Part 2 – California/Nevada Road Trip – December 2016
It was always going to be a long drive – from Sherman Oaks in the San Fernando Valley to Sacramento, the state capital of California. And I had a deadline – I had to arrive at my destination in time to check into my hotel, refresh and change before heading off to a Cirque du Soleil matinée show downtown. It was the last performance of the show in Sacramento, so there was no room for tardiness.
But I certainly wasn’t going to rush the trip; it was a route I hadn’t driven before with locations I might never get the chance to see again, so there would be sightseeing stops along the way in addition to the usual highway rest breaks.
The first stop was at Pyramid Lake and the Vista Del largo Visitors Centre.
Not to be confused with its better-known name-sake in Nevada, California’s Pyramid Lake at Gorman is a reservoir formed by Pyramid Dam on Piru Creek in the eastern San Emigdio Mountains. It is part of the California State Water Project and is the deepest lake in the system.
Gold was discovered in the area in 1843 just south of where the dam is located today. The reservoir wasn’t created until 1972-73 and was named for the pyramid-shaped rock carved out by engineers building US route 99 which is located directly in front of the dam.
The view from the visitor centre lookout is spectacular, and on such a clear December day, the water of the lake reflected the deep blue of the California sky.
There were no recreational activities happening at the lake when I was there, just a few sightseers pulling up in their vehicles, making the most of the scenery to stretch their legs after miles of highway.
A little further north on the I-5 was Fort Tejon State Historic Park. This is a 1850s fort that now offers static and living history exhibits. One of the rangers on duty suggested I don a handsome military jacket and accompanying head-gear – part of a large collection of costumes used for the living history experiences. On reflection I probably could have done without the hat – but I loved the jacket!
Unfortunately, since this stop was unplanned, my little travel buddy did not have a matching MJ-style military jacket to wear for our photo shoot. (But he does have one in his rather extensive wardrobe at home!)
The parade ground and its attendant restored buildings and museum, combined with some 400-year-old oak trees, made this another very scenic break in my journey. The fort is located in Grapevine Canyon, the main route between California’s Central Valley and Southern California.
According to the State Parks website:
“The fort was established to protect and control the Indians who were living on the Sebastian Indian Reservation, and to protect both the Indians and white settlers from raids by the Paiutes, Chemeheui, Mojave, and other Indian groups of the desert regions to the south-east. Fort Tejon was first garrisoned by the United States Army on August 10, 1854 and was abandoned ten years later on September 11, 1864.”
After fuel, food and rest stops, we eventually rolled into Sacramento in the golden light of early evening. The timing was perfect! And our accommodation – well, that was really special. The Delta King is a former paddle steamer that has been magnificently restored as a boutique hotel, moored at the wharf in Old Sacramento (the historic part of the capital).
Because of the season, Christmas decorations adorned all the stores and there was a giant Christmas tree on the wharf which was dressed with coloured lights that came on at dusk. Some places you just know you are going to love as soon as you arrive – and this was certainly true of Old Sacramento.
Still, there was no time for exploring before we were due at the Golden 1 Centre for our Cirque show, Toruk: The First Flight, based on the Avatar movie. I am a committed Cirque du Soleil fan, a member of the Cirque Club, and go to every show I can – including when travelling.
Originally my journey north from the greater Los Angeles area was to be via Fresno, where I have stayed on at least two occasions previously. But then I discovered that Cirque’s new show based on the Avatar movie would be in Sacramento at the time of my trip, so I changed my route accordingly. Besides, I’d never been to the state capital, despite my many trips to California over five decades!
Fortunately the Golden 1 Centre in downtown Sacramento is a short walk from the Old Sacramento waterfront, so I headed off happily to enjoy Cirque’s spectacular show Toruk: The First Flight.
And it WAS spectacular – boasting less acrobatics but more visually stunning light, colour, costume and prop displays than any other Cirque show I’ve seen (which is quite a few of them by now).
I’m used to all photography being banned at Cirque shows, but in this instance we were encouraged to use our mobile phones to download the show app which we were subsequently prompted to use throughout the course of the show. I could also snap a few non-flash photos, as permitted, including one of the spectacular finale (pictured).
The Christmas lights were flashing in multiple colours as I walked back through the old town to the Delta King which was a welcoming sight, bedecked in her night lights. After an eagerly anticipated dinner in the Pilot House bistro on board, it was time for us weary travelers to ‘hit the hay’ and happily look forward to exploring our surroundings the following day.
Pyramid Lake and Visitor Centre: http://www.water.ca.gov/recreation/locations/pyramid/pyramidvisitors.cfm
Fort Tejon State History Park: http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=585
Old Sacramento: http://oldsacramento.com/
Cirque du Soleil’s Toruk – The First Flight: https://www.cirquedusoleil.com/toruk