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Conversations with history (and ‘living legend’) Dr. Helen Smith

The Sierra State Parks Foundation is proud to announce an evening with the first Vikingsholm Champion, Dr. Helen Smith, at Vikingsholm Castle in Emerald Bay State Park. The program starts at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, July 24, and tickets are necessary to attend.

Smith spent 14 of her childhood summers as a guest of Vikingsholm-owner, Ms. Lora Knight. When she returned as an adult, she discovered the new owners (California State Parks) had little information about the castle. She pioneered the first ever public tour program and recorded the castle’s history in a book. She continues to work with State Parks and the Sierra State Parks Foundation to ensure Vikingsholm¹s legacy lives on. Dr. Helen Smith has been recognized with the 2019 Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Spirit of the Lake award.

Guests receive the VIP experience of driving down the park service road to lake level and receiving a private behind-the-scenes tour of the castle. Following the tour, there will be a reception of fine wine and hors d’oeuvres in the castle’s courtyard.

Tickets are $65 ($55 for members) and can be purchased online at www.SierraStateParks.org. Proceeds of this fundraising event benefit Vikingsholm maintenance and restoration projects.

HISTORY: Going to Donner Lake … on the Lincoln Highway

Before there were whizzing cars and big-rig tractor-trailers speeding 65 mph (and higher) on Interstate 80, the first transcontinental highway was the Lincoln Highway, commemorating the 16th U.S. President, Abraham Lincoln.

Today much of this historic 100-plus year-old road is accessible, however it was replaced in 1926 by U.S. Highway 40. If a traveler gets off the interstate’s beaten path, segments can be visited.

Established in 1913 by the Lincoln Highway Association, automobile-invested companies, such as Packard, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company and General Motors, supported and endorsed the roadway, as did the California State Automobile Association. The highway crossed through 14 states, 128 counties, and approximately 500 cities between San Francisco and New York. The original length between these two cities was 3,388.6 miles and much of present-day Interstate 80 parallels or is laid top of the historic route in California.

With the wonders of technology, a casual Google Map search shows that the current road distance between these two cities is 480 miles less than the original Lincoln Highway.

Over the years the route has become more and more direct.


Along the Lincoln Highway, concrete underpasses were built beneath the 1869 Transcontinental Railroad tracks of the Central Pacific Railroad. Prior to this underpass, travelers would have to stop on one side, place their ear on the rails, and listen for trains, prior to driving across.

Traveling on the Lincoln Highway in the Donner Summit area was surrendering to driving less than 45 mph, taking your time, and even packing survival gear. Almost a hundred years ago, automobiles moved slowly, for example Ford’s Model T, manufactured from 1908-1927, went around 25 mph, whereas the Model A, manufactured from 1927-31, did a-whopping 45 mph In 1924, only 826 miles of the highway were paved, undoubtedly in cities, and 1,650 miles were graded with gravel.

The majority of the Lincoln Highway’s roads, 3,143 miles, were neither graded nor graveled. Because the highway’s conditions varied, the speed limit on the road was 35 mph in most sections; however, most drove 10 mph, which was the average speed. Overall, to drive across America, it literally took 19 days, averaging 18 mph.


Prior to making the trip, there were extensive “Don’ts” to heed by in making the trip both comfortable and safe:

Don’t wear wool next to the skin. Wear linen or cotton underneath.

Don’t wait until the gasoline is almost gone before looking for more.

Don’t allow the water can to be anything but full.

Don’t allow the car to be without food at any time.

Don’t fail to put out your campfire.

Don’t forget the yellow goggles.

Don’t forget camphor ice.

Don’t ford water without first wading through it.

Don’t drive more than twenty-five miles an hour.

Don’t carry your good clothes. Ship them ahead.

Don’t drink alkali water.

Don’t wear new shoes.

Thankfully, “yellow goggles” are no longer needed, wading through “fords” is not required, and visitor centers are available for snacks and bathroom breaks. Gasoline to drive the 3,400 miles in 1914 cost $240.00, the equivalent today of $6,041; therefore, only the affluent could afford to drive the Lincoln Highway. Since it was expensive and not everyone owned an auto, there were a mere 150 transcontinental trips by automobile in 1913, but 10 years later the number of trips jumped to 25,000, which is approximately 2,080 vehicles a month.

What once took 60 days to travel now could be completed in 20 days.


