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Bumps in the Road
Early in November, the traveling bug hit. Each year I receive a free companion ticket from Delta that lets me take a friend or family member and fly anywhere in the 48 contiguous states. I love the opportunity to share travel with someone. This year, I let the expiration date of the certificate slip up on me and I almost lost the opportunity. I needed to make a plan and fast.
Visiting all the national parks is a goal of mine and there are about 10 that I haven’t explored. My son and I made a plan so that we could scope out some things in San Francisco that we hadn’t seen and then head to Yosemite NP, Lassen Volcanic NP, and Crater Lake NP. Traveling in Northern California and Oregon is always a joy and I couldn’t wait to see the area in the fall season.
We arrived in San Francisco to a minor heat wave lugging our coats, hats and gloves. Not to worry, we knew we would need them further north. San Francisco served up good food, an exquisite hotel in the city, and an opportunity to visit the Google Campus in both Mountain View and San Francisco. Visiting the Google campuses provided quite an education. There are some very creative and intelligent people working at Google!
After enjoying the city and it’s food for a few days, we were ready to head to Yosemite National Park. But the n’er do wells in San Francisco had other plans for us. Arriving at our car, we discovered that someone had smashed the passenger side window looking for loot. We smiled after the initial shock of seeing the damage knowing that they must have been sorely disappointed when they realized that there was nothing in the car. Not even a small scrap of discarded paper! Score 1 for the Rutters and 0 for the thieves. Don’t you love it when the bad guys lose?
With a new and better rental car, we headed to Yosemite Valley Lodge where we found lodging inside the park. Upon arrival at the check-in desk, we were informed that there would be no electricity from 8am-4pm in the park the following day. Our attitude: we’ll make it work. We were just excited to be staying right at the beautiful falls and have the opportunity to wake up to view the mountains all around us. Fall is a nice time to visit Yosemite since crowds are low and the park is quiet. There were only about six other people hiking to the waterfall as opposed to summer when the roads through the park host long lines of cars. It was gloriously sunny during our visit with photographic vistas at every turn.
With Yosemite explored, we were headed to Lassen Volcanic National Park. Again, our travel plans didn’t go as expected. We had carefully mapped out a beautiful drive through the mountains, but as we attempted to exit Yosemite to the north, we were informed that the road closed at 10:00am that morning. Bummer! A 2-1/2 hour trip would now take 5 hours. We could still head north to Lassen Volcanic NP through an alternate route but there was no guarantee that we could enter. With determination to see the parks in snow, we headed north. But after several phone calls to the Lassen park rangers, we realized that making the trek that far north was not advisable due to snow and ice.
Pulling out the trusty California map, we came up with an alternate plan. Plan B was set in motion with our new route taking us to the Lake Tahoe area. It was gorgeous to drive through numerous elevations in the mountains where we experienced rain, sleet, snow, and hail all in a 24 hour period. We even hiked to a waterfall in the rain and sleet. Honestly,it was quite exhilarating!
As we arrived in Lake Tahoe, we were captivated by the beauty of the lake and were excited about our stay.
We enjoyed a nice dinner, enjoyed the band playing in the village, and then we heard the news. The villagers were abuzz about the snow storm that was on the way. They were talking about a foot of snow, snow chains, snow tires, and 4 wheel drives! They were excited about the upcoming snow:
“This is going to be great for skiing this weekend.”
“I hope the roads don’t get bad before folks get here.”
“They’ll just have to get the chains ready.”
I listened to their conversation for a while and then realized I needed to ask some questions.
“I’m from Georgia and I know nothing about driving in the snow. How difficult is it?”
“It’s easy if you put your chains on the tires.”
“Yikes, I don’t know how to put chains on tires
“You’ll be fine,” they said, “there are people on the side of the road who will put the chains on for you”.
“I don’t have any chains,” I responded.
“Oh, well, if you have 4 wheel drive you’ll probably be ok.”
“I don’t have 4-wheel drive. I have a rental car and none of that came standard.”
“I suggest you stop and pick up some chains”.
“Where does one buy chains and what do they look like”?
The conversation continued and it only got worse…
I went to bed hoping the storm would wait and let us get out of Tahoe before it arrived and that chains would not be in my near future. Alternately, the residents of Tahoe were celebrating the possibility of a big snow storm to kick-off ski season the following day. We both got our wishes. We got out of Tahoe before the snow storm hit and traveled safely to lower elevations. No chains. No 4 wheel drive. No serious snow. No delays.
Our trip was nearing an end and we never made it to Lassen Volcanic National Park or Crater Lake National Park. In fact, very little on this trip had gone as planned. Thieves smashed out the window in our rental car, we had no electricity in Yosemite, the road going north closed two hours before we exited the park, our hike to the waterfall was in rain and sleet, and threats of a snow storm and tire chains ran us out of Tahoe. But, it was a great trip! Uncertainties happen when traveling. A wise man (who just happened to be my dad) taught me at a very young age that life is just one big adventure with good and bad and to always celebrate the good.
Thieves didn’t take my joy. Power outages didn’t take my joy. Snow storms didn’t take my joy. Closed roads in national parks didn’t take my joy. My son and I were making memories and having experiences we had not anticipated. We laughed, we joked, we hiked, we played, and we had a blast! As we drove into Sacramento, the sky reminded me of my dad’s philosophy. What a gorgeous and surprising way to end the trip!
Hurry up, Delta. I need my next companion ticket!