Exploring the Sierras

Exploring the Eastern Sierras

When T.S. Eliot observed "The journey, not the arrival, matters" he might have had Highway 395 in mind.  Conceived in the mid 1800's to accommodate the mining industry, route 395 now carries countless tourists and outdoor enthusiasts to Reno, Los Angeles and all points in between.  Unfortunately, many travelers today are destination oriented and don't slow down enough “to smell the roses.”

The Eastern Sierras are a study in extremes.  Both the highest and lowest elevations in the continental United States are nearby, separated by less than 70 miles.  The hottest temperatures in California can be found in Death Valley, while the coldest are recorded in Bodie State Park, 80 miles away.

The area surrounding Highway 395, nicknamed "California's Mother Road", is rich in natural andRegional map of Hwy 395 Nevada Region SoCal Region The Sierras Region Owens Valley Region cultural history.  Unique restaurants can be found along the way.  Highway 395's environs  is a playground for outdoor recreationalists!  The Sierras offer world class skiing in the winter as well as premiere camping and fishing in the summer.  You can enjoy a fish taco on a patio overlooking Mono Lake while listening to a bluegrass band or go rock climbing where hundreds of movies were filmed.  Take a train ride back in time to Nevada's mining glory days.  Dine on five star cuisine in the middle of nowhere.  Search for wild horses in custom off road vehicles.  It's all there if you know where to look.

This travelogue is designed to highlight not only the well-known attractions but also the hidden treasures along the way.  Most locations are within a few minutes of 395.  A few are further off the beaten path but all are worth your time.  Let us know about your favorite spots, we will do our best to include them.  As time and resources allow we will be adding more articles to the web site, so check back periodically.

We have divided EatandDrive395 into four regions: SoCal, Owens Valley, the Sierras and Nevada. SoCal includes the triangle formed by highways 14 and 395 to where they merge near Pearsonville.  The Owens Valley segment deals with Pearsonville to Bishop.  The Sierras includes north of Bishop to the Nevada border.  Finally, articles covering Topaz Lake to Reno can be found in the Nevada section.  Since we live in Southern California the articles are arranged in order from south to north.  If you are driving south, turn your computer screen upside down.

There are some special features scattered throughout the guide we hope you like:

TRIP TIPS!  Will make you feel like a local with the inside scoop on restaurants, attractions and roadside stops.  Here you will find information about coupons, hours of operation, special events and menu items.

FUN FACTS!  Be the envy of your travel group with these amusing and generally useless bits of trivia!

TRAVEL TRIVIA  Test your knowledge about Highway 395 and its surroundings' lesser known facts.

Slow down and enjoy the journey!
Eric and Debbie Freeman

Sierra Panorama

Funny Yelp Reviews

Not too long ago vacations were planned by combing through AAA tour books and Sunset Magazine articles.  That changed as travel websites began popping up.  What started as a drizzle soon became a downpour of information.   Smart phones have taken things a step further; you can book a motel or choose a restaurant while en route to your destination.  Out of this tempest two major players have emerged, Yelp and TripAdvisor.

Funny SignThough similar, TripAdvisor and Yelp occupy their own niche in the internet review market.  TripAdvisor consists mainly of travel-related reviews.  It offers a scorecard of places to eat and stay, as well as popular tourist attractions.  Yelp on the other hand is more locally driven.  Devotees of the site not only share their opinions about diners but offer critiques of hair salons, garages and any other business with a street address.  Even our hometown church has a Yelp rating! Both websites let you compare various businesses but beware, the devil's in the details.

Let's take a closer look at Yelp's inner workings.  Yelp employs various filters to assure items of dubious subject matter do not appear on its pages.  Content is arranged based on the company's mysterious ranking formula.  Because of this, restaurants may not be listed in order of popularity or consumer ratings, and reviews are not listed in chronological order.  Yelp's army of critics are a dedicated lot.  Yelpers form their own cliques and follow each other's posts religiously.  The website has become a social event, like Facebook colliding with the Michelin Guide.  A recent study  revealed that a one star increase in Yelp can increase a business's retail sales 5% to 9%.

On the other hand, a poor review is a Mom and Pop shop's worst nightmare.  A disgruntled Yelper can drive business away quicker than a "C" rating by the health department.  So what ruffles an amateur critic's feathers?  In their writing, here are some examples.

  • "Rude waitress.  Slow service.  Restroom outside of the restaurant.  And the icing on the cake?  Old, fat people eating disgustingly slow."
  • "Better yet, just avoid this armpit town in the desert and go someplace else where folks know what really good food is… Obviously this town is full of inbreeds who wouldn't know quality if it landed on their pointy little heads."
  • "Hire an effing manager to train those fat F#C# employees to smile and move.  Stay away unless you are sick in the head".
  • "Blech".
  • "There was a shaft of light filtering in from an opening above, which hit the plastic table top and glared into my eye, like a mirror being flashed at the sun; no position at the table allowed me to escape it…Having no other choice, as I really treasure my eyesight, we left."
  • "This place should be called STONER PIZZA because the guy working is literally HIGH AS A KITE!  I could tell over the phone he was about to float away…. In the end I learned stoners do make amazing pizza!!!  (Shocking, I know)  The pepperoni was DELICIOUS and everyone loved it". 
  • "Ineptitude was only matched by their gross stupidity".
  • "The first time we stopped by we learned the joint isn't open on Sundays.  The second time we stopped by at about 11 am on a Saturday (Sep. 4, 2010) there was a handwritten sign in the window saying 'Closed for Labor Day weekend'.  At this point we are giving up… My review has already been removed once for purportedly violating Yelp's terms of service because it 'lacks a firsthand customer experience'… Yelp can keep taking down this review but I will keep posting it."
  • "We came up from Joshua Tree to watch our nephew play hokey and didn't have any good dinning experiences."
  • "Good sandwiches, but the music they play is so obnoxious.  I can barely stand to be in there."

FUN FACT!  The first review Yelp posted was on October 12, 2004.  The critique praised Truly Mediterranean, a Middle Eastern delicatessen in San Francisco.  It consisted of four words: "Dirt cheap, good falafels."