The terrain out there is amazing, quite unlike the New York sprawling towns and thick forests I'm used to. They live out in the middle of the desert, where going anywhere involves taking long drives through the hills and over mountains. You can see from one end of the valley to the other, endless stretches of empty desert with occasional ranches and farms. One day we took my grandfather's truck and went boonie crashing on the dirt trails and sometimes off of them, bouncing along to the top of Bald Mountain (named for the barren peak above the tree line), which was only a distant blue peak on the horizon when we started out. From the microwave station at its peak we could see the mountains and valleys all around us -- Mason Valley, Smith Valley, the ranches and towns, and Walker Lake. The view was incredible. Another day we went out (on paved roads this time) to Wilson Canyon, where you can walk along the dry wash and pick up big chunks of petrified wood from the sand. We saw lots of wildlife on our outings: two distant herds of wild mustangs, an indistinct white spot that may have been a mountain goat, ring-tailed lizards, several jackrabbits, and a whole flock of chucker, big, gray, turkey-like birds that we scared out of the canyon and running up the hill in a noisy squawking pack.
We took my dad's new telescope and went stargazing one night on the old homestead, out in the desert far from the town where the sky is dark and magnificent and full of stars. The Milky Way is big and bright and clearly visible -- it was quite a treat to see, as here it is only faintly perceptible on the best of nights. We looked at Venus before it dipped below the horizon, star clusters and nebulae, and Jupiter with a few of its moons. The moon was not out before we packed up, alas. And we brought along marshmallows, but couldn't have a campfire because of the dry weather for fear of setting the desert alight.
Our last night I requested that we go out to a Basque restaurant my father had told me about -- apparently there are a lot of Basques living in the area, and they have several restaurants where they serve traditional family-style meals. The place was simple and not very fancily decorated, but I like the way they serve a set meal where all you pick is your entree -- they bring a bottle of wine out to the table and serve soup (some kind of chicken soup with little pasta dots), bread, salad, a delicious rice and meat dish, then your choice of steak, fried chicken, lamb, or prawns (the entree was actually the weakest part of the otherwise great meal), followed by ice cream (almond praline) and coffee, all for a pretty reasonable price. I've never had Basque before, and it was a pretty nice experience. One for which, of course, we had to drive a couple hours over hills and mountains.
That pretty much sums up my vacation. It was a great trip, following so soon on the heels of another great trip...but I'm sure I'll stay put for at least a little while now. And if I do go somewhere, I'll try to go some direction other than west.
Pictures, of course, to follow much later...naturally I don't have them yet. But I do have my road trip pictures now, which I shall post very soon.
reading: Terry Pratchett, The Truth; Charles de Lint, Newford Stories
saw: parts of Gladiator and Dinotopia
music: cooltunes mix, curr. Jem, "They"
beverage: peach Twisted Tea