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Driving on a One-Way Highway: Ur Doin It Rong

Yosemite National Park, California, United States

So the drive up to Yosemite took much longer than expected. It is 11pm and we still aren’t at our campsite!!

We drove through lots of the arid region- mountains covered in dead, yellow grass, the desert, and lots of burnt ground from the fires. As we drove through the desert, I noticed a sign that said “Avoid Overheating- Turn Air Conditioner Off Next 6 Miles”- so we did. And boy, was it hot! Up to 105 degrees, with no air conditioning… you could feel the pressure on your chest, preventing you from breathing normally. Not fun. However, it was a good thing we did it. The entire breakdown lane of the highway was just about lined with cars that had broken down from overheating. We even saw a truck with its brakes on fire!!

Eventually we started to get away from some of that when we got up towards Fresno- wine country. There were patches of cute little flowering bushes along the side of the road, but even better was the acres and acres worth of farms! We saw lots of things growing: lemons, grapes, pistachios, walnuts, almonds, alfalfa, corn, raisin grapes, English walnuts, oranges, and cherries. We also saw lots of cattle, and a few slaughterhouses along the way as well. We ended up stopping at Bravo’s Cheese Factory- a cute little place with a gift shop, restaurant, ice cream parlor, antiques, bathrooms, and fresh fruit. We wandered through the gift shop, Mike took pictures of the crazy oasis set up outside, we sympathized with the very hot bunnies (it was over 100 degrees outside!), I got a scoop of Butter Pecan ice cream and we bought some fresh fruit- a bag of cherries, a white peach, and a Santa Rosa plum. Mmmm!

Back on our way again, we continued on until we reached the little town of Oakhurst. We kept seeing signs along the way about wine trails, but weren’t able to stop and explore. We stopped to take out some money from the ATM and decided to eat dinner, since we didn’t think there would be much beyond that point. We ended up eating at a little Chinese food place called “A Taste of China.” For $10 each we got a cup of soup and a full plate, with lo mein, fried rice, a fried wonton, an egg roll, and main course. Mike got the sweet and sour pork and I got the cashew chicken (with no peppers!). The food was incredible- we were pleasantly surprised at how good everything was! After filling up and leaving a good tip, we took off.

Off the main road, we found ourselves on a winding path through a thick forest. The trees were tall and gorgeous, and the smell of the sweet pine permeated everything. It was a beautiful smell, and very refreshing to finally be back in nature like we remembered it—not in the city, and not in the desert!!

Yosemite is huge. Unfortunately, by the time we got to the gate, it was dark. We paid our entrance fee and asked the woman at the gate where to go. She was only marginally helpful, as we were confused about where exactly we were headed. A woman on the phone earlier gave us a specific address, but this woman told us to go a different way. We figured we’d deal with it when we got to the split between the two.

The winding road continued, frequently with fun and interesting signs like “speeding kills bears!” “falling rocks ahead” “lights on, no stopping” “smoke on road ahead” and “management fire, do not report.” Yes, there was a fire, although we couldn’t see it, lit by the management. And we drove through miles of smoky road. As nice as it smelled, the smoke was killing me and I couldn’t stop coughing. Finally, it was over… and then came the moment of reckoning.

We came to fork where we had to decide- take the route the woman told us on the phone, or the one the woman at the gate said. We decided we should pull over at the next turnout and call the front desk again to ask. Unfortunately, we had to decide first, and choose the original route. Turns out, it was a two-lane, one-way highway. We pulled over near a very calm sounding river. But we had no reception, and couldn’t talk to anyone long enough to get out our question, let alone an answer. We turned the lights on began trying to make sense of the park map we were handed upon entrance. It was then that we realized we had gone the wrong way. So what now? We pondered. We had three options. 1) Drive down the wrong way, 2) drive backwards back to the split, or 3) keep driving forward and pray that there would be someway to get where we needed to go, however many hours it would take. After deliberating for quite some time, Mike decided he could go backwards and make it back. There were very few cars on the road for such a time, after all. So on went the hazards, and we began our backwards trek. He managed to not drive us off the road and not hit any cars, and although it was further back than we thought, we made it. Whew! Crisis averted.

It was at this point that we noticed a new problem. Since we had our windows open to let in the cool air, many, many bugs managed to find their way into the car while we were stopped. We spent the next hour driving swatting away massive mosquitoes, unrecognizable big flies, and smaller assorted ones too. This was also dangerous, as Mike used his intense bug catching skills with one hand while the other kept us on the road. Eventually, it appeared that we had got all of them, and were able to relax for the rest of the ride. Well, not Mike. He had to contend with the road and the field mice hanging out on it in order to avoid hitting them as we drove along. A scenic ride, not quite as winding, but increasing in elevation up to 10,000 feet. Crazy! Our campsite is up in the high Sierra Nevadas.

We passed many points that would have been wonderful lookouts; unfortunately, all we saw was the darkness of the cliff as it dropped off next to it with nothing to prevent you from flying over the edge. Eeek!

Finally we reached the campsite. We had to put all of our food and anything with a scent (including all cosmetics!) into bear lockers to prevent our car and tent from being broken into! We brought in our suitcases and Mike lit up a fire in the wood-burning stove, and we curled up together to go to sleep!

permalink written by  prettyblueroses on July 12, 2009 from Yosemite National Park, California, United States
from the travel blog: Northern Expedition: Our Journey to NorCal
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