A few highlights from our road trip en route to our annual week at family camp.
The plan: Hit the road by 8 am, pick up my son from his camp right after lunch, and arrive triumphantly at Fallen Leaf Lake just in time for the nonsensical welcome skit-o-rama that officially kicks off the week up here. ETA: 8pm at the latest.
9:15 am: We pull out of the driveway. We have loaded up the car with luggage for a week, snacks, DVDs, headphones, 2 laptops, 5 tennis rackets, several pillows, one car seat, 2 kids and 4 adults*. Incredibly, we are all comfortable and can see out of our windows.
9:17 am: We pull into the shopping center across the street for Starbucks and Jamba Juice.
9:40 am: We pull onto the freeway. Every cup holder is full.
12:50 pm: In N Out stop in Fresno**
2 pm: Begin circling Bass Lake, looking for a pack of dirty children and some camp vans. Our directions are bad, and it turns out that every twist of the road unveils another herd of kids who are definitely filthy but not related to us. Debate picking one of them up to try and salvage schedule. Decide against it.***
2:20 pm: Stop for bathroom break and to ask directions. We have been going the wrong way around the lake for several miles, but no one has to pee any more. We consider the stop a draw.
2:45 pm: Arrive at campsite. Find long lost son fuming at a picnic table because we are nearly two hours late, but make up for it by embarrassing him with big sloppy hug in front of his newly formed peer group. Tour lakeside dust bowl that has been their home for the past few days, then stuff his enormous duffle, sleeping bag, and smelly body into the car. We are now significantly less comfortable.
3:10 pm: Depart Bass Lake.
4:00 pm: Our route will take us right through Yosemite, into the valley floor. It is a magnificent sunny day. Most people in our car have never had the opportunity to see this awe inspiring natural wonder. Most people in our car are thrilled to have the chance to stop, stretch their legs, and marvel at Half Dome and El Cap and the falls that appear as we first emerge into the park. My daughter has this to say:
Us: Wow! Isn't this incredible?
Her: Jeez, Mom. It's just some mountains. We're GOING to the mountains. These are not the right mountains. And we're going to miss the skits. I can't BELIEVE we stopped for this.
My niece: (tearing up) We're going to miss the skits?
Her mom: (taking photo for posterity anyway) Smile!
My son: Did you charge my PSP?
4:45 pm: Snack and drink stop at Village Store. All is momentarily forgiven for candy.
5:45 pm: Leave Yosemite. Google maps is estimating an additional 139 miles, mostly over winding mountain roads. When you add in a dinner stop we are dead meat, skit-wise, candy or no candy.
6:01 pm: We round a curve and my niece pipes up, "Mommy? My belly hurts." This is five year old code for, "I'm gonna blow." Damn candy. We speed up. If the gods are with us, we can outrun her.
7:10 pm: Like an oasis rising out of the desert, we descend the final mile of the Tioga Pass to find the neon lights of the Mobil Mart shining like a beacon. The entire car**** breaks out in cheers, "The Whoa Nellie Deli! The Whoa Nellie Deli! It's open! It's open! Hooray!"
7:45 pm: We eat happily*****, grab a couple of bottles of wine****** and a snow globe to go, then pile in for the home stretch to camp.
9:35 pm: Tire pressure warning light comes on. We are in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night. By some miracle, we find a shuttered gas station and pump the tire back up.
9:39 pm: Tire flat as a pancake. We have left any form of civilization back at the shuttered gas station. We do find a gravel turnout with a lone streetlight. No cell service. Menfolk deal with situation: One begins reading the car manual with curiosity. The other calls OnStar.
OnStar Lady: Hello, Mr. X! How may I be of service to you this evening?
My brother-in-law: We have a flat tire. Our cell phones don't work, and we are stranded in the middle of the mountains at night.
OSL: That's no problem, Mr. X! I'd be happy to connect you to roadside assistance. Please hold!
Mr. X? I have roadside assistance on the line! Have a great evening and thanks for using OnStar!
Roadside Assistance Lady: Hi Mr. X! How are you tonight?
My brother-in-law: Not great. I have a flat tire.
RAL: No problem! Where are you located?
MBIL: In the middle of nowhere, just past the intersection of two deserted mountain highways, in a gravel turnout with a lone streetlight. I think I just heard a pack of wolves nearby.
RAL: No problem! I'm just going to put you on hold while I contact a service provider.
[20 minutes pass. Other male in the car has found relevant section of the manual, and is completely unpacking the car to reach the toolbox hidden in the back. Luggage now covers most of the turnout. Children have taken turns peeing in the woods and are now either a) hiding their face in a pillow and trying to sleep, b) watching a Scooby Doo video or c) asking with great enthusiasm, "Can I change the tire? This is so exciting! I love this! Can I? Can I? Wait! I need to go pee again! Yay!" Yosemite is apparently a waste of time, but this is a great plan.]
RAL: Mr. X? I just called [name of shuttered gas station we just passed] and there's no answer.
MBIL: This is probably because they are closed. Please try someone in an actual town.
RAL: No problem! Please hold!
[Another extended pause. Those meddling kids foil another plot. My daughter contentedly throws rocks into the darkness. No luck sleeping for pillow kid.]
RAL: Mr X? I reached a service provider who will be there in 30 minutes. What is your phone number so I can have them contact you?
MBIL: Did I mention that our cell phones don't work?
RAL: No problem!
10:40 pm: The tow truck shows up. And there was much rejoicing.
11:20 pm: We pull into camp. Amen.
* Two of whom (the females) are pretty darn grumpy because they stayed up until an ungodly hour getting all the stuff packed and ready for this @#%?& vacation. I asked myself at 1 am, in a panic, "Did I forget to charge the PSP?" I did not. I also thankfully remembered around 2 am to throw in the sand toys, laundry detergent, and a large afro wig. My sister decides, shortly thereafter, that she needs to pay all of her bills before we go, and asks if I have any stamps and is the fax machine working so she can submit a few expense reports.
** 1. It's Saturday. We always have In N Out for lunch on Saturdays. 2. It's a road trip. We always have In N Out for lunch on a road trip. Cha ching! We get a 2-fer!
*** They really are dirty, and several of them have actual parents with them.
**** My silent thanks go out as well to the gods who have delivered us from car sickness.
***** Homemade carnitas tacos, Caesar salad with marinated skirt steak, seared Ahi tuna, porterhouse steak with mashed potatoes, 2 hot dogs, and a burger.
***** Why? Because we need it. The camp wine steward does not work past 10.