Driving from our home in Pasadena, California to South Lake Tahoe, California gave us the chance to experience the old west, desert and alpine forests. Highway 395 gives the traveler a feel for the days before the interstate system bypassed the wonder of small towns. While today’s system of red-white-and-blue color coded Interstate roads, that started under the Eisenhower Administration, is based on efficient travel, it eliminates the local personality that adds flavor to a journey.
I chose Highway 395 to travel north instead of Interstate 5 because I knew the route would be more scenic as it leads drivers on the eastern Sierra peaks and past roads leading to Death Valley. Since we traveled on the Thanksgiving holiday, I knew I-5 north to Sacramento was going to be packed so 395 would be as easy to drive.
During our trip north, we passed through Lone Pine and made an extended stop in Bishop for breakfast, gas and to purchase tire chains so we could easily pass through the higher elevations.
This was my first time in Bishop, rated one of the top 50 adventure towns by the National Geographic. We stopped at a local park where a stream meandered past a skateboard park and swimming pool, underneath a small chalet housing the chamber of commerce.
Then we walked across the highway to Erik Schat’s Bakkery. The outside is colorful and includes a jeepney on display. The inside was packed with people purchasing sandwiches, soups, and breads of all varieties. It seemed like all 9, 700 residents were shopping there. We wound buying two types of foccacia – mushroom and olive. The bread was soft, moist and even stayed fresh after we made it to our vacation spot in Tahoe.
Bishop has many lodging options for travelers wanting to ski or pack in Mammoth (an hour away), rock climb, or explore the desert and Death Valley to the east.
On our return from Tahoe to Pasadena, we left early in the morning and made it to Lone Pine in time for breakfast at Mt. Whitney restaurant at the corner of Highway 395 and Whitney Portal Rd. The walls were covered with black and white photos of John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Roy Rogers and even a young Kevin Spacey. Lone Pine is known for being the turn-off for hikers making their way up Mount Whitney, but it’s also noted for being home as a location for western movies starting in the 1920s.
My wife and I had spent an extended weekend before in Lone Pine, pulling our 20-foot motorhome in to the Boulder Creek RV Park which was clean and had a nice general store. We had made our way along the trail leading to Mt. Whitney, although she was content to sit by one of the higher elevation lakes while I took the trail above the tree line.
Lone Pine and Bishop are about a one-hour drive apart. Another site in between is the remains of the Manzanar relocation center where U.S. families of Japanese ancestry were forced to live after Pearl Harbor was bombed. Descriptive placards, remains of building and a bit of your imagination will help you recreate this sad era of recent American history.
In 2009, check for the following events taking place in and around Bishop and Lone Pine:
Bishop: March 7, 2009 The Early Opener Trout Derby
May, 2009 Memorial Day weekend Mule Days to celebrate the beginning of the pack season
Lone Pine: May 2, 2009 Wild, Wild West Marathon, 50K, 10 mile and 3 mile fun run
October 9, 10, 11 is the Lone Pine Film Festival
For a full listing of events in both towns, check the local chamber of commerce web sites for the latest news and events.
In the smaller towns such as Big Pines and Independence, there are antique stores, plenty of lodging options and unique local attractions.
Driving on Highway 395 is a perfect way to capture the spirit of the Old West and modern-day adventures.