Slice of Life: Vacations take work

August 23, 2012 

My mama taught me well, including to never travel during high season. She often said, “Where could we go that’s better than Cambria, especially in summer?”

However, there are exceptions.

Mom also taught me that we shouldn’t have to worry about where we’d sleep each night. So, I make hotel reservations as far in advance as possible.

I also try to consolidate our adventures, so we won’t have to move from hotel to hotel, town to town. I’m the primary planner, packer and loader, and the only driver now, so I try to be kind to myself and not make me do those things too often.

There can be exceptions.

When we heard that our sister Ann was coming to California from Florida with some of her family, we knew we had to join them. They can’t visit often, and we weren’t going to miss that chance.

Never mind that we’d be at Yosemite in June (Gulp! Cue the crowds, heat and high prices!). We were going anyway.

That was another of my mom’s traditions: If you’re offered a really good chance to travel, go. And if you can make it even better, do so.

We did. We added our sister Zola to the mix. How perfect! She’d fly from Salt Lake City into San Jose. We’d all go to a special event there, then to Yosemite for five days, back to Cambria for four, and back to San Jose for Zola’s flight home. Whew!

Now, where to stay? The Bay Area hotel was simple. We’d stay where we usually do. But in Yosemite? In summer?

Ann & Co. were staying in El Portal at a large hotel that, three months before our vacation, had one room left. We took it. Quickly.

However. Our pricey room was available Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday nights. Not Tuesday.

The next nearest hotel was a curvy 7 miles away. In fact, pretty much the next nearest anything to the west was 7 curvy miles away. The next town, Mariposa, is 30 miles, and it’s 66 miles to Merced.

I called El Portal at least once a week, asking (begging) for an accommodation for the entire time, or at least another room we could move into for the missing night.

Finally, a week before the trip, a delightful clerk took pity on me, spending about 20 minutes juggling this guest and that group, none of whom had apparently contracted for a specific room.

We had our five-night stay. Cheers were heard on both coasts.

Our room was snug for three, but what a bonus! Just beyond its sliding glass door and balcony was the Merced River, rushing down the rocks and rapids.

It looked and sounded sublime. Yosemite itself was spectacular. The mosquitoes were few. After the first screamingly hot day, the weather mostly cooperated, even giving us an afternoon’s rain that overfilled the waterfalls and boosted the river’s roar.

The entire trip was wonderful (despite my having fallen and separated my collarbone four days before we left home. Hey, I never give up!).

But Zola was to fly home from San Jose at 6:30 p.m. A day before her departure, we decided that was too late for us to drive back to Cambria that final night, and we should stay in the Bay Area overnight.

Yes, Mom, another exception. This clearly was not booking early.

There was no room at the inn. Any inn. Hours of web-surfing and phoning later, I found one cancellation, and despite its eye-popping cost, I grabbed it while it was still available.

I asked about the Bay Area-wide room shortage. Surely high season hadn’t hit so early in June. “Three UC campuses had graduations this weekend,” he explained. “Google had a big, big event, and I think Facebook did, too.”

Oh yes, and by the way, “The U.S. Open is in San Francisco.”

The only other vacancy he knew of was at a budget-rate hotel that was charging $250 a night.

We really treasured every hour of our sleep in that hotel, and, in fact, every second of the entire vacation.

See, Mom, sometimes it’s the exceptions that prove your rules. (PS: You’d have loved that trip, too.)

Email Kathe Tanner at ktanner@thetribunenews.com. Read more “Slices” at thecambrian.com.

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