We landed in Reno a few minutes ahead of our scheduled arrival. That was a great start to our trip.
Unfortunately, the rental car agency wasted an hour of our precious vacation time while we stood in line. Lesson learned: Be sure to sign up for their speedy exit service before we rent a car again. We ended up with an upgrade to a Chevy Tahoe though. Comfortable vehicle but difficult to park; but not as bad on gas as we thought it would be.
Once we were on the road, our vacation was off to a flying start, including a glimpse of the of air races that were going on just outside Reno. Although we were flying in and out of Reno, Reno really wasn’t our destination. We planned to drive to the Oregon coast and pick up our travels from where we ended on the coast last year.
Our first stop was Susanville, California which would get us a bit out of Reno after our day of flying (Toronto to Denver to Reno). We had decided we were going to make this trip with the bare minimum of hotel bookings, but we had booked our first and last nights. The Diamond Mountain View Hotel & Casino was our first stop. It’s not a huge place, but we had a nice non-smoking room for a reasonable rate. The casino also has a non-smoking restaurant area where we had excellent dinners. Al loved his prime rib, and I had a fantastic flat iron steak. The restaurant is not fancy, but the food was well above average. There were several vintage vehicles in the parking lot, so we took a walk around to check them out and ran across an interesting solar powered bicycle.
With the time change, it was an early night for us, but then we were up early the next morning and on the road. Just outside Susanville, we stopped to take some pictures – the sun not very high on the horizon and Mount Shasta in the distance.
We took a somewhat back road trip into Lava Beds National Monument. For the most part, Modoc Volcanic Scenic Highway was a normal secondary highway, then it became pretty much one lane and then gravel (don’t tell our rental car agency!). There are plenty of hiking and camping opportunities within the monument and the chance to explore the caves. For us, it was an interesting spot to view the rugged terrain created by volcanic eruptions.
Our route into the monument didn’t have an entrance gate, but our drive out of the Monument did require us to stop and pay the entrance fee. The person on the gate was great about answering our questions about the National Park Service fees and passes. We learned that if we bought an annual pass within 7 days of paying our fee for Lava Beds that we could use our receipt as partial payment toward the annual pass. We didn’t do that this trip, but it’s a good thing to remember for future trips.
Not far from Lava Beds is the Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Over the years, we’ve talked many times about needing a better lens for our camera, and our stop here brought the topic up again. I have never seen so many ducks in one place in my life; unfortunately, our photos don’t do them justice. There were other birds in the area as well, and we were able to get some better shots of them. The refuge offers photo blinds for folks wanting to take pictures.
The refuge is over 39,000 acres of upland, wetland and farmland. One of the crops that is grown there is onions, and the smell was prevalent as we drove through those areas. Other plantings include potatoes, horseradish and alfalfa.
Next stop was Crater Lake National Park in Oregon. The day of our visit coincided with their annual event that allows people to bicycle half the rim of the lake, so that meant the park was particularly busy with bicyclists and we were only allowed to drive the east rim. The lake is the result of a collapsed volcano approximately 7,700 years ago. It’s fed only by rain and snow, is the deepest lake in the USA, and is considered by many to be the cleanest lake on earth. Despite the number of people in the park, the lake is very peaceful and beautiful.
From Crater Lake, we headed to the Oregon coast and arrived in Florence in time to find a hotel and dinner. Florence is where we ended our trip to Oregon last year, so we were looking forward to continuing our trip down the west coast of the USA.
Please check back to read the second installment on our west coast road trip.