Hello from Tahoe, where Nora and I are thoroughly snowed in—giving me time to write a longer update!
As of December 4th, we are now exactly three months into our road trip and fully settled into life on the road! November was a very successful month from both a work and personal perspective, and although we visited fewer distilleries this month, our meetings were generally very productive and promising. We also were able to spend some time catching up on more strategic work in the beautiful Willamette Valley in Oregon at the beginning of the month and again now in Tahoe. In between our work, we saw some truly incredible sights in November—probably our most scenic month so far. And, even though we’ve only been in three states all month, we’ve seen a huge variety of terrain, from the wet, rolling hills of the Willamette Valley to the High Desert of Bend, Oregon, from the coastal redwoods and Central Valley of California to the Sierra Nevada and the Great Basin. It has really driven home how diverse the West Coast can be. Of course, a special highlight of this month was Thanksgiving, which we celebrated with parts of both our families in San Francisco.
We’ve also started to have our first experiences with winter weather—and other more unexpected conditions, such as the heavy smoke and debilitatingly poor air quality in much of California (thanks, wildfires!). We spent much of the last two weeks in or near the Sierra Nevada, and for most of that time, we had incredibly beautiful weather, far nicer than the mountains usually get this late in the fall. But the weather finally caught up with us as we left Sequoia National Park when a major snowstorm arrived twelve hours early and nearly trapped us in the park just as we left. Only a serious scramble, and a very helpful park attendant who put on our tire chains, allowed us to flee down from the mountains at a hearty pace of 5 miles per hour.
Our next stop was supposed to be Tahoe City and a visit to Nora’s cousin Will, but the same snowstorm thwarted our plans by dumping over a foot of snow on the mountain passes. Instead, we stayed in an 1850s hotel in Gold Rush country. The following day, the storm ended in the morning—just enough time for us to cross the high Sierra and make it to Reno before another storm arrived that night. The next day, after a great meeting at a farm distillery in Nevada, we had to try our luck again and make it to South Lake Tahoe. The journey proved surprisingly hairy as yet more snow arrived, but with a little good fortune and a lot of cursing, we made it to Lake Tahoe. We have a stunning view of the lake and mountains in our Airbnb and don’t mind being snowed in for a few days.
The rest of December will be a busy month. After Tahoe, we head to California wine country, also home to a number of impressive distilleries. Then we’ll spend a few days in San Francisco for business and pleasure before returning to the East Coast through Christmas. We are, as ever, very busy, often very tired, but always very excited about Lost Lantern and the many wonderful places our adventure is taking us.
Total miles driven so far, as of Dec. 4th: 10,500
States we’ve been in since last update: Oregon, California, Nevada
States we’ve been in, cumulative: 20 (New York, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Oregon, Washington, Texas, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, California, Nevada)
States we’ve spent the night in since the last update: 3 (Oregon, California, Nevada)
Most beautiful drive: Honestly too many to count
Most beautiful single spot: The Tunnel View, Yosemite National Park
Group consensus on giant trees: The coastal redwoods make you feel like you’re in Jurassic Park. The giant sequoias of Yosemite National Park’s Mariposa Grove were a little disappointing. But the much larger, much denser sequoias in Sequoia National Park are nearly unreal, difficult to comprehend and incredibly moving.
Proportion of giant trees that are named after presidents, generals, other army officers, or wealthy businessmen [sic]: Like basically all of them
Places we’re saddest to have missed: Tahoe City; Muir Woods National Monument, closed due to dangerous air quality from the wildfires
Place we didn’t plan to go to, didn’t plan to like, but actually enjoyed a great deal: Reno
Amount AP won at roulette, then immediately lost at video poker: $20
Amount NGR won at roulette after already winning a bunch at video poker: $20
Flights taken: zero, thank goodness
Number of National Parks visited since last update: 5 (Crater Lake, Redwood, Yosemite, Kings Canyon, Sequoia)
Number of National Parks visited, cumulative: 12 (Badlands, Wind Cave, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, North Cascades, Mount Rainier, Olympic, Crater Lake, Redwood, Yosemite, Kings Canyon, Sequoia) (for those keeping score at home, there are 60 National Parks overall, so we’ve only scratched the surface!)
Number of National Parks missed along our route so far: one (Lassen Volcanic National Park in northern California)
Animals we saw (this category is back by popular demand!): Seals (several times!), a whale (!!!!!!!!), lots of hawks, turkeys, Bigfoot, mule deer, elk, big fearless crows, lots of boring things like humans and pigeons and dogs
Times we saw elk in national parks, forests, or other wilderness places: zero
Times we saw elk in the middle of the street in broad daylight in downtown Bend, Oregon: two
Number of Bigfoot-themed roadside attractions we’ve visited: one
Number of times we’ve gone to In N Out Burger: two
Number of secret Bible verses hidden on In N Out Burger containers Nora has noticed: zero
Favorite places this month: Crater Lake, the coastal redwood forests, the Sonoma coast, pretty much everything about the Sierra Nevada
Number of times my mom said “wow” at some beautiful sight: Uncountable
Number of times we’ve had to put on tire chains: two
Number of times putting on tire chains was harrowing and nerve-wracking: two
Number of times we had to pay people to help us put on the tire chains: two
Number of people on this road trip who are still wimpy city folk at heart: two
Number of distilleries visited this month: 6
Number of distilleries visited so far (cumulative): 17
State we spent the most time in: California
State we spent the least time in: Nevada
Number of places that smelled like rotten eggs: None, freakin’ finally
Maximum number of seasons experienced in a single day: three, when crossing the Sierra Nevada from fall to winter to summer
Thing we miss the most: States that don’t have insane wildfires
Highest elevation we stayed at: 7,200′ (Wuksachi Lodge, Sequoia National Park)
Miles to Wall Drug: variable
Trip highlights of the month: Bringing our families together for Thanksgiving; giant trees; climbing Moro Rock in Sequoia National Park
Until next time!