Having been to Vegas on our first trip to the States I kind of thought that Reno, the ‘biggest little city in the world’ would be very similar, loads of people, loads of gambling, soliciting everywhere, good food (amazingly as we thought in Vegas) smaller bed rooms (to encourage you to gamble!) and fun!
In fact it was pretty quiet on Monday afternoon when we arrived, not too many people, most of them gambling, no soliciting that we saw, good food if you selected carefully, a huge and comfortable bed room and a great place to unwind after our delightful ‘eco’ experience. Ironically, the Sands Hotel where we stayed cost a fraction of the price of any of our previous accomodation as we arrived outside a weekend ($34.99 + tax), our room was MASSIVE and we had a nice bathroom which was a BIG bonus for me and the clientele were pretty middle class and conservative (not sure how pollitically correct that statement is!). Once we had scanned the literature in the bedroom we immediately decided to gather our wits and stay for two rather than one night in order to relax a bit and take some time to visit the amazing Farrah National Automobile Museum. One thing that became immediately obviously as we strolled around the strip on Monday evening was how the current economical climate appears to have definitely hit Reno. Quite a few of the large hotel/casino complexes were closed and there were people sleeping rough and begging on the streets but the reason this might have been more obvious is because the lack of people staying in town was pretty startling. When we were in Vegas it was HOPPING mid week, Reno was just exsisting and ticking over waiting for the onflux of bikers which were due to arrive on Thursday night and Friday morning for a HUGE festival taking place over the weekend. For all of that I definitely enjoyed our stay, the town felt surprisingly safe, we weren’t ripped off in any way, I actually had my meal of the holiday at our own hotel (an excellent vegeterian pad thai) and the automible museum was brilliant although if you were one of the people glued to your slot machine possibly this would not be high on your adgenda! Moving on from Reno on Wednesday morning we got totally tied up in traffic restrictions, this was due to the road closures which enabled the city organise for the bikers weekend and it took us about 55 minutes to actually leave the city, pretty frustrating but good fun watching all the bikes which were already starting to arrive in droves. Our aim was to get to Yosemite but we got diverted along the way when we arrived at Mono lake and discovered that we were only a short distance from Bodie, a totally preserved mining town nestling in a desolate area of high desert.
Bodie was AMAZING! It is absoloutely astounding to think that after the gold rush when the town was abandoned most people just left all their possessions exactly as they were. Houses are furnished, shops and hotels are stocked, abandoned vehicles litter the desert, totally an awsome sight. There is an excellent museum inside the main public building and we discovered that it was far too expensive to transport items out of the town at the turn of the century therefore everyone just abandoned things when financial circumstances made staying in the town unsustainable except for a few hardy survivors who stayed on well into the twentieth century. It was a fascinating insight into the harsh conditions speculators lived in in the late 1880s, summer temperatures of over 90 degrees, winters up to minus 40. Many of the people died due to the weather and lack of insulation but others made their fortunes, sometimes $90,000 in 3 months, quite amazing. We then moved on to the north eastern side of Yosemite and stayed in a fun little spot called Lee Vining which was just 12 miles outside the park and had some basic but good food and accomodation plus a small cafe with decent coffee and everywhere had a nice friendly atmosphere. Using this as our base for 2 nights we headed into Yosemite, more to follow in the next post!