Friday, September 12, 2014

Oregon is the Parkiest Park

I'm convinced that the entire state of Oregon is a national park.  Crater Lake is the bluest blue, and the thousands of waterfalls are surrounded by the greenest green.  Even the tree trunks and the rocks are covered in green.  Everything is freaking green.

Compare that to California:

That tree line is where the water used to go up to.  None of this desert-looking business.
Is there such a thing as importing water?  California needs to do that.  From Oregon.

Crater Lake

Look how green!
I don't remember the names of the falls, because there were a million of them.  Aside from all these water scenes, Oregon also has a lot of mountains.

Mt. Shasta.  It isn't actually this red, but the sun was setting.
Mt. Hood
It was extremely windy here, and now I have dust in my ear again.
I don't know what else to say.  Oregon is all photos.  So now I shall commence with the random thoughts in no particular order.

Back by Yosemite, even though you are miles away from any real town, you will still pass a sign that says "GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS" for a "Gentlemen's Club."  Why do they call it that?  Do you think we don't know what you're doing in there?  Like we think you're just having tea sandwiches and discussing the '74 Lafite?  Why do they not just say strip club?  Is there an actual difference?  Do gentlemen's clubs hand you a top hat and monocle on the way in?  You've already advertised GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS, so I think the classy ship has sailed.  I do not understand this euphemism.

The first motel we stayed at (Maverick Motel) had free wifi AND gave us this basket of goodies (all complimentary!).

Take notes, Westin St. Francis.  You're getting your ass kicked by a cheap roadside motel in hospitality.  I had to ask them to give Cathy free wifi in her bridal suite.  The suite that has two entrances (one for guests), a kitchen, dining room, living room, office, guest bath, and master bedroom with ensuite bathroom that is itself larger than my bedroom.  The Queen has stayed there, and it is now called the Windsor Suite.  Are you shitting me, Westin?  Who is staying in the Windsor Suite who is getting charged for wifi?  The answer is zero people.  Why do you not just include it?  It's the difference between, "Oh, good, wifi is included," and "ARE YOU SHITTING ME HOW IS WIFI NOT INCLUDED?"  But at least they didn't spend five minutes explaining to me that they weren't obligated to do this for me, and that soon enough they wouldn't even need guests like me.  Yes, Courtyard Marriott-University Area, Austin, TX, I remember you.  Hint: You're never getting off the shitlist.  Either of you.  Unless Ernie, the front desk clerk who helped me out at the Westin, becomes general manager and is good at it.

The wedding itself was incredible.  I already know it's the best one I'll ever attend, and Cathy is the first of my close friends to get married.  She did the worm in her wedding dress!  I may also have fallen in love with the father of the groom.  Ken may have as well, so it's ok.  The photographer looked shocked when I described Cathy's previous wedding (to me, in Vegas, after bribing a hotel manager to use their chapel for our "ceremony").  I'll probably have to do a whole other post on the wedding, though probably not here.  Maybe I'll just write it for myself for posterity.

Relatedly, mani-pedis are a process.  I had no idea.  I thought someone just painted colors on your nails.  But no.  There are massages and lotions and oils and doing something with your cuticles and multiple coats and foot baths and crazy things.  I tipped way too high, but I am not accustomed to having someone spend so much attention for so much time on such small body parts.  It is weird.  I also kept staring at my feet, because it was like an alien had taken over my feet's appearance.

Anyway, meanwhile in Oregon, people keep staring at us because we speak Chinese.  (Or because we are Chinese?  Unclear.)  They also seem very hesitant to interact with us.  Not other travellers, but locals (e.g., waitresses).  Also, their version of carding is to ask, apologetically, "Is everyone here 21?"  Obviously they are asking me, because I'm travelling with four people in their late 50s, and while they could pass for younger, I don't think they could pass for 20.  I just said, "Oh.  Yeah," and that was it.  Pub/restaurants also seem to play a lot of Keno.  As far as I can tell, this is just bingo without letters, but I'm basing that solely off of the cards that are provided at each table.

My dad is snoring and sounds like Chewbacca.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Beware of the Bears

One is more likely to see a bear at Yosemite (check) than to get any decent wifi signal, which is why I haven't posted.

For this leg of the trip, I'm travelling with my parents and another couple, who are both my parents' friends, and the parents of my friend Kevin (i.e., both generations of both families are friends).  Kevin is not here, because he has a real job.  So basically I am fifth-wheeling my parents.  I have already lost count of the number of times that Kevin's mom has expressed that she wishes she had a daughter.  It is unclear whether she means she wishes Kevin were a girl, or she wishes she had an additional child.  I choose to believe the former.

The drive to Yosemite is pretty desolate.  Once you pass Stockton, there are no towns to speak of, unless five restaurants counts as a town.  We ate at one such "town," called Groveland, that consisted of three streets and had zero cell signal.  We went to Dori's Tea Cottage, where they seemed surprised by the presence of Asians but were very polite and courteous.  (This has been a running theme since leaving San Francisco.)

