O-ho the Wells Fargo Wagon is a-comin’ down the street,
Oh please let it be for me!
— “The Wells Fargo Wagon,” from “The Music Man,” by Meredith Willson
For the most part, mail and package delivery has come light years since the early days of the Westward Expansion. However, living in the Santa Lucia Mountains in Cambria’s backcountry is sometimes a little like living in the Old West. This means that getting stuff delivered to our house isn’t as easy as it was when we lived in the suburbs. Flowers delivered for Valentine’s Day? Dream on. Pizza delivered? Forget about it. Packages and other large or fragile items delivered? That’s a longer story.
Our rural mailbox is 2 miles down the dirt road from our house, the farthest point up the mountain that mainstream delivery services come. Since delivering to our house is difficult to impossible, it has long been the tradition for trucks to leave packages at our mailbox.
Anytime we receive a shipment via the U.S. Postal Service, no problem. Mail carriers have been doing this long enough to know the drill. When UPS is the carrier, the service is also surprisingly reliable. Gloria, our former UPS driver, always called to tell us she was bringing us a package. We loved Gloria. When other delivery services balk at bringing packages up here, we have to arrange to pick them up at the Cambria Business Center in town. I’m not sure what we’d do if the Business Center owners weren’t so accommodating.
The delivery services unfamiliar with our road have instructed their drivers to leave packages on our front porch. Good luck with that. Some of these drivers have taken packages all the way back to their shipping depot in Santa Maria when they couldn’t find the house associated with our mailbox address. When this has happened, resolving the issue of the undelivered package has ended up in my lap — a frustrating, time-consuming endeavor that has made me want to jump up and down and say bad words.
Years ago, one delivery driver who was apparently less than thrilled with the prospect of coming up our road decided to dump some of our neighbor’s packages behind a business in Morro Bay. You can imagine how long it took to solve that delivery mystery.
One time we found an unopened box, tossed in the weeds along the side of the road with a label indicating that it belonged at an address down near Highway 1. How that box ended up so far a-field is anyone’s guess and will probably remain a head scratcher forever. However, I doubt that the box jumped off the truck in a sudden fit of uncontrollable angst.
Other specialty items that need to be delivered up here pose even greater challenges. Imagine our trying to get a refrigerator delivered to our house. The trucking company’s driver was never told exactly where we live, so he tried to leave the fridge in Cambria where I was working at the time. Obviously, that was not a happy solution for anyone, except the driver.
However, with some “Woe is me. What shall I do?” on my part, the driver gave in and bumped and lurched up our road to bring the huge refrigerator in its massive packing crate all the way up to our house — a first and, I’m sure, a last.
When my husband, John, and I got married many years ago, we had our wedding reception at a neighbor’s house up here, catered by Linn’s. Food is not such a big deal to get up here, all things considered. However, John and Renee Linn also had to get our two wedding cakes up our very rough road without coating the inside of their van with icing. Through their care and ingenuity, the cakes arrived in perfect condition. You’ll have to ask them about the adventure of accomplishing that feat.
So, whenever you receive a package or have a large or fragile item delivered to your house, you might not want to take it for granted. And, if you are lucky enough to receive a delivery of flowers this Valentine’s Day, celebrate not only that someone has sent you such a lovely gift but also that the florist was able to carry the flowers right to your front door. For someone like me, living in the shadow of the Old West, this small luxury seems like a very big deal indeed.
Marcia Rhoades’ column is special to The Cambrian. Email the resident of Cambria’s mountain community in the Santa Lucia range at firstname.lastname@example.org.