Lodges and restaurants were slowly were added to the Lincoln Highway for weary travelers. San Franciscan T.C. Wohlbruck opened “canteen service stations” for drivers in need of refreshments and souvenirs. In 1913, he built three on the Lincoln Highway at Emigrant Gap’s Lookout Point,

Echo Summit, and Truckee’s Pioneer Monument. Wohlbruck’s lodges had tearooms, soda fountains, and lunchrooms where visitors could get 15-cent lunches. Built on the westbound side, Nyack Lodge was the first hotel establishment on the route, overlooking Lake Spaulding. Currently, the lodge site is a Caltrans’ vista lookout.

A 1915 Lincoln Highway guide of Donner listed: “Two hotels, accommodations for 90. Summit House, $2.00 Amer.; Soda Springs Hotel, $2.00 Amer. Gas, 30 cents; Oil, $1.00. Route marked through village and county. Extensive road improvement planned for 1915. One R.R., 1 general business place, 1 Exp. Co., telegraph. Donner Party monument on north shore of Donner Lake.” At the Pioneer Monument, 5,000 vials of wood from the Murphy cabin, candies, curios, and other photographs were souvenirs sold. By 1920, the lodge’s guest register recorded 3,500 visitors in 7 years, or approximately 40 visitors a month. The lodge currently stands across from the Donner Memorial Park museum and visitor center.

Portions of the Lincoln Highway were designated as the Victory Highway, a memorial to World War I. During war in 1919, Colonel McClure lead the first transcontinental army convoy, which left Washington D.C. on July 7th and arrived in San Francisco on September 1st. The convoy was two miles long, had 81 vehicles, 295 enlisted men and officers, and took 62 days, at an average of 53 miles per day. The event by the military was considered a “good trial” in moving equipment and the “government’s contribution to the road movement.”

In 1926, U.S. Highway 40 replaced the Lincoln Highway, connecting San Francisco to Atlantic City, New Jersey, and was much shorter, 2,286 miles, than its predecessor, plus very few resources exist that date to the Lincoln Highway. For those looking for an adventure, travelers can drive on the roadbeds accessible off Interstate 80 that weave through the towns of Soda Springs, Kingsvale, and Cisco Grove.

Corri Jimenez is an architectural historian and historic preservation professional working in the Tahoe area. For additional information, check out Donner Summit Historical Society Heirloom newsletters (November 2010, October 2010, November 2012, and October 2018 at www.donner summithistoricalsociety.org.

Michael L. Conn: Facing some reality

There are many things one could learn from the many religions prevalent on Earth. Buddhism has some well-developed beliefs that closely parallel the scientific method. That is, they have proven over time the practical realities as opposed to the theoretical postulations and desired fantasies of so-called progressive thinkers.

Having evolved over thousands of years, the Dalai Lama has expressed the findings of Buddhists quite clearly. These beliefs are directly observed and applicable today.

Regarding Teachers or Masters …

“The proof of whether a Master is authentic or not depends on how convincing or implausible his or her teachings are after analysis.”

… In other words, the proof is in the pudding. Under the guidance of President Donald Trump, the enormous success of America is now visible on several fronts. In only two and one-half years, many of these positive achievements have not been seen for over a half century… in spite of an army of “Resistance at All Costs” opponents. As a result, the prosperity, justice, happiness, and overall wellbeing of Americans are rising rapidly.

And more… “In someone whose mind is not disciplined, knowledge that is purely theoretical can induce and nurture unfortunate states of mind that bring about unpleasantness for oneself and others. Because this danger is very real, it is always important to link theoretical knowledge with its practical application.” … think AOC.

The Dalai Lama cites 10 negative actions that poison society … “Four relate to speech: lying, divisive speech, harsh speech, senseless speech or gossip.”

… What immediately comes to mind are the current Socialist-Democratic party “leaders,” specifically, their presidential candidates, House committee heads, Speaker of the House, multiple newly elected Democratic members of Congress, the Minority Head in the Senate, and above all CNN and MSNBC.

Michael L. Conn

Alpine Meadows

Law Review: May protesters gather at Six Flags in Vallejo?

When and where protesters may gather to hand out petitions or protest, whether it be the Vietnam or Iraq war or animal rights, is a thorny issue in California. Free speech rights versus private property rights. The most recent case involves protesters objecting to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom’s treatment of animals.


Joseph Cuviello and others have long been protesting Six Flags use of animals at the theme park. On April 13, 2014, a group of eight protesters handed out leaflets and carried signs with messages such as, “RIP” with a picture of an elephant; “A day of fun for you … a lifetime of misery for him”; “Animals don’t belong at Six Flags”; “NOT FUN FOR ANIMALS.”

