Those of you who’ve been stopping by for awhile now know that my claim of terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad luck isn’t just a myth. Things just seem to happen to me. Lately, many of these so-called misfortunes have entailed fires. And of all things you want on your resume, Girl Who Fire Follows sure isn’t one of them. It’s a sure-fire (ahem, excuse the late-hour puns) to get your name taken off of every social invite for years to come. (And once the Earthquake Gods realize that I’ve only lived through ONE earthquake, which wasn’t even a California one, but one with an epicenter in Atlanta, Georgia, one which I SLEPT THROUGH despite the fact that it burst various pipelines in Sewanee, I’m sure they’ll send a plague of earthquakes out to the Bay Area, or wherever I may be at the moment.) But I digress.
You see, my mom and sister are out here visiting for 10 days. The same mom who lived the first four years of her married life in the Bay Area and who hasn’t been back to visit since 1989. The same sister who is but 19 and has explored 49 states but also hasn’t graced San Fran with her presence since she was a toddler. So they came to play. Hooray! While some people get uber-stressed out by a family visit, I want nothing more out of life than for my family to pack up their fancy Southern home and move next door to me on the West Coast.
My mom was dead-set on visiting Yosemite this time around. I was weary. I mean, sure I love me a national park as much as the next adventuresome gal (though after the fact, I would have to say I definitely prefer Arches and Zion in Utah), but Yosemite…in the heat of summer…at the height of tourist season…really, Mom??? You pretty much have to book a room a year in advance if you want to stay at the park from June-September, but luckily my little career as a travel writer landed us one night at the adorable, rustic Evergreen Lodge. Seriously, if you’re heading to the park, why fork over $500+ to stay in the stuffy, pretentious Ahwahnee when the super-cute Evergreen is less than half the price and, um, did I mention, adorable?
So go to Yosemite we did. And heavens to Betsy, guess who followed us? You got it, the fire! The very day we headed east in pursuit of a nature-filled few days! Luckily, the fire was 50 miles away from us, so we weren’t in danger, though initially I had looked at staying in Mariposa, which was evacuated the same day (the poor, poor people of Mariposa, so many have had to leave their homes with no warning whatsoever). And regardless, the air was full of smoke, even at that distance, and halfway through our first afternoon, it was so thick, we couldn’t see Half Dome or El Capitan or, heck, even the shoulder of the Tioga Pass.** Which just made driving with my mom all the more fun.
My mom, sister and I are not the type of people with whom you want to go road trippin’. You see, we know every word VERBATIM to all Disney musicals, old and new (even the extremely lame, sub-par ones like Hercules, Pocahontas and Mulan), not to mention every show that’s ever taken the stage. I’m sorry, that’s just how we roll in mi casa. Growing up in Tennessee, the natural place you vacation is Orlando, Florida. My parents had a time share, so we visited my pals Mickey, Minnie and the whole gang a handful of times a year. So when my mom goes on a road trip, she comes ready to party. Which translates to an iPod full of playlists that read something like this: Best of Disney, Second Best of Disney, Broadway Favorites, Andrew Lloyd Webber, etc. I wish I were kidding. And we sing at the top of our lungs. IN HARMONY. Um, I guess now would be the prime time to tell you that I grew up on the stage, musical theater, church productions, vocal performances, the whole nine yards. I even performed at Disney World. But I’ll save that embarrassment (complete with sequin-clad pictures) for another day.
So around the time our Disney playlist took a turn for the worst (from Hakuna Matata to Burl Ives’ Ugly Bug Ball), so did the driving conditions. I had changed spots with my mom at our Wal-Mart snack pit stop an hour earlier, as I was falling asleep at the wheel, and boy was that mistake. Because my intrepid, fearless mother? HAD BEEN STRICKEN WITH A CRIPPLING CASE OF ACROPHOBIA. When and where this happened, I do not know–especially given that she and my sister spend several weeks out of the year exploring some of the nation’s coolest (and steepest) spots by rental car–but all I can say is the second Josie, my GPS, informed us “THERE ARE BETTER ALTERNATIVE ROUTES AVAILABLE”–a warning I had never heard, which only hinted at the severity of the situation–the shoulder and railing of the steep, windy road that led into the Sierra Nevadas DISAPPEARED and my mom began to grip the steering wheel, her knuckles turning white, and straddling the yellow line, um despite the two-way traffic, as we reached 7,000 feet. She even dropped the F bomb, this from a woman who scolds me for saying “crap.” Luckily, I caught the momentous occasion on film.
The next day, we traveled the diameter of the park and it got progressively worse, as Jeanie creeped closer and closer to a premature heart attack. We probably pulled over onto the shoulder no fewer than 15 times to let cars pass, as the Altima was topping out at 23mph.
The best part of the whole situation? Once we reached level land and got back on the highway, we were pulled over and mom got a ticket for speeding. And that, folks, is what I might call good ole American irony.