An autumn jaunt to Bridgeport |

An autumn jaunt to Bridgeport

by Ron Walker
The Jolly Kone is located in Bridgeport, Calif. along Highway 395 south of Carson Valley.

It’s Columbus Day and we celebrate by taking a drive to Bridgeport. Highway 338 at the southern portal of Smith Valley places us immediately among piñon pines, junipers, and an occasional swatch of lustrous green. Nature has found a way to conserve water by using networks of underground streams. In years of yore, American Indians and settlers took notice of this and prospered. Cattle grew fat on a diet of rich fodder. Man is God’s masterpiece, and he is never closer to his maker than when he recognizes his dependence on nature, acting accordingly.

After driving on a road with more curves than Marilyn Monroe, nature surprises us with the Sweetwater Mountains. Switzerland is renowned for mountains as beautiful as these. The only difference between theirs and ours is they have chalets and make cheese with holes in it. I recommend we turn this route into a toll road. Then folks will appreciate them more and pay them the homage they deserve.

Upon passing a dirt road that leads to Hawthorn, we enter another valley. This one is more compact, more intimate than the Sweetwater valley. Here, in front of us, are pastures of tall grass. Grazing cows and frisky calves are oblivious to us. The star attraction is the East Walker River, a snow-fed stream. If you are willing to comply with a fistful of “catch and release rules,” it’s your privilege to cast a line and, chances are lucky, you will certainly catch a fish.

Coincidentally, our road has straightened out and several cars scream past us reproachfully. They want me to get out of the way so they can get where they are going as fast as they can. My idea is to see as much as I can until I get there.

Thoughts of Jolly Kone hamburgers, French fries, and a soda enter my mind and we are almost there. In less than one hour we are at the threshold of the Sierras. We skirt Bridgeport Reservoir. (Such an ugly name for a gem of a lake.) A community of homes have laid claim to a majestic view of mountains, lake, and sky. Just past Bridgeport’s airport, we turn onto the “secret” entrance into Bridgeport. A tiny church sends its steeple proudly skyward, and a jail that, in the past, was used for banditos and claim jumpers, is a town relic, as is Bridgeport’s Museum.

We pull into Jolly Kone’s parking lot. I walk up to a window, place my order, and take a number. Everyone is congenial and easily approachable. When I mention to one lady that we are from nearby Smith Valley, she says they are on a trip from Oakland, and I congratulate her ambition.

While waiting for our order, my mind wanders and I realize that for a few moments, I have lost all thought of who is running for president. Life is simple. One contestant will win and one will lose. But from what I hear, they both have very good pensions and should be alright. My order number is called. Ole!

Ron Walker can be reached at