Thoughts On Summer Vacation
I’m a city boy by nature, and although we’ve gone camping on many occasions over the years, it’s not necessarily my first choice. The boys are more like me than their mom who prefers tents to hotels, so to her credit she tries to strike a balance that we all can live with. And so it was about seven months ago that she awoke early one morning to make reservations for a cabin in the Yosemite Valley for last week. I guess there are enough folks out there who actually compete for these coveted spots, so it was a big deal that she was able to secure one.
In March we got a call from the national parks service that there was an avalanche and our cabin had slid down the mountain a bit and they would be calling us back in April or May with some options. We were able to grab a camp site for our tent as a “just in case” backup while we waited to see what else would be offered to us and lo and behold they came back with a great alternative: a room just outside the park in a 5-star lodge for $350 per night. It had pools, internet service, satellite TV, three restaurants, a concierge and a game room for the kids. Paradise found…I told the reservations clerk we’d take it for three nights.
I don’t know what I’d been thinking….must have been intoxicated by the lure of clean sheets, hot showers and rib-eyes cooking in the kitchen…but my wife said no way. Fortunately, we had befriended a couple of Swedish sisters in their early twenties who were spending a few months in the US before settling into adult responsibility world, and they had been using our home as a base of operations while in California. Although they loved Vegas and outlet shopping malls more than anything, they gave us a big thumbs up to their Yosemite experience and just raved about their rustic lodging that was dirt cheap. “Free waffles and coffee every morning” they promised, along with “large, modern rooms that were so clean and nice. Internet too.”
Yeah…the music. So the van is old school…no iPod connection. Just a single CD player, with terrestrial radio stations. It’s the only time I ever listen to CD’s anymore from start to finish . With four people of diverse tastes, it goes something like this: wife likes 10,000 Maniacs, Counting Crows and Talking Heads; youngest son’s tastes are They Might Be Giants and Oingo Boingo; oldest boy is Mingus and Big Star at the moment; and dad is folk, bluegrass, Americana, indie bands and alt-whatever.
The first few hours were quiet…traffic reports on news radio as we navigated through Los Angeles. Coming down the mountain into the San Joaquin Valley we cracked open Bakersfield Bound by Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen which just about finished as we pulled into the parking lot of Buck Owen’s Crystal Palace. Steve Earle’s live set from Montreux 2005 was the after-lunch dessert, then we segued into Weird Al Yankovic’s Straight Outta Lynwood, the Flying Burritos’ Gilded Palace of Sin and ended the day with Exile on Main Street.
I won’t bore you too much with the Yosemite rundown…let’s just say it was your basic trees, mountains, waterfalls, incredible sunsets, rock formations and nature experience. The free waffles? Large, modern rooms? Yep….the place was called Days Inn.
The ride home took twice as long since we all wanted to stop at Woodstock’s Pizza in San Luis Obispo for lunch and that took us about seven hours out of the way. It was Ryan Adams Cardinology, Neil Young’s On The Beach and the Beach Boys’ Sunflower. After lunch as we made our way to Solvang for real Danish pastry, I pulled out a great compilation called A Nod To Bob that everyone liked. I had picked up this Red House release for a couple of bucks at Amoeba a few years ago and it’s worth a million just for Ramblin’ Jack Elliot’s version of Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right and Guy Davis’ Sweetheart Like You.
Ocean views, brush fires, traffic jams….we made it home late at night with talk radio. Washed the dog, had a garage sale, did the laundry and packed our bags again. This week we fly to New York with iPods stuck in our ears. Backyard family barbecues, hitting the Guggenheim, browsing The Strand, lunch in the Village, music in the Park…it’s all good.