Leaving Northern California's lava beds, we continued south through the mountains to Susanville, CA and finally to Sparks, NV and one of our favorite parks, Sparks Marina RV resort. We checked in for a week so that Brenda could make a special trip to meet with our daughter, Kim, who is a Flight Attendant (FA) for American Airlines. She was being recognized as one of the “Top One Percent” of American’s FAs at the Dallas Gaylord Resort. Proud mom was invited to attend, and Reno was our best option for her to fly from while the cat and I were left alone to fend for ourselves. So off she went for a night of celebration at the “Flight Champions” banquet, some quality time with our daughter, and a chance to reconnect with some old friends. She had a great time, and couldn’t say enough about the banquet. The setting, the food, and the recognition ceremony were amazing, and Kim and mom came away very impressed. It’s always great to see an employer recognizing employees who excel. Congratulations, Kim – we’re proud of you!
From Reno, we headed east along “America’s Loneliest Road” to Ely, where we hoped to visit the Great Basin National Park. The road actually isn’t that desolate, in fact it’s much more interesting than Highway 95 from Reno to Las Vegas. There’s an interesting story how the name came about, and how the Nevada Tourism Department uses it to their advantage – read about it here. Unfortunately, the weather in the Great Basin was horrible – fog, low ceilings, and rain – so we continued on to Las Vegas and the Nellis AFB RV park.
Although we frequently stop in Las Vegas, we avoid the downtown and strip with their crowds, people trying to hand out sales material, and the clouds of cigarette smoke. If we feel the need to visit a casino, we hop on the outer parkway and head over to the west side of town, where there are upscale casino resorts with a less touristy crowd. But mostly, we relax, shop, and explore the natural beauty of the area that most visitors don’t notice. On this visit, we made a trip to the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, a BLM-managed public area with stunning vistas and a remarkable visitor center. You can spend a few hours there viewing the exhibits, reading the interpretive placards, and wandering along the paths while enjoying the desert landscaping and scenic views. It’s worth a visit just to spend time there. But it’s the 13-mile scenic drive that attracts people to the tune of over one million a year. If you’re a tourist from Iowa or Louisiana, how can you resist the opportunity to see something so convenient and so different? The wildly colored red rock looks unreal in some areas – as if it’s some kind of hardened red taffy. Even on a dreary weekday in October, the line of cars stretched far ahead of us; a mix of rentals and cars with out of state plates. People were enjoying the warm day and walking the trails that weave their way through the rock formations. Watching it all with a bored expression was a wild burro, a common resident. As we continued to drive the loop, the road pulled away from the cliffs and wandered up and down through the desert landscape, giving us some great views of the towering rocks:
The short trip to Red Rock Canyon provides and interesting diversion from the traffic, glitter, and glitz of the Las Vegas strip. Looking for another diversion, we decided to revisit Lake Mead’s main marina and compare the water level. The lake water level continues to fall, and is a few feet lower than our last visit (April 2014 on left, Oct 2015 on right).
We’re still traveling south and visiting interesting places, so stop back and check on where we’ve been!