NOTE: IN ORDER TO BETTER SEE PHOTOS IN THEIR FULL 1600 PX. RESOLUTION, VIEW THEM IN THE ALBUM FORMAT BY CLICKING ON THE LEAD PHOTO OR ANY PHOTO IN THE POST. This is especially true for landscape shots. Thanks to Mark for the idea of adding this alert so the photos can be seen at their best!

Friday, January 31, 2014

Checking Out Carson City

You can't miss Carson City when you're headed down the highway, there's a big eagle to guide you to your exit.  Carson City is the capital of Nevada, and all the state government buildings are there, including the Capitol building itself.

Nevada achieved territorial status in 1861 and was admitted to the Union in 1864.  Construction began on the Capitol in 1870 and was finished a year later. It was designed by Joseph Gosling of San Francisco.  In 1875 an iron fence was erected around the grounds to keep livestock out!  The exterior stone is limestone quarried at the Nevada State Prison.

In the 1940's and 1960's demolition of the Capitol was considered. But after originally deciding to condemn the building plans were halted and the dome was restored in 1969.  In 1974 three different engineering firms concluded the building was structurally unsound but that with extensive work it could be saved.

The first floor contains Alaskan marble floors that were added in 1917.  The building was originally lit with kerosene and heated with steam, but was electrified in the early 1890's, replacing the kerosene chandeliers.  The handrail on the staircase is the original black walnut.

The dome used to include an ellipse, but bats would swoop down and startle the tourists.  I'm glad they removed it when they remodeled!  The light fixture was interesting but I didn't find any information about it.

My favorite part of the Capitol building was the hand painted frieze done by Reno artist A.V. Wiggins in 1917.  Three feet wide and 400 feet long, it represents northern Nevada at the top and southern Nevada at the bottom.  Images include wheat sheaves, agricultural animals, and 21 one of the state's minerals to honor their deep history of mining.

Our walking tour was short as this Capitol was small compared to Wisconsin's.  We continued walking down Carson Street for a quick look around.  Cory was hoping to find more unique treasures, but it didn't pan out.  (A little mining joke there in honor of Nevada)

I enjoyed meeting and photographing Jack.

A few blocks down Carson Street and we arrived at the Nevada State Museum.  Admission was $8 and photography was permitted.

I got at least one gambling shot for our stay.  We didn't go into any casinos during our time in Reno.

In addition to a ghost town and a replica of an underground mine, they had a really good firearms exhibit.

Their most unique display is the operating coin press from the original Carson City Mint.  We watched the movie about the mint's short history.  The mint was established in Carson City to facilitate minting of silver coins from silver in the Comstock Lode, somewhat like how the San Francisco Mint was established to facilitate minting gold coins from the gold of the California gold rush. It only ran for 19 years during the period of 1870-1893.  From 1895 to 1933, the building served as the U.S. Assay Office for gold and silver. The Federal Government sold the building to the state of Nevada in 1939. Coins struck there are generally rare and have a high premium, especially Morgan Dollars that were struck there.

Unless you collect coins it's only interesting for about 2 minutes!  I was much more interested to see what they had on display in the Natural History and Geology departments.

The BIG surprise was the Mammoth on display. It was discovered in 1979 in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, on BLM land by an Oregon logger.  The horse in the background was discovered by a friend of his in the  mud flats near Pyramid Lake mostly exposed and intact.   Also found in the area were two camels!  Those three animals were estimated to have died 25,000 years ago, were buried in sediment and not exposed until the 1980's.

Careful excavation was needed for the brittle bones of the mammoth, and after transport they were mended or filled in with plaster in missing areas. Some of the bones on display are copies due to their incompatibility with being displayed on a framework.

Staff visits to Bertha and Angel, the performing elephants at the John Ascuagas Nugget in Sparks, were very helpful, as the trainer kindly put the patient Bertha through all the possible postures considered.  Starting with the skull at the ceiling, the rest of the posture was designed to depict a death scene in a mud pit within the space available.  There are not sure of the exact age of the bull mammoth, but estimate he was alive between 15,000 and 17,000 years ago.  Mammoths are grazers and browsers and ate 400 pounds of food a day!

