The New Year in Nevada, Unexpectedly
Dec 28, 2021
Today I interrupt my chronological account to jump ahead to Real Time.
We’ve landed somewhere rather strange — and I can’t decide if we stepped into a situation comedy or a dystopia. Read on, and tell me what you think!
Here’s the situation at the moment:
We’re in an RV park in Carson City, Nevada, waiting out a snowstorm.
It Began with a White Christmas in Reno
Months ago we planned to spend the Christmas holiday in Reno, where Doug’s mother lives. Our daughters flew in and we checked into an AirBnb for a week. How wonderful to be together, and in such luxury! We had room to move around! Hot running water! A bathtub!
(Logistic Note: Since we parked the camper for a week, Doug drained the tanks and blew water through the pipes, then set the propane heater to 40 degrees. We even stretched yellow “Caution” tape around the camper — which looks rather stork-like when it’s not perched on Big Blue.)
As a family we spent a day in Virginia City, and another day driving up to Donner Pass in the Sierras. (Who can resist a disaster tale? Such misadventure!) We visited with relatives, enjoyed the Christmas decorations in casinos, shopped at thrift stores, binge-watched season 6 of “Downton Abbey” and ate lots of good meals.
It snowed on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, sometimes with flakes so large they looked artificial. We teased that maybe we shouldn’t have sung “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” with quite so much gusto.
The snow was falling as I took this photo after dark:
But all good things must come to an end!
Early on Sunday morning, the day after Christmas, we drove our daughters to the airport and waved goodbye. Then, feeling bereft, we packed up and moved back into the camper. This was not a joyous task.
The Back Story — Dental Complications
Our original plan had been to drive to Yosemite after Christmas. But we cancelled those reservations months ago, after our cold-weather initiation in Yellowstone. We had enough of cold-weather-RVing.
Since then we’ve tossed around ideas — the word “Arizona” is frequently spoken —but we’ve never settled on anything.
Then, a few weeks ago, while we were in Las Vegas, Doug had a problem with one of his front teeth. After two emergency visits to a local dentist we decided to find a dentist in Reno, since we were headed there for Christmas. At that point we had two weeks before the holiday arrived, which should cover most of the work. We figured we could manage if the treatment stretched beyond that.
Now we have come to that beyond to which we have been stretched.
Doug’s sixth (and hopefully final) dentist appointment is scheduled for the first week of January. Until that’s done, there’s no sense in us driving very far. Meanwhile the weather here has been colder and snowier than normal. Which way to drive?
To our west are the Sierra Nevadas — which are socked in by snow. (They are predicting 17 feet of snow in the passes, which are of course all closed.)
To our east is the Great Basin — which we just drove across (I look forward to writing that up!).
To our north is — actually, I have no idea what lies straight north since all the roads bend west to the Sierras.
So that leaves heading south.
Heading to Carson City by way of Washoe Lake SP
The first major town to the south of Reno — less than 45 minutes down Route 580 — is Carson City, the state capitol and the home of famous hot springs. So after we waved goodbye to our daughters and got Big Blue reassembled, that’s where we headed.
The road was clear when we left Reno. We decided to take a detour past Washoe Lake State Park. I snapped this photo as we entered the park:
A few minutes later, as we rounded the curve on the southeast side of Washoe Lake, we were pummeled with wind. Our visibility disappeared. It was like someone poured a bucket of chunky ice water across our windshield. We could sense, rather than see, a number of vehicles in the roadway.
It turned out that a number of vehicles had been stranded in snowdrifts, creating an impasse. They had driven into snow, packing it into their undercarriage.
The wind gusts made it a challenge to hand-crank the window, much less open the door.
We hadn’t seen a winter traffic mess like this since 1990, when we moved out of Minnesota. I can’t say I’ve missed it.
The supposedly 45 minute drive to Carson City took 3 hours. When we were finally moving again, we drove directly to the first RV park on the map: Camp-N-Town. It’s not a fancy business. There are more than 100 sites crammed into a small space along a minor highway.
We paid for the night. When we pulled into our site, the water spigot was frozen solid. A fellow was dispatched to pour a bucket of hot water over it while Doug hit it with a hammer, which did the trick.
Meanwhile, we had a lot of rearranging to do because of moving things from the camper to the condo and back again. For instance, all the food was in the pickup truck, which is not normal. By the time we were set up, we were both breathing hard and had stiff, cold fingers. But we were grateful to be safe, warm, and settled.
