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The Restrooms of the American Far West   Leave a comment

Traveling all the way to California and back from our home in Kentucky was an adventure in many ways.  I expected to find a different world in the realm of climate, landscape and culture.  I did not expect a difference in restrooms.

It’s just different out there.

It doesn’t seem to be a priority to have working toilets, even though if I’ve got my history right, the west has been settled since the mid-1800s, depending on what region you visit.  Perhaps settled is too strong a word.  Maybe pioneers were just passing through.  Maybe they still are, and that’s why restrooms don’t seem to be that much of a priority.

Some would say that is exactly the issue in Nevada.  There is an interstate that passes through, and you have several options if you want to cross the state east to west, but only a few.  We chose the interstate and the northern route because a) we did not want to end up that far south once we got to California anyway and b) we did not prefer to experience Las Vegas.

As soon as we crossed into Nevada, the first time we stopped, we noticed that it was questionable how long you would have to wait to use a bathroom.  The gas station in Elko had a couple of stalls–but only one was functional and there were several women in line for it.  Understandable I suppose, since there are only so many ways to get across the state, that we would all be gathered near the only working toilet.

Somewhere on the stretch between Reno and Winnemucca, we stopped at a little gas station at an exit with nothing else.  There were humorous cards and touristy gifts in the building, which appeared to be either under construction or in the process of being abandoned.  The women’s restroom was at the very back of a long room with boxes and empty shelves in it.

At least there was a women’s restroom.  You have to admire Nevadans.  They get along just fine with pretty basic amenities.

Every gas station stop definitely had a mini-casino of some sort.  This was a dark, cool and comfortably air-conditioned room with about five slot machines, other games, and some video games.  I didn’t go in, but from the door I could feel the blast of cold air and see that the room was clean, cool, and definitely functioning.  I believe the biggest one was at same gas station in Elko which only possessed one working toilet.  Here we can clearly see the priorities.

Our RV park in Reno was nice.  It had trees and a great view.  The only problem for us was that we had a pop-up, and they put us toward the back of the park near the beautiful view of the majestic Truckee river.  The hike back to the main building for restrooms was pretty long at 2 a.m.  And the thing was that while the building contained multiple restroom stalls, the ones in the office portion of the building were not available overnight when the office was closed.  There was one, count it, one bathroom available overnight–for the entire park.  And it included a shower.  What that meant is that if someone else decided to take a long shower right before you needed a toilet, you were just…SOL.  Call me crazy, but I thought the purpose of having restrooms at an RV park would be that you could use them when needed.

Of course I’m not a hardy Nevadan.

When we got to California, the RV park at Sacramento was pretty nice–there was some shade and a short walk to the restrooms.  There was also a really lovely pond just down the way that was covered with white birds who sailed beautifully along every morning.  When I first saw them I was so sleepy I thought they were snow or whipped cream.  But the main door of the women’s didn’t fully shut so the keypad for entry was pointless.  This didn’t really bother me, until I was taking a shower stark naked, as that’s what one usually does, and I heard the sound of a man’s voice carrying on a conversation with his girlfriend over by the sinks.  The two of them were pretty surprised when I came out of my stall after getting dressed and exclaimed, “Surprise!”

The bathroom at Yosemite National Park took the prize for California.  Disclaimer: I love the National Park Service as it paid for my entire life up to the age of 21.  I am not criticizing the Park Service personally in any way.  It’s clear that a cartload of people love Yosemite and want to camp there, and, once you’ve visited, you too will understand why.  What you will also understand is why it’s way too complicated to get the equipment up the winding roads into the mountains in order to update the restrooms.

So anyway, they women’s restroom was relatively old.  One of the toilets was routinely overflowing so not very practical for use, and the other had a tendency to get clogged.  And, there as well, we had men stepping in to use our side, which I didn’t understand until my husband explained that the urinal on the other side was clogged–and that it stayed that way the whole time we were there.  Oh, now I smell, I mean I see!

My conclusion?  Salt Lake City is an oasis–and I mean that literally.

To get there, you travel through western Wyoming and Utah for many hours when traveling westward, and through Nevada for many hours traveling east. The scenery on either side is amazing–stark, beautiful, rocky.  I love how elemental the landscape is.  But I can say that by the time you reach the RV park in Salt Lake City, on either the eastward or the westward route, you are pretty happy.   In Salt Lake City, bless them, they have really nice restrooms featuring both hot and cold running water, four stalls, three showers–and soap–and paper towels!  And did I mention clean?

Little did we know on leaving home how much we would miss this attention to detail.  Our road trip was worth it though, because we have now begun the process of becoming as tough as those hardy Nevadans.

 

I’d like to thank Dave Barry for making this blog possible.  As he likes to say, I am not making any of this up.

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Posted September 12, 2018 by swanatbagend in camping, humor, travel journal

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Top Ten Favorite Things from our trip to California   1 comment

Our family recently took a trip from the upper Midwestern United States all the way to the Pacific Coast in order to move our son and his books and belongings to grad school. We camped along the way and continued to do so after we turned in the Penske moving truck. Nobody in our family had experienced the Golden State recently and our children–not at all. It was quite an experience in the land of extremes.

Here, in no particular order, are my handselected favorite experiences and most wonderful places of this trip.

1. Like most people who visit it, I would have to start with Yosemite Valley.

2. Watching the water at the Vernal Falls footbridge in Yosemite Valley while everyone under 23 years of age climbed all the way to the top of the falls trail

3. Watching the Pacific Ocean under my feet, while sea lions played in the foam, from the Golden Gate Bridge

4. Our campsite at Portola Redwoods State park was surrounded by our own cordon of redwood guardian sentinels. There were five immense, wise trees around the table and campfire circle.

5. The Old Tree and Slate trails at Portola Redwoods leading to the Old Tree herself

6. Highway 20 east of Grass Valley, the prettiest forest drive I’ve ever seen

7. My oldest son experiencing a banana slug oozing across his face

8. The Humboldt River Valley in Nevada (I realize this particular view was not in California, but it’s still one of the best things about the trip.)

9. Having our cousin from Colorado come along with us the share the work (sorry, E!), the adventures, the stress and the joy!

10. Late night singing of Monty Python and Weird Al songs on the way back to the campground from our day in the Bay area

Posted September 21, 2017 by swanatbagend in camping, travel journal

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