Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Episode 68: How to Give Directions

A few years ago, my mother took me to Yosemite National Park. She and Dad lived just a couple of hours away from it, but it took a couple of me-visitings before I could get over there. I was very very excited to go and I pored over maps to figure out the best way to get there and how we would spend the day and everything we would see. As we were headed by big wide super-highway and then a nice two lane regular paved road, I noticed that there was a tiny hairline road on the map - Chowchilla Mountain Road - that would deposit us right there at beautiful Wawona, exactly where we wanted to go, since we were headed to the Mariposa Grove first. It looked like it would cut our drive time by about a half hour and hey, we'd get to see something other than paved highway. Yes indeed, it delivered on that promise....not only did we NOT see a paved road, we also saw our lives flash before our eyes.

Within seconds, we knew we had made the wrong decision. We were in a tiny Volkswagen Beetle on a twisty, rutted fire road that basically went straight up and then straight down. Over and over. If I looked off to my right and down 10,000 feet, I could see the exact spot where we were going to end up exploding into a giant ball of flame. While on the nice paved roads, Mom and I had been chatting merrily about any little old thing but once we hit Chowchilla Mountain Road (it just SOUNDS evil, doesn't it?), the sparkling repartee dried right up. After twenty minutes of brushes with death, Mom finally said "We can't turn back." To which I replied "sure we can!" and she said again "no, we CAN'T TURN BACK." And she was right; there was no way to turn around; the mountain went steeply up on the drivers' side and steeply down on the passenger side. There were none of those fancy wide spot pulloffs you frequently see in your more hillbilly areas.

This went on for about a half hour and a half hour of no talking is a LONG TIME when you're driving to your doom, let me tell you. We were so deep into the wilderness - having wisely told NO ONE that we were coming this way - that we passed D.B. Cooper's parachute hanging from a tree. We were so focused on getting off of that godforsaken road that we could have happened upon a band of Bigfoots dancing the Mashed Potato and not blinked an eye.

And then, as if by magic, the road descended and crossed a creek and there was a small sign announcing that we had entered Yosemite National Park! Oh, praise Jesus, mainly because now I didn't have to tell my father that I had killed my mother in a fiery car crash down a mountainside. A few more twists and turns later and we came out of the woods and...onto a golf course. There were several players teeing up and they all froze in mid-swing as a little silver Volkswagen drove across the fairway, across the paved road and into the Wawona Hotel parking lot, where we hopped out and bought a sandwich.

It ended up being the best part of the Yosemite trip and now that I know it's there, I'd go on the same road again. But it's funny how frightening it was at the same time - what's around that next bend...if anything? That's probably some Deep Thought that we should all think about or needlepoint onto pillows.

And just in case you think I'm exaggerating about this road, some other idiots did the same thing. But THEY didn't make it to the golf course! HA! Babies.