Hard to imagine a time in Nevada when grass, shrubs and trees were plentiful enough to support animals that ate that much.  Also during this time saber-toothed cats, dire wolves and giant bison roamed this part of North America.  Did you know that horses native to North America went extinct 10,000 years ago?  All horses here now are descendants of European horses.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Much Ado About Midtown

First of all, thanks for all the nice comments on my post about Cory!  Today's Reno post is about the day he kind of planned out for us.  When we were driving through "Midtown" he spotted a bunch of quirky little shops he wanted to go back and check out.

I went in to the antique shop looking for vintage hair barrettes but had no luck.  I liked their Coca Cola related window display though!

Cory tackled the Happy Happy Joy Joy shop but I stayed outside because it smelled like air freshener.  He said it was like a toy store for grown-ups, if the purple outfitted mannequin with the dog head didn't give it away for ya!  Lots of used clothing stores, antique shops, and little boutiques in midtown.  We even stopped into the Spy Shop which sold a lot of strange home protection stuff.

Couldn't pass up the Sierra Nevada chocolate shop!  I've graduated to one piece of chocolate early in the day to control that acid reflux, so I only bought two truffles.  They were delicious!

Midtown was LOADED with murals.  I have 23 more posts with murals in them! That's more than 5 months worth of Monday Murals!

Besides a chocolate covered caramel patty Cory bought a three-headed purple dragon in need of a wing repair and a loving home.

The dragon flew home with us in my purse.  It didn't appear he got airsick like I did.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Welcome to Cory's World

I'm finally ready to broach a topic that I've wanted to discuss for awhile now.  Our son Cory suffers from Bipolar disorder type 2  coupled with dysthymic disorder.  Most people are familiar with the symptoms of bipolar type 1 as that is what is the most common and is often portrayed in the media.  In Type 2 the "up" moods never reach full on mania and their depressive moods are usually more severe.  In bipolar 1 or 2, the dramatic mood episodes can last days, months and sometimes even years. Dysthymic disorder is characterized by a long-term, low-grade depression for two or more years which is not due to disease or substance abuse. For the past year Cory's "up" moods have been infrequent at best, and his depression has gone from low-grade has to severe and at times life threatening.

Cory 2010

We worked with a therapist and our family doctor for six months before things got so bad that a short hospitalization was necessary.  It was a difficult decision to come to, but Cory's life was at stake and dramatic intervention was needed to get him on the right medications and help him learn some skills needed for managing his illness.  I haven't talked about what we've been going through as a family because it's not easy to describe the disorder, much less the daily level of worry that we've been experiencing. Cory has no opposition to discussing his problems with everybody which is why I'm finally broaching the topic here.  My main goal in doing so is to help shine a light on this disorder and maybe help others in a similar situation.

Doctors don't fully understand Bipolar disorders yet, but think it is based on a genetic disposition to having difficulty maintaining proper levels of brain chemicals.  They also think a stressful event can set off the imbalance of mood regulating chemistry.  Even back as far as infancy Cory experienced life with extreme mood reactions, notably anxiety, so looking back it's easy to see that he was susceptible to a mood disorder.  In grade school we had trouble with bullying and started seeing signs of extreme anxiety which is why we pulled the kids out of school and started homeschooling.  Cory now informs me that it was at this time that he started thinking negatively about himself often, had trouble sleeping at night, and contemplated hurting himself.  As is the case with any person's thoughts, he didn't tell us the extent of what he was thinking (I never knew he was lying in bed not sleeping at night at the age of 8!) and we didn't think to ask.  We knew he was under considerable stress and anxiety but not that he was suffering symptoms of depression.


Once we began homeschooling it took two years for me to feel like Cory had mostly gotten back to his pre-bullying "norm", though I knew his self-image and confidence had been permanently damaged to some extent I didn't know how deep it really went.  He seemed mostly okay until he was about 17, and then when he seemed irritable and had weird sleeping habits we asked him if everything was okay because depression does run in our family.  He said he didn't need to see a therapist and we all just assumed it was that "teenager thing", but to Cory it was just an extension of the way he had always felt inside and didn't know wasn't the way everyone felt.  After he completed his high school studies he tried going to classes at a local technical college but had difficulty being motivated and with concentration. He'd done well at the few courses he'd taken there previously so we didn't know what to think when he failed more than he passed and chalked it up to "school burnout".  We discussed this very topic just the other day and I reassured him that now we know it was the depression and not his fault and that it's up to him whether he attempts school again when he feels ready.

