Note: First published on Blogger on September 10, 2006
Unfolding the Map
We've just entered the state of California, after climbing out of Nevada into the Sierra Nevada range, and Sal is almost to the ocean and San Francisco! But first he has to get a little bit of that mountain air. If you want to see the map, I shouldn't have to tell you what to do with the image. You already know that trivial piece of information. Go on...do it!
"...then up the Sierra Nevada, pines, stars, mountain lodges signifying Frisco romances-a little girl in the back seat, crying to her mother, 'Mama when do we get home to Truckee?' And Truckee itself, homey Truckee..."
On the Road, Chapter 11
When I was young, up to age 4, my family used to make a regular winter trip up to Lake Tahoe. I don't remember much about these trips, other than that it involved a long car ride and car sickness on my part. When we would get there, my family would do various forms of snowplay, such as sledding, but I would usually complain that my feet and nose were cold. At night, my mom and dad liked to go to the shows occasionally, leaving me with a babysitter.
After I was 4, my family never really made trips up there any more, and I didn't really remember much about it. It wasn't until I was in college that I actually got back to the Lake Tahoe area. My girlfriend and I, with a number of other college friends, went camping. We were woefully unprepared, it started raining, and well...we got very wet.
Truckee is near the place where the Donner Party took refuge that cold winter in 1846. I was always told that my mother's family had a connection to the Donner party -- something about a baby that was being brought along with the expedition to be reunited with her parents. The baby wasn't eaten, and actually survived the trip. This baby was related to us somehow, but I could never get the particulars and often wonder if it was just some family legend with a loose connection, if any, to fact.
One memory I keep about the area is the fresh, clean smell of the alpine environment. I really treasure that smell, especially if the day is cool and crisp. I don't often have a chance to get in such a place, though the Sandia Mountains outside Albuquerque where I live is one place where I find it occasionally. We took a trip to Telluride, Colorado two years ago and I was able to scratch my itch there. My sister got married a year and a half ago in Lake Tahoe in October, and I looked forward to being immersed in that scent again, but forest fires in the region left a pall of smoke over everything.
I wonder if Jack, coming through Truckee, took a deep breath of the air? Sal says nothing except to call Truckee "homey," and he alludes to Bay Area folk having trysts in mountain lodges. I know that the air, the mountains, the place would make anyone feel alive and virile. I wonder if Jack felt the same way in the briskness of the mountain air, and the clean and fresh scent, and reveled in it?
If you want to know more about Truckee and the Lake Tahoe area
Next up: Sacramento, California