Leaving Las Vegas and the Longest Day

Las Vegas to Reno was over 500 miles (the way we did it) or 10 hours 15 minutes of mainly desert driving with a couple of mountain ranges thrown in for good measure. We had a send off from the Taiwan gang moreorless dead on 8am following the final Janie breakfast – and as usual i wasn’t served any! I bid farewell to Salsa and her humans and settle down in the back of the car unaware of the length of the journey ahead of us. We get straight on 95 which will take us to the northwest, it begins as an 8 lane highway but once out of LV constricts to a mere 2 lanes.

The sun to the south beats down through the rear window, the oven like conditions only mitigated by my personal AC. Mercifully it’s Sunday so the trucking industry is for the most part having a day off, although given the long sighted straight roads overtaking is not a problem.

Lunch stop is the town of Tonopah, apparently the stargazing capital of the country, we should have travelled at night then! I finally get to cool down with a paddle in Walker Lake, the nearby town of Hawthorn is home to some deep sea Naval base – go figure that one, a naval base in the middle of the desert.

We then take an unplanned detour to Lake Tahoe, didn’t look very far on the map but the route entailed a climb up and over a 9,000 ft mountain pass, and we experience snow once again, albeit of the weathered dirty kind. We crest the ridge and the lake reflects back the late afternoon sun. We descend to a State park with a beach only to discover that my kind is forbidden, never mind we access the shore a mile or so further north.

The road then meanders acutely and steeply up the other side of the lake and we drop down into Reno, our welcome stop for the night. This La Quinta is not the greatest, but wariness exceeds the need for luxury as all 3 of us are close to brain dead after the extended journey.

They go for Thai food while I wait, again, in the back of the car and thankfully, the temperature has dropped to a tolerable measure.

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Walker Lake

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Me lake paddling

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Stunning Lake Tahoe

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Race day

He gets up at 5am and quietly dons the running kit, my hopes are up so I get up as well although it seems far too early. It is soon apparent that I am not included so I at sit at the door and sulk, I know it hurts him.

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He is off to a 10k race in north Las Vegas, 7am start to escape the worst of the heat but it still pushes 30 Celsius, that and the elevation, not to mention last nights margaritas, have an effect on his performance but he still manages a credible 3rd overall. The course is mainly over open ground with little protection from the quickly intensifying morning sun, not sure if it is this or taste of Mexican alcohol that dries the mouth out before the 1/2 way stage.

“This was a tactical race as I hadn’t been training for almost 2 weeks and the elevation and heat I knew would get to me. In fact I didn’t decide to compete until 5am this morning. I was aiming for a time of sub 45 minutes, a bit off my PR so just tried to keep my time below 7 min mile for the first half. I managed to keep in touch with the guy in 3rd place with a view to making a move in the last mile or two. We ran side by side for a while then I made my move 2 miles out. Surprisingly once I passed him he pulled up with cramp so then it was just a matter of pounding out the final distance in the sun alone for the remainder of the race. The second placed runner who had started out really quickly was slowing throughout the final few miles but I realised that I had little chance of catching him. In the end I finished strongly just 90 seconds behind the race winner.”

Red (hot) Rock Canyon

We drive 1/2 an hour west out of Vegas to the Red Rock Canyon Park, the clue is in the name.

20130511-110251 AM.jpgMark goes running up a hill but forgets that he is already at 4,700 ft so the climb is more draining than expected. I am thankful that I get to walk this one out with the rest of the Taiwan contingent. And it’s hot, in fact it’s so hot that I don’t want to drink. While Mark does 4 miles we probably manage just over 1.

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Back home to ingest the remnants of last nights BBQ for lunch before a trip to the dog park where I have an altercation with a young unfixed lab, I don’t like being dominated by these pups, and an attempted play with a ridgeback who seems more interested in some other mut.

They finish their day at a Mexican restaurant and get through more than one pitcher of frozen margaritas.

Taiwan gang complete

With the arrival of Joe the Taiwan reunion is complete. Joe also had a role in my being here as he introduced Lisa to Janie and Rex (owners of Pokey, my predecessor). Lisa actually met Pokey before meeting Janie and Rex, he was delivered to their Taiwan home and handed over to Lisa before Rex arrived to make the formal introductions. After travelling from Japan what a shock to his system that must have been, as I am on my 3rd set of humans I can empathise a bit.