Homeschool days - successful crayfish hunt

A little more than a year ago he dropped into a severe depression and suicidal thinking.  It was at that point that we discovered how serious things were and started on the road to recovery.  Recovery with this disorder is no easy thing, and progress is very slow since once in an "episode" it is hard to get the mood stable again and small emotional upsets can further disrupt any attempt at stabilization.  It was probably six months before Cory was seeing any discernible amount of relief and then only after his hospitalization and medication changes, and he is still grappling with not blaming himself or his personality instead of his illness.  For the past few months while things are still not where they need to be, we have seen improvement and his mood, while still depressed, doesn't drop as dramatically or as frequently, and he doesn't seem to be in imminent danger of harming himself.

Medication is the key component in a bipolar treatment program, but he also sees a therapist once a week for talk therapy in order to help motivate him to stick with his treatment and deal with the stressful effects his severely depressed mood has on his work and personal relationships.  Attention to a routine of regular sleep, eating habits and exercise can help maintain good mood and this is an area we are still working hard at.  Cory suffers from a disinterest in food and is seldom hungry so has to make an effort to eat regularly.  Regular sleep is also something that is still eluding him and at its worst he sleeps in one or two hour intervals spread throughout the day or stays up all night agitated and unable to fall asleep.

We finally got a breakthrough on the day we were leaving for Reno.  He had an appointment with his psychiatrist and after mentioning his continuing negative thought pattern, nightmares and insomnia she prescribed him a new medication.  He took it our first night in Reno and slept for 9 hours!  Every night since he has slept 7-9 hours with normal momentary awakenings.  In addition, his internal mindset improved almost overnight.  The incident where he fell into the water is a good example.  He got his camera wet and normally a situation like that would have ruined his good mood for a week, but he was shocked when he laughed about it and took it in stride.  He's still talking about how he can't believe the difference in the way he reacted to that situation.  On the day we left Reno he woke in a bad mood due to a nightmare, but when we went to breakfast there was a man playing keyboard at the restaurant and by the time we left he was in a good mood again.  Sounds like such a simple thing, but to Cory the ability to shake a bad mood hasn't happened in over a year!  We're all feeling very hopeful right now that he's finally found the right combination of medications to give him his life back.

boulder hopping

As bad as things have been for Cory, he is luckier than most in his situation.  He has a supportive, understanding family who has helped him get and maintain treatment.  Due to the education and emotional support he's gotten at home he doesn't abuse drugs or alcohol as many other bipolar and depression sufferers do in an effort to cope.  He is very articulate which helps his doctors understand as well as treat his symptoms, and he is able to apply rational thought to his behavior sometimes even when his brain is urging otherwise.

I hope my talking about this has helped some people understand this illness a little better.  I know it's been hard for us to fully understand how difficult bipolar is to treat.  It's a lifelong battle, but we know there's a Cory in there waiting to enjoy life and we're willing to work hard to help him get there.

Want to know more?  Psychology Today has a good article on the differences between Bipolar I and Bipolar II here.

Monday, January 27, 2014

People Thought I Was Crazy

In 1909 twenty-two year old Alice Ramsey became the first woman to drive across the United States in an automobile.  Sounds strange to us rv'ers who do that as a lifestyle, but back then people thought she was crazy.  Looking at what passed for a road through Nevada I might see their point a little bit.

Mural by John Ton

Here's a great link to the whole story at the Smithsonian's website. Nice bit of feminist history.  Don't forget to check out my friends at Monday Mural too.

What have you done that makes people think you're crazy?  Homeschooling was a biggie for us, and I wouldn't have missed it for the world!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Under One Sky

When we were at the Nevada State Museum the other day we explored a Native American exhibit there called "Under One Sky".  There was an essay on display talking about the Native American attitude toward archaeology and the concept of history and pre-history from the Native American perspective.  

As I walked around Grimes Point Archaeological Site I couldn't help but think about what I had read.  The Native Americans believe that they are a part of the land and that when you disturb their remains or their objects you are breaking their ancestors continuing spiritual connection with the land.

