Remember what Bilbo used to say: “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” – J.R.R. Tolkien
So you’re a single guy with a buff tan, hanging out at home with the usual suspects, enjoying a sweltering Fresno afternoon. You’re lounging in the pool, talking smack, while downing glass after glass of incredibly delicious strawberry margaritas. One minute you’re completely sane, and the next, you’re inviting two blondes for a weekend ride to your nephew’s house in La Honda. The following morning you wake up in your swimmy trunks, wet, freezing, suffering from a hideous hangover, and a major case of amnesia. What the hell happened last night? What the hell was I thinking? WAS I thinking? Where exactly IS La Honda? And what the ding dang was in those margaritas? Slowly, the day’s events come back to you, in fleeting little bits and pieces, like a freakish nightmare, and you come to one scary conclusion; you, my friend, are screwed.
A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving. – Lao Tzu
The brain-dead man in question here would be my Uncle Ricky, an unsuspecting soul obviously unaware of the magnitude this invitation involved. Did he have any clue what he was in for? Did he know the scope of the task set before him? Did he really want to spend several hours in his well-appointed Lincoln with two ditzy bimbos? Apparently, these thoughts did not cross his mind, as the tequila lulled him into a false sense of security, and depleted any rational ideas from entering his noggin. And so a few days later, Rick arrived at the semi-well-appointed dwelling that is Cowpoke Alley, where the dogs are yappy, and the beverages flow freely. This is where it all started, with sleeping bags, and cots, and tequila, and cranberry juice, and one very large black bag, and all other manner of indispensable camping gear piled high into the trunk. The journey began as bright and merry as a chipper Meg Ryan movie, until the oasis of Casa de Fruita blew into view, and we came to one horrific deduction; we, my friends, were screwed. It was terrifying. It was overwhelming. It was long, loud, and leather-clad. It was the Hollister Motorcycle Rally, where about a kajillion bikes take to the highway, blowing out eardrums and plugging up traffic from here to Omaha. And there we were, right smack in the middle of hog central, with nowhere to turn, and no restroom in sight. Our palms began to sweat, our teeth began to grind, and our eyeballs began to float.
Half the fun of the travel is the esthetic of lostness. – Ray Bradbury
Fortunately, a mere 45 minutes later, we dug ourselves out of motorcycle mania, relieved our bulging bladders, and continued onward. Through nurseries, vegetable stands, and artichoke farms we cruised, admiring the chocolate brown soil, practicing our Chinese, and trying to keep Cinderella from dying a slow, tedious, air-conditioned-like-a-meat-locker death. We were seriously questioning her direction reading ability, but before you could say TIE-NEE PO-NEE, we came across a road we’ll never forget, never be able to locate a second time, and hopefully never have to cross again in our lifetimes; the dreaded Hwy 84. On Mapquest, it’s defined as a “sharp turn.” A better description would be the sharpest, U-Shaped, 90-degree, wrench-your-steering-wheel-right-out-of-the-column hairpin on the planet. After Ricky adjusted his shorts and Cinderella had a shot of Jose, the Lincoln carried us along the winding, wooded road, with trees and leaves of emerald green, gorgeous flora and fauna, and all sorts of blooming things. As much as we enjoyed the opulent scenery, the cool mountain air, and the whole Nature Valley granola thing, we seriously began to wonder, and ponder, and generally wring our hands while asking two very important questions; where exactly WERE we, and WHO’s idea was this? (see: Rick)
A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles. – Tim Cahill
Having been on this precarious bit of pavement once before, on the back of a bike with an ex-boyfriend (fondly referred to as “dickhead”), I wasn’t completely freaked out…yet. As we passed through Woodside and Alice’s Restaurant popped up, I began to feel some sort of familiarity, and a sense of relaxation. This immediately ended in the following minutes, as we plodded endlessly along 84, or La Honda road, or as we like to call it, that crazy-twisty-maze-like-a-stretch-of-blacktop, leading to nowhere in a big hurry. According to our map, the next 11 miles of wild, loopy, curvy-like-Anna-Nicole-Smith travel would take us about 26 minutes. Or it was 26 miles in 11 hours, or 8.34 miles as the crow flies, or 1.27 hours to go 9.2 miles if the moon is full, and wild dogs are chasing your car. If you’ve ever experienced Hawaii’s road to Hanna, you know of which I speak. On and on and on we went through hills and valleys, the fog rolling slowly down the embankment, it’s fingers creeping over our windshield, houses becoming more scarce, and the soundtrack from Deliverance pounding in my head. But after passing row after row of mailboxes, crossing a questionable wooden bridge, and hoping the bar was still open, we finally arrived. Tired. Thrashed. Seeking cocktails. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride was complete. Who’s idea WAS this again? (see: Rick)
It is not down in any map; true places never are. – Herman Melville
And though the weather was chilly and wet, it was a welcome respite from Fresberg’s 100+ degree blast furnace. Our hosts, Kenny and Kathy, embraced we weary travelers, offering us tasty margaritas (which Ricky vehemently declined), and yummy grub. Soon afterward, we joined a very animated crowd around the bonfire, which grew into a giant flaming inferno of great proportions, thanks to an extremely attentive pyromaniac, who proclaimed if it wasn’t burning your legs off, it wasn’t a fire. Kellage and thedude enthralled everyone with their amazing new do-everything-but-make-the-beds-and-do-the-dishes iphone, “Lacey” showed us her scary disco moves, Jeff, Matt and Mike discussed technical “man things” like big trucks and even bigger antennas, Myrna teased Jill, Jill tormented Myrna, and Frank and Dot just yearned to take refuge inside “Melba’s” warm interior. Many precarious flashlight trips were taken to the campground for refueling, root beer schnapps were shot, fudge brownies consumed, stories shared, jokes told, and massive loudspeakers shook with the theme to Deliverance. Wasn’t this RICK’s idea?
