Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Day 39: Back on the Train

Since Mountain Man entered into the scene, there is has been a renewed interest in the blog. So I feel compelled to tell you that, yes, things were going just fine. Everyone was still getting along. The trip was still fun. No, you cannot see a picture of Mountain Man.

Wednesday morning, we had to make some decisions about the next couple of days of our trip. There were still some places that CK wanted to show us and that we wanted to see in Yosemite. Our only real deadline was to get to San Francisco by Thursday night because we were taking the red-eye to Boston.

Do we stay in Yosemite for another day and night and have CK drive us to San Francisco on Thursday? Do we leave Wednesday night and try and spend some time in San Francisco? For Team Temecula, not knowing the answers to these seemingly important vacation questions would have been a complete nightmare. For us, though, it was pretty standard.

We were Team Whatever.

Do want a beer? Sure, whatever.

How are we going to get from Yosemite to San Francisco? I don't know, whatever.

Your shirt is on fire. Really? Whatever.

We were just happy to be there. What. Ever.

CK had been so accommodating and such a great tour guide that the thought of him driving us three hours to San Francisco only to turn around and drive back did not sit well with Mountain Man or me. But I left it up to Mountain Man to make the final decision because a.) I really didn't care and b.) I'm a Libra and we are horrible decision makers. If he'd left it up to me I'd probably still be there, weeks later, weighing the pros and cons.

Finally Mountain Man decided that we would spend the morning in Yosemite and then take the train to San Francisco Wednesday afternoon. Day 39 was another full day of things I'd never done before: see trees big enough to drive your car through, ride an Amtrak train to San Francisco, eat a vegetarian burrito prepared in a truck and ride on the back of a scooter.

My parents told me that I had actually seen Redwoods before, when I was 11 and our family took a trip to San Francisco. But all I remember about that trip was riding on a cable car and the hideous fuchsia cardigan I rocked in just about every picture.

Seeing the sequoias in Yosemite was different. Usually when I see something as an adult that I've seen before as a child, it always seems smaller and less impressive. Not the case with the sequoias. Even though I was bigger, the trees seemed so much grander and more beautiful. Once again, CK's knowledge of the area came shining through as we hiked (not walked, hiked) the Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias. We saw the Dead Giant, a tree that is 29.5 feet in diameter. Back in 1878 a tunnel was cut into the tree, and visitors could pay a dollar to pass through on their way to Yosemite Valley.

I pay 50 cents to drive in and out of Atlanta on Georgia 400 and there isn't any fun tree to drive through. They should change that.

We also came upon a sequoia that had fallen years ago. This tree was so big and hollowed out that it was possible to walk/crawl through it. Mountain Man made it the whole way, but about halfway in I started to feel like I was in the Spider Cave again, so I quickly found an exit.

We left Tuolumne Grove and headed back to CK's house to load up our stuff and head to Merced, where we would catch the train to San Francisco. We wanted to give ourselves plenty of time to stop and pick up a burrito from Ramon, a Mexican man who makes and sells food out of a truck he parks at a convenience store. CK said it's one of the best burritos he's ever had and everytime he drives to Merced to go to the grocery store or whatever, he stops and picks one up.

I love experiences like these. I love that if I was alone and had stopped at that convenience store and saw that burrito truck, there is little to no chance that I would have bought and eaten something made in it. But thanks to CK and his infinite wisdom about Yosemite and the surrounding cities, we knew it was worth it to get Ramon to whip us up three veggie burritos. CK would enjoy his on the way home to Yosemite while Mountain Man and I would enjoy ours on the train to San Francisco.

That is, of course, if we didn't miss the train, which quickly became a possibility after Ramon decided to take extra time giving these three burritos extra special attention.

Once we had the burritos and we were back in the car, CK assured us that the train station was not far from where we were and that we'd definitely make it on time. I was relieved, until I watched a train whiz right past us on the tracks that ran parallel to the road we were on.

And then I saw something that I had never seen before in the 72 hours that I had known him. Cool, calm, and always collected CK was nervous.

I've only experienced a handful of truly low points in life, but missing a train because I stopped to buy a burrito from a truck parked at a convenience store certainly would have had to be added to the list. What's that number to Jenny Craig again?

Thankfully, we did not miss the train. We made it in plenty of time. There was no long drawn out goodbye with CK though. We hugged him, thanked him and quickly stowed our luggage and took our seat. CK told us to sit on the second story of the train because it had the best view. And it did. Unfortunately, however, the sun set half an hour after we left and for the next three hours there wasn't a whole lot to see.

But we were one cart from the bar, so Mountain man and I sipped beers, ate our burritos (which were well worth the stress of almost missing the train), and did something neither of us had ever done before: hung out together. Just the two of us. And everyone else on the train.

No surprise, there was plenty of people-watching to enjoy on our four-hour ride. I always try and make up stories about the people I see. Like the middle-aged gentleman who carried five or six plastic grocery bags on to the train. Some might have assumed he doesn't own any luggage. I assumed his estranged wife stole his luggage because she found out he was cheating on her. He was forced to pack the few belongings she didn't destroy into plastic grocery bags and get on the quickest train out of town.

I wonder if the other people looked at Mountain Man and me and knew our story. "Oh yeah, those two recently met, but they seem to be getting along and they're on their way to meet up with her friend Elizabeth for dinner."

I had texted Elizabeth that we were getting on a train and would be in San Francisco Wednesday night.

"What? What train? I'm so confused," she texted back.

Like most people, Elizabeth had no idea who Mountain Man is or what we were doing there together. She didn't even know there was a train from Yosemite to San Francisco. But that's what's so awesome about her. She'd meet me whenever and wherever (even at 9pm on a Wednesday night). Why I was there and who I was there with were all secondary to the fact that I was there.
Elizabeth's motto: Hang out first, ask questions later.

Only there would be no opportunity for questions, because Mountain Man is also a camel, and doesn't take bathroom breaks. No chance to explain.

After dinner, Elizabeth's boyfriend Kristof took me for a ride on his scooter through the hilly streets of San Francisco. Actually it was just one block, but it was still a ride. What a great way to commute! If I didn't think I would kill myself or others riding one through Atlanta traffic, I might look into trading my SUV for my very own scooter.

On the other hand, I also realized, based on these pictures I feel obligated to share, that I look overweight wearing a helmet. Seriously, it sounds like a joke, "Does this helmet make my butt look big?" But in this case, the answer is no joke. Yes, it does. And your face and arms too.

I'm blame it on the burrito.


  1. To all you naysayers out there - I have seen a picture of this Mountain Man Stephie speaks of. 1) He does exist. 2) He is easy on the eyes - just ask Beckers.

  2. I am jealous you really did live out the plot of my two favorite movies of all time "Before Sunrise" and "Before Sunset". Although Ethan Hawke pails in comparison to the facial hair palette Mountain Main brought to the table. And your teeth are far superior to Julie Delpy’s.