On the way into the park, the fire danger sign said the danger level was "extreme."  For future reference, this means the park is actively on fire, and people are being evacuated from those portions of the park via helicopter.  When it's "very high," it means the park is on fire, but in a normal fires-are-natural way.

The parents had informed me that we would be staying in tents, so I pictured a normal tent on the ground with sleeping bags.  When we got to the campground, I felt more like we were at the Quidditch World Cup.  It's not that the tents were enormous or super fancy, but compared to what I was imagining, they were pretty nice.  Each tent had a wooden door and foundation, over which heavy tarp/canvas (?) was laid, which had built-in screened windows that you could pull a shade over.  There was one double bed and two twin beds, along with a shelf stocked with towels and disposable cups, as well as a safe for valuables and some park information.

There's a bear box outside, where you are to put any food and anything with any kind of scent whatsoever.  I went a little overboard and put my floss in there, too, because I don't want to get eaten by a bear.  (This was completely unnecessary as there were no bears near the campground.)  The bear box essentially just a metal box that can only be opened by a latch hidden inside a smaller metal attachment that only a human and/or other smaller, non-bear hand could fit into and thus unlatch.  There are approximately 927,000 signs warning you about bears and explaining bear safety.  There has never been a bear attack in Yosemite (according to a guide person).  There are, however, aggressive deer.  Not that I'd advise petting a bear, but definitely stay away from the deer.

The tents that we stayed in were located in "Curry Village," which is a small camp in the Yosemite Valley part of the park.  There are a few different restaurants, but only one is open until ten, and even though it was late in the tourist season, the fire evacuations caused longer than usual lines.  Also, raccoons will climb onto empty tables and look for scraps of food.  This is why they are SO FAT.  (At least much fatter than I would expect any wild animal to be.)

Yosemite is pretty dry this time of year, so the lakes and waterfalls are either pitiful or nonexistent, since the snowmelt season is over.  The rock formations are pretty neat, though, and the giant sequoias, too.

The yellowish haze above Candide's head is not a cloud.  That is from fire.

Candide in front of the roots of a fallen sequoia tree.  Candide is very close to the camera, so he looks big, but the roots are actually extremely wide.  Probably six to eight people's wingspan.  (That's a description fit for the Museum of Jurassic Technology.  So precise.)

Sequoia cones.  Candide for scale.  He got sap on his butt and smelled really good for a while.

Chipmunk!  I really like little rodents.
Clothespin Tree.  Semi-hollowed out by fire.
Our second night at Yosemite fell on the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, which is a huge deal in China, but is not much celebrated Stateside, as demonstrated by our sad little moon cake.

Thanks for the wine, Cathy!
On our last day, we stopped by the Hetch Hetchy reservoir, which is where San Francisco gets its water.  It is disturbingly lower than it used to be.  Look.

What's that weirdly white line right above the water level?
OH MY GOD IT'S WHERE THE WATER USED TO BE.  This thing's capacity is 117 BILLION gallons of water.  If you're missing that height all the way around the entire thing (which you are, because that's how water works), that is a LOT of fucking water.
Dear California,

Your state is running dry.  Stop watering your highway grass in the goddamn afternoon.  Your highway doesn't even need grass.

Someone who doesn't even live in California

On the way out of the park, we passed a pretty serious motorcycle accident that must have just happened, as there was no ambulance or anything on the scene.  One of the people looked pretty bad.  He was just face down on the road, completely not moving at all.  Somehow you just had this sense that he wasn't just consciously not moving, but was much worse off.  There was a group of them who had stopped, so we didn't stop to help, since none of us are doctors, and we'd just be interference.  (We assumed that between the handful of them who weren't in the accident, they'd have multiple cell phones, and they had transportation to get to an area with reception if there was no signal.)  We passed some of their buddies on the way down, who had pulled over to wait for the rest of the group to catch up, and notified them that there was an accident, so they went back up the mountain to join their friends.  About 20 minutes further down the mountain, we saw emergency service vehicles finally heading up.  ("Finally" because the accident occurred in the middle of nowhere.)  The internet later informed me that the accident was reported probably five minutes or so before we drove past it.  It was a one-vehicle, two-passenger accident (which is exactly what it looked like), and one of them died on the scene, while the other was airlifted to a hospital with serious injuries.  That completely blew my mind.  Granted, it kind of looked like a fatal accident, so the result itself, in a purely clinical sense, wasn't necessarily surprising, but beyond that, it is a rather shocking thing to know, concretely, that you saw someone dying, and also that you sent their friends up to what turned out to be the death of their buddy.  These poor people were probably just coming out of a vacation at Yosemite, then some random minivan of people tells them there's been an accident, and now they have this long, dreadful ride home having just lost a dear friend.  Everyone I know:  Please do not ride a motorcycle, but if you must, please avoid doing so in the middle of nowhere, where it takes at least 45 minutes to get any kind of emergency response.

I'm going to end this with that, because it is sad and deserves a moment of silence, but I will catch up on other things tomorrow night, assuming I have internet access.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

In Bear News

Angela has authorized me to report that she has not been eaten by a bear.  No other information on her condition or that of the bear is available at this time.