fantastic cup of coffee from Black Sheep Coffee Roasters in Bishop) so Nico and I switched seats. After my fantastic afternoon nap in the passenger seat, we only had an hour or so to go until hitting Tahoe! I haven’t been here since I was a little kid, so it’s been great to experience familiar sights and smells once again. I’m really pumped to run up the mountain tomorrow. Apparently our trail takes us from below the base of a ski mountain all the way to the mid-mountain lodge. I hope I survive!

Stats/facts of the day:

Miles driven: 443

Miles run: 0

Elevation gained (feet): 0

Bears seem outside of host's location: 1

Percentage of CAF raised from individual donations: 64.2%

http://curealz.org/heroes/running-road-trip