We have a big BBQ at home to celebrate with an appropriate international selection of drinks from Korea, Japan and here. After scavenging what little I can from the BBQ and dinner table I keep my distance and let them reminisce in at least 3 languages about life over a decade ago with Dalmatians past and present a major topic of conversation. Over the course of the evening photos of my breed ancestor are found and spots compared, we won’t get into a beauty contest here. The way Pokey fawned over my humans is disgusting, none of that sloppiness here.

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As usual with Asian gatherings the quantity of food exceeds the collective appetite so it looks like ribs and chicken for lunch tomorrow as well, some of which may well have my name attached to it. Perhaps I need to practise my fawning. Everyone tires surprisingly early due to the food and jet lag, not to mention the alcohol.

20130510-094617 AM.jpgThe gang 10 years ago

I am a golf child

Feeling slightly better today and eat again, enjoying the leftover rice from the other night. I was really ill yesterday and unfortunately had to puke both indoors and out…it took them a day to find the indoor one which they spent quite a time cleaning up…what can I say…sorry.

Walk with Salsa this morning to the main gate of civilization and then he deserts me to play golf for the rest of the day. Nice course though and plagued by rabbits, now that would have been fun! Better to chase a fluffy four legged thing than a round hard white one that more often than not merely causes frustration. He does come back with extra balls though so it can’t have been too bad a day.

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Sooo happy to see him when he gets back
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The trip home is now set…A long drive to Reno, Klamath Falls (Crator Lake), Bend and Portland. I am looking forward to getting back into the green mountains again

The Spanish Trail to the Valley of Fire

We awake to the birds chattering at 5am outside the bedroom of our Spanish Trail house (one of the chicy communities in Vegas). He of course thinks that it would be a good idea to get an early start on the day and run around the complex, taking care to stay within the safe confines of the gates and walls – how would we get back in if we went out? The golf course and its green manicured grass is off limits so we run to the far side of the community on its pristine, you could eat your dinner off, roads. Just a few early morning joggers and doggers about and traffic is limited to 15mph so not unpleasant but I do miss the open trails of the Chuckanuts (our home mountain range).

An hour later we return home to greet Salsa as she begins her day slightly later than me, coffee on though and I found my spot in the sun.

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We drive back up the I15 to the Valley of Fire State Park, lots of Sedonaesq red rocks in the middle of the desert.

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I have been sick and am off my food so they leave me at home and dine on a huge buffet at the Palms. As I lie here now next to him I know that he regrets the excess.

And onwards to Vegas!

My first off leash run for a few days on a sandy desert trail from the hotel. Didn’t go far but better than nothing.

We leave our one pony town relatively early and head south towards the bright lights of Las Vegas 250 miles away. More arrow straight roads through wide open plains between ranges of mountains and millions of desert shrubs. We can see the rain advancing towards us in the distance and enter a squall without warning, the car needed a rinse.

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After 4 hours of minor roads we rejoin the I15 for the final leg into Vegas, sidestepping the strip and arriving at chez Janie and Rex in time for lunch. The reason why we have made this 1,200 mile journey is for a reunion of a group of friends that they made while living in Taiwan. In addition to Janie and Rex I look forward to meeting Nancy, Craig and Joe for the first time. I am told that Janie and Rex are the reason for my present life as Lisa and Mark had part time custody of their dalmatian Pokey all those years ago in Taipei. We apparently share certain positive characteristics, not to mention a few spots. I am also reunited with my ‘pal’ Salsa, their new smaller yappier ward. Her house so I give her space but make my mark.

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Lunch over we venture to the closest dog park. What is it with pit bulls and aggression and why do their humans think that they wouldn’t hurt a fly, nevermind me. I am taken with this black long lean good looking four legged who seems to be able to run faster than a greyhound. Oh well, don’t feel like catching him up so I venture on my own with Salsa trailing behind me.

