Las Vegas, Mammoth, & Home

October 26, 2010

I almost went this whole trip without mentioning “Travels with Charlie.” (John Steinbeck drove around the country with his dog and wrote a book about it. I have no business comparing myself to Steinbeck, but I was hoping to at least get Kettle into the same sentence as Charlie.)

There are, obviously, many differences between John Steinbeck and me. Of those many differences, here’s the one I’ve chosen to point out: after about two thirds of HIS trip around the country, Steinbeck said to heck with this, and he beelined it home.

I managed to not do that.

I attribute my staying-away power to 3 things: Kettle, this blog, and the fact that I’ve been able to visit so many friends along the way.

To this point I’ve visited 9 sets of friends, with one more to go …

Bill and Gia drove to Las Vegas from the Bay Area, bringing their two boys, Giles (8) and Evan (6), as well as their nanny, Rubina. I’ve already mentioned Bill a few times  – he’s a close friend since high school and the programmer for Dungeoneers. And if you’ve read my older journal entries, you’ll remember his wife Gia from my trip with her to the Philippines. That trip was a great bonding experience, and we’ve grown closer ever since.

So meeting Bill and Gia in Vegas was like a homecoming … not me coming home, but home coming to me.

And when home comes to you, it sometimes brings sick children. Evan got the stomach flu on the drive over and became seriously dehydrated, so on their one full day in Vegas, Bill and Gia had to take turns at the medical clinic with Evan.

Which meant that I passed the day hanging out with whoever was not at the clinic. I spent the morning accompanying Bina and Giles for a walk along the Strip, then had a nice lunch with Gia, then walked Kettle, then had dinner with Bill.

Gia later said that I was avuncular. Not knowing what that meant, I thought she was accusing me of having some disease.

The next day Evan was better, and we left Las Vegas.

Bill and Gia’s method for getting to and from Vegas was to stop along the way at Mammoth Lakes, a mountain resort town on the eastern side of the Sierras. Going to Mammoth sounded good to me, so we caravanned: a Mini following a Minivan.

In between Vegas and Mammoth lies Death Valley. But that was not enough of a challenge, so, rather than driving directly through, we detoured into a “place” called Badwater.

Badwater was the low point of my trip.

At 282 feet below sea level, it is the lowest point in North America.

After lunch at Furnace Creek, an aptly named town in Death Vally, we finished our drive to Mammoth. The Sierra’s were stunning. It was late enough for there to be snow on the mountains, but early enough for there to still be fall colors.

We arrived in Mammoth with everyone healthy and in good spirits.

Bill’s 5-person family stayed in a suite at the Westin. For them, this was a vacation.

My 6-legged family stayed in a room at the Motel 6. For us, this was a lifestyle.

The next day there was a storm, so we all remained in Mammoth another day rather than drive over the mountains in the bad weather.

As I have done so many times before, I spent the morning blogging in a cafe. But instead of hitting the road afterwards, I went to Bill and Gia’s hotel for stormy hot tubbing, dinner, and two games of Settlers of Catan (perhaps the best board game ever created). Fortunately the hotel was pet-friendly, so Kettle was able to stay with us in the Westin suite – which he liked quite a bit.

We left the next morning. My plan had been to drive to my family’s cabin in the Sierra’s and stay there a couple of days so I could absorb the trip and finish up my blog before going home.

Bill and Gia’s plan, though, was to go all the way home that day. And once I got onto the road with them, I was overcome by the desire to just go home too.

So with my friends leading the way, I beelined it to back to San Francisco.

Apparently Steinbeck and I, and Charlie and Kettle, are not that different after all.

Didn't see many dogs in Vegas.

I don't know what to say here.

Bina, Giles, and Kettle

Leaving Las Vegas

The Badwater Gang

Low point

Giles and Avuncular Me

A boy and his dog in the valley of death.

The last river stop of our trip.

Storm coming in

Bill filling up

A windswept dog

A Following Alex

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