GO WHOA NELLIE DELI: Just about every driver keeps a quick list of easy-to-reach gas stations in mind, depending on where they might be around their town or region and how low in the tank they prefer to get (or not get, of course). This one gas station is close to home, this other gas station has your favorite grape soda, and the station at the edge of town pipes classical music into the pump area. But there are some very special places to gas up in the Golden State, the kind of places that are less quick, spur-of-the-moment pull-over stops and more "let's spend part of a day driving there" destinations. If you're thinking the Whoa Nellie Deli and adjoining Mobil, the restaurant/gas station combo that serves up wine, beer, and lobster taquitos at the eastern end of the Tioga Road, well, we, and other fans, are thinking it, too.
OVER THE SIERRAS TO HIGHWAY 395: What other gas station can you enjoy a nice Chardonnay at while gazing upon one of the most famous lakes in the world, the fabled Mono Lake? The numbers are probably very few. But getting to the Whoa Nellie, at least from the western side of the Sierra Nevada, can be a sticky wicket in the wintertime, or, rather, snowy wicket. Highway 120, the Tioga Road, is shuttered for much of the colder span of the year, meaning those lobster taquitos and Mono Lake views must wait.
BUT WAIT NO LONGER... for the Tioga Pass, which wends alongside the granite monoliths and flowery meadows of Yosemite National Park, opened on the morning of Monday, May 4. People living west of Yosemite don't necessarily need to drive the whole road, to the beloved gas station and deli, but many daytrippers keep those outdoor picnic tables bustling all summer long. Don't delay, though, if you're going to drive the Tioga this year: It shutters again in the fall.