No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow. – Lin Yutang
Cinderella and I spent a comfortable evening in Matt and Tracy’s big-ass toy hauler, atop a 97 psi inflated mattress, with our imaginary blow-up dolls, Ted and Chuck. Amazingly enough, I snoozed quite well, until the accordion in my roomie’s chest began to wheeze and moan, and sound like a yowling cat. Sheesh, she made more noise than Brittany’s baby did the whole weekend. Next time, I’m sleeping with the rugrat. Sunday morning, we noshed on bagels and killer coffee, cheered on a bouncing trampoline battle, and took a thousand family photos, during which “Lacey” tackled Jill and put a won’t-stop-bleeding-for-nothing gash on her ankle. Jeff channeled Hawkeye Pierce, and with 3 coats of invisible bandage substance, and much encouragement from the crowd, almost stopped the crimson gushing. Luckily, Kathy morphed into Florence Nightingale, and came to the rescue with a very large tube of Neosporin and a box of Band-Aids. Who needs Kaiser? After packing up our sleeping bags, and cots, and tequila, and cranberry juice, and one very large black bag, and all other manner of indispensable camping gear, the conversation turned to lunch. It was Frank’s birthday after all, where oh where could we go for a mean bowl of clam chowder, and how on earth did we get there? Never, ever, pose that question to a bunch of men: “Well, there’s the Flying Fish”, “Don’t forget Ketch Joanne”, “I dunno, the chowder’s not that great”, “It’s easy to get to”, “Barbarass Fish Trap is better”, “Get the fish n’ chips”, “But it’s not as good as Sam’s”, “Hey, I like the Flying Fish”, “Barbara’s is too small”, “Ketch Joanne has a view”, “Sam’s is hard to find”, “No man, get the fried calamari”, “Look, just take this road up to the mailbox, hang a right at the questionable wooden bridge, take 92 up to Half Moon Bay, turn at the Mexican restaurant, follow the 1952 VW bus, suck your thumb, pull your ear, blink twice, and pull into the parking lot.” “Ugh, I need a beer.” I’m SURE this was RICK’s idea.
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. – Izaak Walton
After arriving in Half Moon Bay and taking a brisk stroll around the pier, we decided on Barbara’s Fish Trap, where the chowder was fabulous, and the fish n’ chips were crispy and light. Our final stop was Maverick’s Surf Shop, named after the world-famous surfing location at Pillar Point Harbor. This very hip establishment is run by an extraordinarily cool woman and her store mascot, “Chuckie” – a massive, wrinkled, charming, blob-esque hulk of a bulldog. Yes, I’m certain if Dot had the opportunity, and a much bigger sweatshirt, she would have smuggled him back to Fresno. And no, I couldn’t get enough pictures. Soon thereafter, Ma and Pa climbed aboard “Melba”, Jill and Jeff hopped in their truck, and we blondes took our seats in Rick’s well-appointed Lincoln for the lengthy haul home. As the Dixie Chicks sang about cowboys, cheating partners, and poor Earl, we reminisced about the weekend. It was a glorious time hanging with the family, laughing, enjoying the ocean, and admiring the lush, almost tropical surroundings. Did it matter if our drive was four hours? Big deal. Did we care if it was tedious? Not really. Could it have been any more mind-numbing? Probably. But it was STILL Rick’s idea.
And that’s the wonderful thing about family travel: it provides you with experiences that will remain locked forever in the scar tissue of your mind. – Dave Barry