Petroglyphs at Grimes Point go back as far as 8,000 years, and were not always protected.   In addition to wear from erosion many were vandalized.  There weren't that many that were easily picked out, and I wouldn't necessarily recommend taking the hour drive out each way from Reno like we did.  If you're going to be swinging through the Fallon area anyway it is definitely worth the stop.  Also stop in to Jerry's Restaurant where they make a killer milkshake according to Cory.

Want to read more about the Native Americans objection to current archaeological practices?  Try this link. 

"The American Indian is of the soil, whether it be the region of forests, plains, pueblos, or mesas. He fits into the landscape, for the hand that fashioned the continent also fashioned the man for his surroundings. He once grew as naturally as the wild sunflowers, he belongs just as the buffalo belonged..." --Luther Standing Bear

Looking out across the vast desert landscape, it's hard to imagine the time thousands of years ago when the Native Americans lived here and the plains were covered with the water of the then massive Lake Pohantan. The air was so dry here during our visit that Cory and I have both been suffering from nosebleeds every day!

I thought that the way everything here looked was probably typical of winter if a little dryer until we stopped at Davis Creek Regional Park on our way home from Fallon.  There was quite a difference in the shadow of the mountain where they've probably been getting more moisture and protection from the sun.  Even the dirt was different, sandy but not powdery like everywhere else we've been.  And the sagebrush was even a nice light green!

They had a small campground that looked very cozy, but no electric hookup.  The Ophir Creek Trail stretches 7.5 miles to the Tahoe Rim Trail from Davis Creek Regional Park.  Wish I had known about it sooner because it looked like my kind of hike, but the sun was setting and today we are leaving.  Wayne sent me a text this morning about the sub-zero weather I can expect on return.  I can't decide if he was sweet to warn me or mean to torture me.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Looping Through Lake Tahoe and Truckee

Yesterday we made a 114 mile loop from Reno to Carson City to Lake Tahoe to Truckee and back to Reno again.  We wanted to say we'd been to California...if only for a half hour or so.  

I'll tell you about our stop in Carson City another day, because I want to get these great shots of Lake Tahoe up first!  After leaving Carson City we headed up into the Carson Range and made a stop at Spooner Summit in the Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park area.  The trail system around Lake Tahoe is immense and mountain biking is allowed in the area as well.  The Spooner Lake Trailhead beckoned us and even though it was only 38F up on the mountain I had to get into that conifer forest!

Cory couldn't get over how huge the pine cones were.  I'm guessing Ponderosa Pine, but if anyone knows different help me out.

We only walked in for about 10 minutes, then headed back due to the cool temps. Plus, we had to get on down the road to Lake Tahoe.  Once we descended the mountain it warmed up a little.

That's California over there!

The views along Lake Tahoe are stunning, and it is a very big lake!  We drove through Sand Harbor State Park but didn't get out because there was a $7 daily fee to park and it was mostly a beach and picnic area.  Just a mile or so down the road there is a free pullout to park in and a path that meanders along the lake.  Gotta love the free stuff!

Even though there was snow on the shaded portions of the path the day was calm and comfortable and I felt like I could look at the view forever.

Eventually I realized Cory had wandered off and went to look for him.  He had made his way down to the water by doing a bit of boulder hopping.  A few minutes after I took the picture below he tried to make his way back and went up to his waist in the water.  Good thing it wasn't colder outside!

A little wetter and wiser, we left Sand Harbor and we drove through a few small ski areas on our way into California and the town of Truckee.  I kept my eyes peeled for a laundromat to get Cory's pants dried, but no luck.  When we got to Truckee, it looked like this.

photo courtesy of

It turns out Truckee is pretty much only a shop and eat destination with pay parking.  Cory's pants were drying out a bit but this stop wasn't worth delaying a return to dry clothes so I stopped into the one free parking lot and walked across the street to buy some cupcakes at Cake Tahoe.  Who could resist a name like that?  

From Truckee it only took us half an hour to get back to Reno and run a load of laundry.  Cory and I tried the cupcakes and we both agreed they were way too sweet.  But, notice I'm sticking to my chocolate-ban and got the vanilla!  

