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Tuesday, June 6, 2000

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Off to Sacramento

It's 8:15 AM and we're twenty minutes late leaving Carson City. It's a beautiful morning and I even had to put on my jacket to cut the chill while waiting. The bus stop is at the liquor mart next to the Frontier Motel and the waiting room is three green wooden lawn chairs on the sidewalk. The bus to Las Vegas came by while we were waiting. We're head south on Carson Street, US-50 W, straight toward some snow peaked mountains.

US-395 leaves us south of town. We go west on US-50 and immediately start climbing and are in pine country in just a few minutes. I got the front seat on the right side so I'll have a great view. We soon enter Toiyabe National Forest and just keep climbing. The bus isn't even half full which is a nice thing about the local runs.

We top out at Spooner Summit at 7,146 feet and start going down. Lake Tahoe appears surrounded by mountains. It is an amazingly bright blue. We're soon in the resort area surrounding the lake and then in the mass of casinos at the stateline. The bus stop is at the Thunderbird Motel. The entire edge of the lake is a mass of cute shops and every type of motel. Even the McDonalds is rustic. It is beautiful though.

We join CA-89 S for a while before we continue west on US-50. Just past the inspection station there is a line of people on horses and in pioneer wagons. They're all dressed as pioneers and several police cars are waiting to guide them. Then we're out of the resort area and winding up again on a two lane highway. It is so beautiful but I'm glad I'm not driving a bus on a road like this. Soon we're in the alpine area and huge masses of rock show through the vegetation. There are mountain cabins hidden everywhere in the trees and an occasional lodge.

Then down we go to where there are oak trees mixed with the pine. A mountain stream is running beside the road looking very cold as it foams over the rocks. We come around a corner and the cars ahead of us are stopped for roadwork. The bus barely stops in time and has to pull onto the shoulder to keep from hitting the last car.

We pass a sign that says this is Moore's Overland Pony Express Route. More flowers are showing up. Coming down to Pollock-Pines we can see across the hills and see the smog. There are fields of purple flowers along with yellow and bright pink. Placerville is built on hills and we can't see much of the town because of the trees. No one is there so we hurry on. We're still running late and the driver says that people have to make connections. He won't let anyone off to smoke.

We get on a freeway now and are in rolling hills. There are more oak than pine. Sam's Town is a parking lot in what looks like a closed tourist attraction. We're surrounded by grasslands and we can see Sacramento in the distance in the valley with the smog. Coming into Sacramento we're next to the American River and the driver is passing everyone trying to make up time. The Rancho Cordova stop is behind a shopping center. One passenger doesn't show up even though we were told that it was strictly five minutes. The driver says that they try to go to McDonalds and don't get back in time. At least the city bus comes out here and they can take it downtown. We leave the US-50 freeway and go north on Watt to Marconi, then east to just past Fulton. The stop here is in a strip mall.

We go west and get on Bus I-80 and then on CA-160 which takes us to downtown and the bus station. The Sacramento hostel has a lockout till 5:00 PM so I try to put my luggage in a locker but they are all full. The baggage room says they will keep it since I still have my claim check. This is one problem with the hostels that have lockouts during the day, but they are usually the nicest hostels so I put up with the inconvenience.

It's 12:30 so I have a few hours. I walk up to the hostel just to know where it is. It is a beautiful victorian mansion. On the way I pass the public library and go in to get bus schedules. They do have schedules but no maps and it is very hard to know what schedules you need when you are unfamiliar with the city. The security guard directed me to the transit office which was only a block away where I loaded up on maps and schedules.

Downtown Sacramento is very compact and I had no problem getting around on foot once I was oriented. I went out to Old Sacramento which is on the Sacramento River. It's your basic 'Old Town' which means souvenirs and taffy shops. I realize they need to make money but most 'Old Towns' are just a little too commercial and don't really teach you much about the specific history of the area.

It was relaxing though and I got some pictures of the old bridge and the old railroad bridge. The Amtrak station is right next to Old Sacramento. They had a couple of fancy riverboats tied up an a very good nice old train. On weekeds they give rides but today it looked like all the conductors were having a get together. I also walked along a path down by the river and saw several birds that I don't think I've seen before.

By four I was ready to take it easy so I got my suitcase and walked up to the hostel where I sat on the porch waiting for them to open. The manager let a couple other ladies and myself in a little early because he had a school group coming and wanted to get us taken care of first. The decorations on the outside are beautiful but the inside is just breathtaking. The manager said it had never been empty and was a funeral home and then a restaurant so most of the decor is original. The ceilings are painted and the upstairs, over the staircases has colored glass at the top. The building is four stories including the 'delta basement'. Before they got the levees high enough the city would floood regularly so the bottom floor was called the 'delta basement' and the outside stairs went up to the second floor where the family actually lived. This makes the porches nicely raised to enjoy the evening.

The school group of about twenty 4th graders arrived and they were all awed by the decorations, then they found the ping pong table in the basement and went on to more important issues. They were good kids and helped fix their supper. There was so much food that they invited us all to help finish it when they were done. It was good, meatballs and pizza and salad and more. Yummy.

My room is a large room on the second floor with about ten beds which fit in nicely. It's spotlessly clean with chairs and bedside tables. Evidently the city got together with AYH to save the house and turn it into a hostel and there is still a large group of people who help out. The whole place makes you feel like you're in a home instead of a hostel. All the beds weren't filled since this is not one of the hostels that the foreign hostelers come to a lot and it's in the middle of the week.

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(c) Rachel Aschmann 2000.
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