Not a potato sighted and into Pony Express territory

We go for an early morning run around the neighbourhood, I can’t find any wasteland to do my stuff so have to settle for the pristine grass of a hospital complex. We then hit the I84 to head SE towards Twin Falls to cross the Snake River and enter Nevada.

This part of Idaho is flat and apart from the irrigated fringes of the rivers quite arid. To think that the first settlers pushed through here into an unknown other than a notion that going west was best. And why did some just stay in the desert?

Turning south from Twin Falls the I93 becomes single carriageway and the trucks at the speed limit become a hassle to pass. Road is monotonously straight as an Indian’s arrow for mile upon mile. We spot dust twisters and are hit with our first rain squall of the trip.

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We are at 6,000 plus feet and the flanking snow covered Ruby mountains in the distance are over 11,000.

We tank up in the desert town of Wells, apparently gas is less expensive here than Ely, our destination. Between the two is the east west Pony Express route, still some ponies around. Ely is a bit of a one pony town, minus the pony.

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Oregon to Boise and potato country

He’s done it, I have aircon – my master, my hero. An early morning visit to Homedepot and we have 8 feet of flexi piping from the front aircon vent to my area, the car now looks like something from Dr Who but at least we are prepared for the desert. No more panting in the back. The girl who helps Mark used to go out with a guy from Peckham in London and is one of the few Americans who understands and appreciates ‘Only fools and horses’, has a pop at his accent too!

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We head south from Kennewick, across the Snake river onto the plains of Oregon before climbing to over 4,000ft on Deadmans pass in the Blue Mountains. The climb is a series of sweeping switchbacks and forms part of the Oregon trail which the first settlers traversed in covered wagons wiping out the locals as they went. Oregon is also a bit of a nanny state, lower speed limit, motorcyclists need helmets etc etc, however they do have the best system of highway rest stops.

And so to Boise Idaho (pronounced Boi-se), one of those place names that you always wonder about but never think that you will actually visit. It reminds us of Austin, Texas in that it has an impressive parliament building with a backdrop of arid hills. ‘Buckingham’ time is spent in Ann Morrison park where I get up close and personal with a family of deer.

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Someone recommended Cinder tasting room outside of historic downtown Boise and so we go. Mark and Lisa both think the wines are good so they buy 2 bottles for the ‘Taiwan’ dinners in Vegas. Meanwhile, the ultra dog friendly city of Boise refrains me from entering the the tasting room let alone sampling any so I’m stuck in the back of the car. Again, they get the heads up on a dinner spot so we head back downtown to 8th street which is lined with outdoor restaurants. This time, I’m allowed to sit with them outside Cazba, a Mediterranean restaurant and I smell that the food is gorgeous. Some strange Mexican event is taking place with a ton of non-Mexicans cycling around town dressed as Mexicans shouting, so I of course join in. We never do find out why.

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From snow capped mountains to vineyards

Panic stations as the packing begins, are they taking me? As usual my bed is the last thing to be loaded into the car and at last we start the journey south at 10.23am in brilliant sunny weather, in fact the weather at home is going to be brilliant for our entire trip – the road had better not disappoint.

After the mundane drive through the outskirts of Seattle we turn south east and across the stunning Cascade mountains, glimpsing the snow laden Mt Rainier through a mountain pass. We push the car up through 2,300 ft and descend from the lush mountain greenery to the desert that will become the norm for the next 2 weeks.

Our first ‘destination’ is wine country and they have thoughtfully researched Buckingham friendly locations for some tastings, apparently many wineries have dogs but I am not welcomed into the cool air conditioned sanctuary of the tasting rooms, instead do my own tasting in the shade, albeit of the water that the host winos provide.

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As often with wine areas the place to be is the winery and not the local town, Kennewick appears to be one such place. Is there a centre? Apparently not. We find a large riverside park but I am restrained on the leash, even a local bemoans the lack of run free places – she loves Bellingham though – why did we leave again?

Following the advice of a host wino they are off to Twigs, a restaurant and martini bar, apparently the best in town. It’s heaving, well it is Friday, so it can’t be too bad. No outside space available so I am consigned to the car to watch the setting sun, at last the cool of the shade, even the aircon doesn’t reach my cargo space. Why would you put speakers back here and not an aircon vent, come on BMW!