Friday, January 24, 2014

Lots to See at the Nevada Museum of Art

I can't decide whether this pose is "I dropped my contact lens" or "Someone just punched me in the stomach" or "Your Highness I am at your service".

For those who missed it, Reno became our destination thanks to an exhibit now showing at the Nevada Museum of Art.  Photography is not allowed in the galleries, so some of the photos shown below will be borrowed from the museum's and artist's websites.  The outdoor sculptures were all ours to goof around with though.

selfie alert!

Once inside the museum we got the 411 from museum staff and started climbing the stairs to the 3rd floor.  We loved the 48 foot tall scale model of the Transamerica Corporate Headquarters Tower in San Francisco made from laser-cut stainless steel and ball chain.

But on to the main event.  Upon Kahlo’s death in 1954, more than 6,500 personal photographs and items belonging to her and husband/artist Diego Rivera were sealed and put in storage. For more than half a century this great collection of personal memorabilia remained hidden from the public. In 2007 this collection was opened and Mexican photographer and curator Pablo Ortiz Monasterio inventoried and catalogued 240 images to create the Frida Kahlo: Her Photos exhibition.

Their website puts it nicely: The collection of photographs in this exhibition reflect Kahlo’s tastes and interests, the experiences she shared with those close to her, and her complicated, but also thrilling, personal life. Viewers get an insider’s look, not only through who was behind the camera, in front of the lens or the anonymous nature of some of the work but also through the annotated writing found on the back of many of the photographs.

What I found most interesting was that Frida grew up with photography.  Her father, Guillermo, was a professional. He was born in Germany but emigrated to Mexico in 1891.  In 1901 he set up a photographic studio, working for El Mundo Ilustrado and Semanario Ilustrado. He was commissioned by the government to do architectural photographs, probably his best work. He also took photographs of churches with other photographers for a six-volume survey in the 1920s.  There were a few portraits he had done of Frida in the collection, explaining in part why she was so comfortable with herself as the subject of most of her own work.

Her Photos

There was lots more to see, including a great view of the city and the Sierra Nevada.  The 8000 square foot space is available for rent and people have weddings there.  Oh, and there was a sculpture too!

Double Chalice: Joined and Separated by Kendall Buster

Other exhibits we enjoyed included one by Ashley Blalock entitled Keeping Up Appearances.  I was pretty excited to actually "get" a piece like this.

Ashley V. Blalock  Cotton yarn
teaser photo from Ashley Blalock's website

Here's the interpretation: The doilies themselves represent a certain desire to keep up the appearance of gentility to the outside world expressed through the arrangement of objects in the domestic setting. Inherent is a compulsion to arrange and place and decorate in order to control or influence a perceived outward appearance. The red color gives away the futility of such an act and hints at the unease that lurks below the surface of an obsessive need to control and arrange. 

Cory seemed to really enjoy Emilie Clark's Sweet Corruptions. The work in this project includes the collection and preservation of the artist’s family’s food waste for one year; an interactive Research Station sculpture that includes an audio piece, specimens, a dissecting microscope (for the public’s use) and terraria; a book; and, drawings and paintings.  It was like science turned into art.  Pretty cool.


My favorite part was the watercolor paintings, Cory dug the display of food waste.  There was even lobster!

               Sweet Corruptions

Either she's incredibly talented or I've been looking at the wrong watercolor paintings because I really enjoyed her work.

But probably our favorite exhibit was Patricia Chidlaw's Realm of the Commonplace. From the website: Chidlaw is an American realist seeking, and finding, profundity in the realm of the commonplace. She takes aims at dignity and a durable beauty amidst the rubble, ruins and soon-to-be-obsolete side routes of America. 

Something all us travelers of the nooks and crannies of America seem to gravitate toward as well, am I right?  


Want to see them bigger?  Go to the link above and you can click on her paintings on the website.  Not the same as seeing them in person, the paint really glowed and seemed almost hyperreal.  

Don't know how it happened, but that was paintings by two different artists that I enjoyed MORE than the sculptures.  I'm starting to think I just have really specific taste.  Speaking of painters I like, don't forget to check out Frida's paintings!

More from Reno tomorrow, we're heading out to Carson City and South Lake Tahoe today and we'll get to those petroglyphs and Sparks on Saturday.