Lake Tahoe is in the shoulder season: the skiers have gone home and summer activities have not started yet. But we just wanted to take an easy day. We walked around the village of South Lake Tahoe. Everyone we met was very friendly.
It is an extremely deep and pure lake. The water in it could cover the entire state fourteen inches deep. From what we saw, except
for a few state parks, most of the shore is lined with gated communities and private properties. The beach area in South Lake Tahoe is fenced off but seems to be accessible to the multitude of old motels packed into nearby streets and the groundskeepers invited us in. Further up the hill are the big new resorts, and as the Nevada state line goes through the lake, gambling casinos on the Nevada side of the community of Stateline.
Nevada is loaded with ghost towns. Some had only brief lives. Others were true boom towns whose wealthy residents built banks, businesses and mansions. We drove to Virginia City, Nevada (home to the Ponderosa for you older folks.) But unlike the town in the Bonanza TV show, it is built on a steep hill. They took out nearly a billion dollars in gold and silver (not adjusted for inflation) but went into ruin when the mines played out. Early in the 1900s, someone realized there were dollars in tourists, and they have mined that source ever since.
An 1875 fire destroyed almost everything in town (except the Presbyterian Church), but they rebuilt and many of the rebuilt buildings have been preserved. The Delta Saloon was one of the first. Still an operating casino, it has the “suicide table” preserved under glass. The story is that it, a faro table, was owned by three successive owners who, having lost a fortune at the table, committed suicide. Faro is no longer played in casinos because the odds did not sufficiently favor the “house” and it was too easy to cheat. And Justice in this town, like only 20 others in the US, is not blindfolded.
Across the street, the Bucket of Blood is nearly as old. We were particularly taken by its wood bar with paintings inside panels by the patrons’ feet. We also took a picture of the chandelier in the Crystal Bar. Yes, there are a lot of bars in the town. There was also a big red light district: they were miners.
In an interesting twist, a sign near the union hall said two companies of soldiers from Fort Churchill (see our earlier blog) were sent there in 1864 to put down a miners’ strike.
We took a tour of the Mackay house. At age 24, he persuaded the father of a friend to lend him sixty thousand at three percent to buy a mine. He and his partner took out five million dollars in silver and then, with two others, bought another property between two mines and dug down over eleven hundred feet and found the richest bonanza of all. They became the “silver kings.” Mackay went on to found the company that built the transcontinental telegraph line and endowed a college. Our guide was great – and almost as old as the house.
We really enjoyed the small town of Carson City. For a state capitol, it is very unpretentious. The capitol building is not elaborate, but it is spring, and the grounds were very pretty.
As the road through Yosemite and the two roads north of it were all closed by snow, we chose to cross the Sierras on route 88. It is labeled scenic but that does not do it justice: it should be called spectacular or gorgeous.
88 was built up near Jackson as was 49 south, but soon 49 was also very scenic. Unfortunately, while the speed limit was 55, I found myself gripping the wheel and slowing down to as low as 15 miles per hour on the portion between Chinese Camp and Mariposa; no sightseeing for me. Alie, who does not like heights, was good: she did not scream once, although she did suck her breath in between her teeth a lot.