Sunday, 8 March 2009

Freedom Road: Yosemite Sam & El Capitan

Day Three – Yosemite

It was quite lucky that Chad was an automatic as we were trying to get out of San Francisco. I, inevitably, took us the wrong way and we ended up on some nosebleed-inducingly steep streets. I was distracted by the abundance of Twizzlers in the car and the many beverage holders contained within the Scandinavian wonder car.

The backseat of the car was already starting to resemble an explosion in Target. We had approx 56 bottles of orange Gatorade, 320 bottles of water, 23 bottles of Coke and the magical bag of everlasting Doritos. I had never had Gatorade before (I have lived a sheltered life), and I expected it to be fizzy. I was a bit disappointed that it wasn’t, but it was a pleasing toxic orange colour. I also cannot believe that the concept of squash/cordial does not exist in America – making juice from powder is just wrong.

Living like the homeless

The drive through Cali gave us our first experience of American roads – i.e. the total crapness of the road surface and the jackass other drivers. We put on our CD, snappily titled ‘Songs What Have The Names Of American States In Them’, and sang along with some classics including ‘Iowa’ by Slipknot (!), ‘California’ by Phantom Planet and some song called ‘Colorado’ sung entirely in Spanish. Which appeared on the CD twice.

The drive from San Francisco to Yosemite took about 4 hours. We saw a few interesting things on the way like ‘Jesus Saves’ written in a cornfield. This prompted me to tell my Dad’s ‘classic’ soccerball joke: ‘Jesus saves, but Satan scores off the rebound.' There was also a lot of homemade roadside signage, the likes of which you just do not get in the UK. The sign, ‘God bless the firefighters. You rock!’, led us to the conclusion that this part of California must have recently been on fire. Elementary, my dear Watson.

Taken from a moving vehicle somewhere in California

The temperature had steadily been climbing throughout the day. I felt like I was burning through the car window – that is how corpse-in-a-river pale my complexion actually is. The temp maxed out at 104F - or 40 degrees Celsius. Hot as balls.

99 degrees. And on cruise control.

Before we could get into Yosemite, we had to stop at some traffic lights which informed us that there were roadworks being carried out and that when the lights were on red, the delay was 15 minutes. We waited for about half an hour at these traffic lights. The road was down to a single lane (usually it was only two anyway) and the speed limit was something ridiculous like 25mph in some places even though it was a perfectly decent driving road. I know it is for the wildlife or whatever, but really, do we need that many deer?!

We should have sent this into Top Gear's stupid signs feature

We eventually came to another junction, but this was controlled by a man holding a ‘STOP’ sign. This was a 4 way junction – like a staggered crossroads – and we sat there for probably 30 minutes whilst he let every other direction of traffic go but ours. Then he looked like he was beckoning us forward, so we started moving, but he was actually waving a truck (which was fucking behind us in the line!) through. So the idiot lollipop man starts shouting ‘NO! NOT YOU!’ to us and then makes us wait for about another 10 minutes before he finally deigns to let us pass. What a joker. We went past him really slowly and I mouthed ‘idiot’ very obviously to him – he didn’t look too pleased.

Then we were actually into the park proper and we saw El Capitan (I would not like to climb that), Bridalveil and Yosemite Falls (which were vapour because it was so hot) and we were staying in the campsite right near Half Dome. It was a bit surreal being in Yosemite after spending so much time at school looking at glacial features on maps and obsessing over arêtes, spurs, hanging valleys, moraine and all that other examinable stuff – similar to when I went to the Athabasca glacier and all I could think of was a certain geography teacher.

Luxury camping

Our campsite was fairly interesting. We stayed in a canvas tent which had two proper double beds inside, blankets, sheets, towels, a mirror and electricity. Only in America. And it was really cheap. We had our own bear proof box outside which we had to put everything in which may have a scent – food, water and deodorants mainly. We hadn’t brought our own padlock though so the door wasn’t really shut (which defeated the point of the whole exercise) and the next day we realized that Jo had left a ton of chocolate and tea in her suitcase inside the tent. But we were alive.

Making Jo bear proof

We went for a wander from the campsite and walked through what is referred to as a flower meadow. It was not in full bloom because it was the wrong time of year but it still had a pretty good view of the mountains. We started the first of many Barack Obama related conversations with a woman who had an Obama badge on. We told her that we were driving across America and she had the exact same reaction as 99% of people we told – ‘Wow. You’re brave’. Or a bit stupid.

We then went and walked around the Visitor Center and learned about how the glacial features were formed, what wildlife could be found in Yosemite and learned all about Ansel Adams and his photography and how he really pioneered National Parks in America. For Christmas this year, I coincidentally got a big glossy Ansel Adams coffee table photography book. We watched a film called ‘The Spirit Of Yosemite’ and that was good as they went round the park in a helicopter and got some pretty spectacular footage.

Whilst we were on the pizza deck, waiting for our delicious dinner whilst camping, we started a conversation with the woman in the queue in front of us. She chatted about San Francisco, about where she had been or was going to on her own vacation and then she became American Tourist. She started talking about her daughter-in-law who was English and was from Crewe. We replied that we were from a place near Crewe and then she asked us a question which pushed her into the realm of stereotype – ‘Oh, so do you know the Jacksons?’ Erm, no. There are quite a few people in England. 60 million or so. We don’t know everyone. She then called her daughter over to come and look me over as apparently, I ‘look exactly like Lauren’. It was never explained who Lauren was, but somewhere in the world there is some poor bitch called Lauren who has the misfortune to look like me. My thoughts and prayers are with her family.

The whole conversation led me to think of one I had had in Florida when I was 18. A woman told me that I had a lovely accent (probably deaf) and then asked: ‘Are you Canadian?’ I have a VERY English accent. At that point in my life I had never even been to Canada – it was my first trip anywhere on the North American continent. I told her that, no, I was not Canadian and that I was from Manchester in England. She then asked me: ‘Oh, is that in London?’ And me being the sarcastic bint that I am, I told her that ‘why yes, it’s in north London’. Four hours north of London to be exact.

Healthy eating

We then ate our pizza outside as the sun set and you could really see all the stars in the sky so much more brightly than at home. Damn light pollution. Before we went to bed (and read Twilight), we had a massive panic about bears and wondered what we would do if one came into the tent in the night. We knew that for one type of bear you should play dead and that for the other you needed to climb a tree. The problem was, we couldn’t remember which was which or which type of bear inhabited Yosemite.

That bear is a leeetle too fond of that car methinks ...

The next day we would be en route to Las Vegas. If only we knew then what we know now.


Phina said...

play dead up a tree?

Jessclub7 said...

That covers all bases.

I approve.