A Rude Message
In the morning it snowed again. I sat in the dinette and watched the snowflakes swirl as they fell. Eventually the wind caught our neighbor’s flag and blew it straight out — a navy flag with a red edge. There were two words in large letters. The second word was “Biden.” The first word was a four-letter verb. You can guess.
I felt shocked, and then offended. I’m kind of a prude. But I also wonder what happened to civility.
The flag was flying where the owner couldn’t see it from his rig. Obviously it wasn’t displayed for his enjoyment, but as a way to claim his turf — in a place where neighbors are some ten feet apart. I had the urge to tromp through the snow and pull the flag from its holder. But what would I do with it?
We talked about leaving, but where to? The snowstorm is widespread and the forecast says it’s far from over. To get somewhere warm we’d have to drive to Las Vegas, some 8-10 hours. That’s assuming no road closures, which are everywhere at the moment. And then we would have to return within a week. (Besides, we’re not Las Vegas people, which will become clear when I write up our earlier escapades.)
Our Water Pump Fails
Then our water pump failed. It worked fine one minute and then gave out. When Doug jiggled a wire it would work for a bit, but the whole unit obviously needs to be replaced. He’s been calling around, but the few RV dealers he can get ahold of are saying their next available appointment is in March. And no, we will no longer be in Nevada then!
Doug talked to the owner of the RV park. Fortunately there’s a guy we can hire to fix it.
Guess which guy it is?
Right. I suppose he might buy another flag with his earnings.
So we can get by without a water pump for the time being. There’s a spigot next to the camper and Doug can fill a container. We can heat the water in a pot on the stove.
Conversations with Strangers
I should also mention that we’ve spoken with two neighbors, who were both very helpful.
The older fellow beside us, in a Grand Design, has a plow on his truck. When I asked him about it, he told me all the details — what the plow cost, and when he bought it ($6,000 in 2002). The replacement headlight he just ordered cost $240 and is back-ordered for more than a month, which obviously disgusts him. He’s also peeved that the owner of the RV park doesn’t do any plowing. The road is a lumpy, slippery mess.
“I feel bad driving over it, but I’m not plowing it for free, I don’t do nothing for free, not anymore,” he says.
“Absolutely,” I agree.
He looks like a man who’s known hard living. He chain smokes and is missing a few teeth. I asked him how long he’s been staying at the park.
“I rented a house for 15 years but when the housing bubble came along my landlord gave me 30 days to clear out!”
“I suppose he could sell high,” I reply.
“He sold for $200,000!” he snorts.
Then he asks whether we’re warm enough in Big Blue, and offers us an electric blanket since he has two. We have our own electric blanket, but I’m touched by his offer. It’s the gospel in action.
The other neighbor is in his early 30s, living in an RV with his fiancee and a school-age child. He offered Doug some good info about managing the water hoses in freezing weather. He and his fiancee work two jobs between them, but don’t expect to buy a house for another two years — there is so little availability and it’s all so expensive.
So no, I’m not feeling sorry for myself, or Doug. We’re on an adventure, not a survival mission. We have options. We have dental insurance, for heaven’s sake.
I am grateful for this opportunity to walk briefly in someone else’s shoes.
Speaking of walking, last night we walked across the minor highway to eat at a Dennys. I chatted up the Door Dash guy who was waiting for an order. He said it was his first day on the job.
“How’s it going?” I asked.
“So far so good. Better than working for somebody who yells at me all day — like I should bow down to him for giving me a job!”
He worked in HVAC. I think some of those mom and pop shops must be awful. I hope something works out for this guy.
Heading to the Hot Spring
Today the snow quit so we decided to walk to the hot spring, which is only a mile and a half away. But America is designed for driving, not walking. There were few sidewalks, and those had not been shoveled. Passing traffic sprayed us with slush. After an hour of slogging, we came to an underpass that we couldn’t navigate on foot.
So we turned around. Honestly, I was just glad to be out in the fresh air and stretch my legs a bit. Tomorrow maybe we’ll drive to the hot spring.
None of this is how we planned to ring in the New Year! Not the snow, the closed roads, the failed water pump, the low-budget living in an RV park.
But that’s what makes this a Big Blue Adventure, right?
And while I’ve got some time in the days ahead, I hope to write up more of our previous adventures. I have lots of stories and good photos, so stay tuned. If you haven’t subscribed yet, why not?
Many of us said “Good Riddance” to 2020, but this past year has been just as challenging. May you be well and healthy as we turn the page to 2022!
Happy New Year!