They sing of Darcy Farrow where the Truckee runs through
We eventually leave San Francisco with the lunchtime traffic, crossing the fog-shrouded Golden Gate and driving through the wetlands on the other side of the bridge.
There are fifty-six people on this tour and we are packed in like sardines. There is not one spare seat on the bus and I am the only caucasian, so I am a bit of an oddity. I don't care, though. It's not my first time being the only English-speaker on a tour, so I sort of know what to expect. Since I have been seated in the back right next to the forbidden toilet (thank God), I thank my lucky stars that Sam, the tour guide, said we will be rotating our seats each day.
Our first stop is the Golden Gate Park, where we get a fairly good view of the bridge from the opposite side of the bay. The fog is lifting, although it's still coolish, and the red-painted bridge contrasts with the grey sky. We reboard the bus for our next destination.
It's harvest time outside the window, and tractors are busily running backward and forward across the fields. Hawks hover on their jetstreams as they wait for small animals or vermin to flee the approaching machines. Swooping down, the birds gather their prey and disappear.
We stop in Sacramento at the State Capitol building. Of course, I am picked up for wearing my money belt as I pass through security. I know the guys are just doing their jobs, but....
The building itself is interesting. The dome is magnificent, and the recent restoration has brought it back to its original colours and condition. The tiled floor has been fully restored, using old techniques to make new tiles to match the ones missing or damaged. I loved the balustrades, though. The little bear heads, the symbol of California, appear on the newel posts, and they are cute. I'm not sure why visitors are allowed in the 'working part' of the building, as the tourists are literally tripping up people going about their daily business. It reminds me of the old (now demolished) blue-tiled government building that used to be on Victoria Street. it smells like it too.
I leave the building and stand out in the sun. It is very warm here today and the fragrance from the nearby magnolia grandiflora hedge gently wafts on the breeze. I'm not sure why the Capitol building is on the itinerary and why these tourists would be interested. Perhaps the tour company has to include some government buildings on the tour.
The bus wends its way east, and the undulating landscape and market gardens merge into heavily forested terrain. We are climbing in altitude and snow-topped peaks are in the distance. We've now reached the border between California and Nevada and Lake Tahoe, which is the largest alpine lake in North America. By the time we arrive, the day is cooling and this beautiful glacial lake is a pristine shade of blue.
And then we reach Reno.... Harrah's conjures up images of a casino, new and sparkling. It's nothing like that, and unless we got the side that is ready for renovation, I would suggest to future visitors to Reno that there might be some more salubrious accommodation nearby.
Our day started early as we have a long way to travel. I'm not sure about the night flight now. I am still awake half the night and dozing off during the day on the bus. That's not really a problem, as we have to clear a huge number of kilometres before we arrive at our first scenic stop at Twin Falls Idaho, some six hours from Reno. We have made a couple of stops since leaving this morning and I am looking forward to stretching my legs, walking along the headland overlooking the green-coloured Snake River. The nearby Perrine Bridge is sometimes the location for base jumpers, and thank goodness there weren't any today.
A few minutes down the road is the Shoshone Falls, a magnificent waterfall and hydro-electric installation.
The thunderous crash of millions of litres of water falling over the gorge is a sight to behold. Our tour group jostled for prime positions for their photos, but I found a quieter place just up along the trail a short way. This is the highlight of the trip so far.
Title Quote: 'Darcy Farrow' by Steve Gillette
Accommodation: Harrah's Casino and resort (NOT recommended)