Monday, March 31, 2014

Relaxing getaway or Theater of the Absurd?

Ever since Maggie passed away, Steve and I have tried to get away for a weekend. It was always so hard to do that before because of the logistics of Maggie's care, but that is no longer an issue. Still, getting away is not easy. Every weekend we have had some engagement or obligation that kept us in town. Last week we realized we had an open weekend coming up and we took advantage of it. We went to Yosemite.

Because of the 11th hour, getting a reservation in Yosemite Park itself  was impossible. We stayed in Groveland, which is about as close as you can get but is still a good 30-45 minutes away. It worked out perfectly, though and we had a great time.

There are several stories to share from this weekend, getting away on Friday, finding the charming hotel, seeing the devastation from the Rim fire, going to Yosemite Valley, Sunday in the gold country of California and more. But I'm gonig to start in the middle of the weekend. The best story comes as we were leaving Yosemite Valley on Saturday night.

 Saturday was supposed to be raining and we were lucky to get so much time in the park without dodging raindrops. The storm finally hit as we were headed back to our hotel about 8:30PM. Leaving the Valley is a climb for about 20 miles. The elevation changes rapidly from about 4000 feet to over 6000. First we hit very strange and low lying fog and then it started to rain lightly as first, then harder, then it was sleet and as we climbed and the temperature dropped it turned to snow. It was snowing hard and piling up quickly. We didn't see another car for miles, which was creepy

Steve is a good and careful snow driver, but we had his new car with which he is not completely familiar. The car has 4wheel drive, which was great, but we did not have any tire chains with us. It was hairy but we just kept moving. As we slowly worked our way down a hill, we came upon a car that had slid out. Another car was stopped as well. We asked if anyone was hurt, and thankfully the answer was no.

The driver had simply lost control of the car in the snow and could not move it. They were a family from India and they were abandoning the car right there on the side of the road. The other car had two men visiting from Texas who were trying to help. They had the two older people in their car but could not fit the remaining couple or any more of their belongings. We offered to take the other two and their things with us. The decision was to head back to Groveland. They could stay in the hotel and figure things out in the morning.

The man driving the stranded car was young, probably mid 20's. He had his wife and his parents with him. He was trying so so hard to be in charge, but he had absolutely no idea what he was doing. It took him no less than 20 minutes to get everything out of his car and into ours. The snow is getting deeper by the second.  Steve and Wes, one of the Texans, were trying to impress upon him the danger of the situation as we sat alone on a snow covered road in the mountains, but he was oblivious.

Once everything was finally in, the passengers decided they needed to be lined up differently. We ended up with both women and the Texans had both men. The younger couple spoke English and I suspect this was done so that there was one English speaker in each car. The mom wept in the back of our car. We didn't see them spin out, but she was clearly frightened by the whole thing. I tried to reassure them and made conversation here and there. I learned the son is an engineer working in the Silicon Valley and his parents had just arrived from India for a visit.

We continued our climb out of the park, leaving their rental car behind. The trip back took 90 minutes because we had to go so slowly. After hitting the summit and descending again the snow eventually turned to a hard and driving rain. That was better, but still made for hairy driving When we arrived at the hotel it took this family at least an hour to decide if they were going to stay or not. They were concerned about the price of the hotel and asked us to take them to another place. There is no cell reception and they could not call around. We were at our limit of magnanimity.This is a software engineer who rented a BMW and was trying to get to Tahoe. The hotel was moderately priced.  It was hard to buy the financial story.

We tried to impress upon them that it was now after 10PM, they were soaking wet and their car was 90 minutes away. They were somewhat choiceless. The young couple then disappeared and ran in the pouring rain  to a hotel down the road to "shop." We could not leave because all of their belongings were still in our two cars so the Texans and the non English speaking parents and us sat there and waited. Eventually they returned because no one would even open the door at the other place. He admitted they "did not have any alternative" in his lovely lilting accent. Right, that's what we told you an hour ago.

We unloaded their belongings and Steve was getting visibly agitated. Soon I saw why. Among the suitcases and other things of theirs was a set of TIRE CHAINS that had been provided with the rental car. They had chains the whole time but didn't even know what they were for or how to install them. Frankly I doubt they would have been safe with those anyway because the guy had zero experience in the snow.

Meanwhile the Texans were trying to decide what to do. They could not get to their destination the way they tried and were debating stopping for the night or backtracking and pushing on. Ultimately they decided to push on and we said our goodbyes to them with a few laughs at the absurdity of the whole thing.

Steve and I returned to our room and tried to digest the whole evening. He was stressed from driving through that storm and he was irritated with the seeming lack of gratitude by the family. I disagreed, I honestly think that kid was trying so hard to be the grown up that he was rendered useless. They were not unkind or ungrateful, just overwhelmed by the situation. Still, they probably should have said thank you at some point.

We decided it was really kind of funny. We finally manage to take a weekend to take care of ourselves and relax and recharge our drained batteries and this happens.  When we heard the family moving into a room across the hall with all their belongings, I told Steve I sure hope they keep those tire chains safe. That sent up into peals of laughter.

I said who would even believe this story? A sudden blizzard, a stranded family from India, good Samaritans from Texas, a harrowing ride through the storm and craziness when we arrived. Not exactly the relaxation we sought, but still an adventure. Steve said, "Look at it this way, we actually had an adventure with cowboys and Indians."

I can tell you that a belly laugh is pretty good medicine in its own right.


  1. You know what I always say?

    You just can't make that shit up.

  2. Good God that was funny! Whole family got a good laugh out of that one!!

  3. I love your posts, I'm so glad you continue to entertain us with your stories!


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