It’s a long uphill haul from the Sacramento Valley to the top of Donner Summit on Interstate 80. While Odel jockeyed for position with the slow-moving semi’s and their heavy loads, I watched the outside temperature slide from 77 degrees when we began our climb (around 10 am) to 63 degrees as we reached the summit (around 11:30 am).
Of course, while the higher altitude meant a steady drop in outside temperature, the long, sometimes steep grades meant that the engine temperature was relentlessly climbing. Add in the numerous construction zones and we were very happy to cross the summit and head down the other side. Good practice for our visit to the mountains of Colorado later this summer!
Soon after we descended from the summit, we passed Truckee and crossed the California/Nevada state line, where the trees thinned and the arid bones of Nevada’s landscape were revealed. We negotiated the heavy traffic and construction zones through Reno and Sparks, took a brief break for lunch at a vista point (can’t believe what passes for a “vista” in that part of Nevada!) along I-80, and kept rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ to our destination for the night, Rye Patch State Recreation Area.
We first discovered Rye Patch (run by the Nevada State Parks) 4 years ago – a wonderful oasis in an otherwise rather bleak landscape. (Click here to read our review from 2008, updated to reflect a fee increase from $10 to $14.) Lots of green trees, a large lake impounded by Rye Patch Dam, and very friendly park rangers make this stop a winner with us, even though there are no campsite hookups.
This time, instead of unhooking the Jeep and backing in to one of the campsites, we parked in the huge graveled “overflow” area just west of the dam. We had the whole place to ourselves, with a view of the lake, the campground, and the arid mountains to the east – quite a nice change from our month-long stay in the close quarters of Cal Expo.
Speaking of Cal Expo, I updated our review from November of 2011 to reflect a couple welcome improvements: the WiFi now extends to all the sites, including those on “the slab”, where we stay; and four or five of the usually vacant sites in the gravel lot were made available for camper or visitor parking, a reasonable solution to our often-voiced complaint about lack of tow and towed vehicle parking.
All in all, it was a good travel day after sitting for 30 days in one spot. :)