They were arrested which led to a Six Flags’ lawsuit against Cuviello and the group In Defense of Animals.


The group had been protesting outside of the main gates at Six Flags. They were outside the ticketing booths but within a front admissions area adjacent to a parking lot and sidewalks. Clearly on private property, an area where patrons meet friends before going into the amusement park. The issue in this case was whether that non-ticketed exterior area of Six Flags was protected by California’s free speech laws such that protestors without permission could gather and hand out literature i.e. was that exterior area a “public forum for free speech.” The trial court ruled for Six Flags.


California’s Constitution protects the right of every individual to “freely speak, write and publish his or her sentiments on all subjects [subject to] being responsible for the abuse of this right.” Only a lawyer could love that language. This right to speak sometimes extends to speech on private property.

The leading case is Pruneyard Shopping Center, a 1979 California Supreme Court case where the Pruneyard Shopping Center was held to be a public forum such that protestors could gather.

By contrast, in the Court’s most recent decision, Ralph’s Grocery, the Supreme Court held that the entrance to an individual store within a shopping center is not a public forum under California law. As the Court wrote in the Ralph’s Grocery case, to be a public forum “an area within a shopping center must be designed and furnished in a way that induces shoppers to congregate there for purposes of entertainment, relaxation, or conversation, and not merely to walk to or from a parking lot, or to walk from one store to another, or to view a store’s merchandise and advertising displays.”

In the Fashion Valley Mall case the Supreme Court ruled that protestors had the right to express their opposition to the war in Vietnam by distributing leaflets in Union Station in Los Angeles – as long as no one interfered with railroad business.


My read of this First District Court of Appeal opinion is that the Court had a difficult time with the facts, trying to balance the public’s interest in engaging in expressive activity and Six Flags’ interest in protecting its right to control its property.

The Court quoted the U.S. Supreme Court, “[u]rging customers to boycott a store lies at the core of the right to free speech.” Not sure today’s Court would still agree. It was important to the Court of Appeal that the protesters caused no disruption and did not interfere with park attendance.

The Court ultimately concluded the exterior, un-ticketed portion of Six Flags was a public forum area under California’s Liberty of Speech Clause.


The Court closed with this caveat, “To be clear, we do not hold that the exterior areas of all privately owned amusement parks or similar privately owned venues are public fora for free expression under California law. Each case is of course unique, and each turns on its particular facts. We merely hold on the undisputed facts here that Park Management may not ban expressive activity in the non-ticketed, exterior areas of Six Flags Discovery Kingdom.”

Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter Simon licensed in California and Nevada, with offices in Truckee and Tahoe City, California, and Reno, Nevada. Jim’s practice areas include: real estate, development, construction, business, HOA’s, contracts, personal injury, accidents, mediation and other transactional matters. He may be reached at porter@portersimon.com or www.portersimon.com.

Pine Nuts: Operation Drawdown

Will you agree with me that most people are good-hearted?

Even robocallers, when they are done antagonizing the general public, must go home to their loving families and their loving dogs.

Even tailgaters, when they are done terrorizing the general public, must go home to their loving families and their loving dogs. Well, maybe not tailgaters. I don’t care who you vote for, and I don’t care who you pray to, but you will be my friend and comrade without further introduction if you will just refrain from tailgating.

However, if you do tailgate, here’s what your retribution will be, should I become superintendent. First, you will be lifted off the roadway by a giant magnet suspended from a police helicopter and unceremoniously deposited in a prison yard, or perhaps dropped into Lake Tahoe, depending upon what kind of a mood I am in on that particular day.

People sometimes ask me, “But didn’t you say you never met a man you didn’t like?”

Actually, that was my first wife who said that, and I might have said it myself before I got tailgated.

When you peel back the tough exterior, most people are soft-hearted inside. Though I did once know a man so stingy that he would peel a potato in his pocket so you couldn’t see it, and then pop it into his mouth the minute you stepped outside in search of a potato.

Mark Twain tells us, “The average American is true to his Christian principles 363 days out of the year. The other two days he visits the tax office and the voting booth.”

Tom Paine told us in 1776, “We have it in our power to begin the world over again.” Mr. Paine was reaching out to 2019 America.

In the final analysis, we have no permanent enemies, except our weapons of mass destruction, which have put us in harm’s way, and if we don’t put ourselves out of harm’s way, well, my friend, that could bring us a bad day.

