I may have found my favorite shiny new object… the town of Lee Vining, CA! We camped here for about a week for a variety of reasons, but one the weather was so cool, as was the town (population 395 on the sign entering the town). The town just had a cool vibe – what can I say.
The town sits on the eastern slope of the Eastern Sierra’s, and in part due to elevation (about 6,800 feet) enjoys really moderate climate. We used the AC one time while we were here, but most nights we had the windows open, and even used the furnace several times as the temperatures at night dipped into the 40’s.
We stayed at the Mono Vista RV Park, a private campground that was great! A little quirky – no credit cards, and the grounds staff were a little obsessive compulsive with watering the lawns here, but it was all good. There were full hookups, clean bathrooms and showers if you wanted them (we did not), as well as a laundry (we did need and use).
In this park you will clearly see as many rental RV’s as private RV’s, and English is commonly not the most prevalent language (many European and Asian vacationers) – which actually is really nice! Bonjour… Hallo… Ciao… Kon’nichiwa… hey y’all!
One of the really nice things about this campground is the huge cottonwood trees that offer amazing shade throughout much of the day. It appears people from Las Vegas and warmer places in California that suffer from 90’s and 100+ degree temperatures come here and spend a month or so because in part they can escape the hot temps.
But Lee Vining is more than cool temperatures. It sits on the edge of Yosemite (see previous post); the drive into Yosemite Valley is still about a 2+ hour drive (gorgeous drive but steep inclines and not 500 feet of straight road).
Lee Vining is about a 45-minute drive to Bodie, which is the site of a ghost-mining town, and perhaps 30 minute drive to the Mammoth Lakes area.
And it sits right next to Mono Lake, again previously posted – which is really cool and a very interesting story.
Mono Vista RV Park is located right downtown, so anything that is downtown is but a short walk. We visited a couple of the dining establishments while here. One of our favorites was the Epic Café! This place sits on a grassy knoll overlooking Mono Lake (you can sit outside to eat), and the food here is really good. I had ribs, which were just fabulous, and Karen had a chicken potpie – also great.
But really, the coolest place in town for dining is the Mobil Station just outside of town on the road leading to Tioga Pass. This place (yes, it really is a gas station) is great! You can fuel up of course, and you can pick up sundry items in their convenience store. But the highlight is getting food prepared at the Whoa Nellie Deli!
We “dined” (you order at the counter and then find a seat either inside or out) there several times, because, why wouldn’t you? One time I had the Tioga Taquitas, another time their world famous (?) fish tacos, and another time a good old cheeseburger. They were all great! If you sit outside, the station sits on a hill overlooking Mono Lake, so the view is not hard to watch.
On Thursday and Sunday nights, they have free entertainment. We missed the Thursday night venue (which we saw from driving by was swarmed), but did go to the Sunday late afternoon music venue, which this week was the Foothillbillies. And they were great – what a hoot!
And you have to enjoy the patrons – and their shoes!
If you are looking for the WORST BBQ you’ll ever eat, look no further than Bodie Mike’s – downtown. Clearly the worst BBQ I have ever had. Which is too bad, because Bodie Mike’s is in Position A location-wise, and has nice outdoor seating right off the sidewalk. Maybe you can get a decent burger there – but I wouldn’t bet on it.
Another cool area we visited was the ghost town of Bodie. This is about a 45 minute drive out of Lee Vining, but is really an interesting ghost mining town. This is a great story, so look into it – here are a few pics. You can’t be blamed if you feel like you walked on to a Clint Eastwood movie set.
My only suggestion? Fuel up before you get here.
Lee Vining sits right on CA 395, which is one of the most beautiful sections of road in California. So if you find yourself in the area, or better yet make it a destination, I don’t think you will be disappointed!