So here’s my plan … we, the United States of America, in a public display the likes of which the world has yet to see, disarm a nuclear weapon, and send that disarmed nuclear weapon on a world-wide tour of all 197 countries. If we cannot get a denuclearized weapon, well, we shall mock up a replica.

Gathering signatures of heads of state along with worldwide approval as it circumnavigates the globe, “Operation Drawdown” will pick up momentum and public activism as it goes. Public pressure will mount and keep the tour going until, like a giant magnet, it disarms every nuclear weapon in existence, and we can heave a collective sigh of relief.

At first there will be holdouts, of course, but immeasurable public pressure will prevail, and a safer world population will live on to fight that other clear and present danger to our survival, our radically changing climate, about which we can talk soon. Let us first purge the earth of our most ominous threat, then we can get serious about cooling the planet to a tolerable temperature …

Learn more about McAvoy Layne at http://www.ghostoftwain.com.

Cartoon by Killbuck

Silke Pflueger: Sean Frame for Congress

The 2020 election is casting its shadow early this year. No one can hide from the race for the presidential nomination; it’s everywhere.

But there is more at stake in California’s 4th Congressional District than just the presidency. We still have carpetbagger Tom McClintock (not) representing us in DC, and it’s time to fire him.

Luckily, after Jessica Morse’s huge gains in 2018, we have somebody who can finish the job and beat McClintock in 2020 – Sean Frame. Sean is a longtime Placerville resident, the vice president of the Placerville Union School District Board of Trustees, and a small business owner. As a fellow rural resident, he understands the issues we face: having our homeowners insurance canceled, difficulties in accessing healthcare, not enough affordable housing, to name a few. He helped pass a school bond (aka tax increase) in his very red school district to fund broadband in the schools. He knows how to foster dialogue and work across the aisle, because he knows that our issues have more in common than the parties’ platforms suggest.

Many CA04 district residents have already endorsed Sean Frame, and he was recently endorsed by California’s past Insurance Commissioner, Dave Jones. Support Sean Frame, a true champion for our community.

Silke Pflueger


Jeff Middlebrook: Alex Honnold greatest athlete in human history

While soaking in the meditation pool at Sierra Hot Springs earlier this week with my lady-love, I had an animated discussion with a woman who is a former rock climber like me.

As we compared notes of all the Yosemite routes we climbed, I brought up some of the routes I free-soloed back in the day, and of course that led to me mentioning Alex Honnold (known simply as Alex to those of us in the know).

That’s when the former woman climber echoed what I’ve been saying about Alex ever since he free-soloed the classic standard route on Half Dome back in 2008 and I predicted he would free-solo El Cap, and that when (not if) he did he would become the greatest athlete in human history.

Well in June of 2017, Alex did become the greatest athlete in human history, no debate!

Alex has literally trivialized every other athlete and athletic endeavor in the entire history of humanity, and he has liberated me from ever caring about or being impressed by any other athletic endeavor. Baseball, football, skiing, triathlons, marathons, basketball, soccer, hockey, car racing, etc? Boring!

After the greatest ever, everything else is banal!

Jeff Middlebrook


Climate-Ready Truckee Workshop set for Wednesday

The Town of Truckee has begun to prepare the community for climate change, with a workshop scheduled for Wednesday.

According to a news release, Truckee’s summers are getting hotter and winter storms are more extreme.

“The changes we will experience over the coming decades will only get more severe,” the release states. “By 2080: Truckee could see 69 days every summer with temperatures above 90°F; Truckee could have 92% less April snowpack than our historical average.; Truckee could experience 91% more area burned by wildfire.”

The Town will host the workshop from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Community Arts Center 10046 Church St., Truckee. The workshop will be an opportunity for Truckee residents to talk about how climate change will affect their lives and think about actions we can take as a community to best prepare.

Friends of the Truckee Library to host used book sale

An annual “Giant Used Book Sale,” serving as a fundraiser for the Friends of the Truckee Library, will be hosted at the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District’ on Aug. 3.

Along with low prices, attendees can expect “tons” of children’s books, fiction and nonfiction offerings. The sale will be hosted at the school district’s Admin Building Gymnasium, 11603 Donner Pass Rd., Truckee.

Friends of the Library members get first pick, and refreshments, from 8-9 a.m., followed by doors opening to the public from 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

Email truckeefol@gmail.com to learn how to become a Friends of the Truckee Library member.