I inhale two big full lungs of smoke the minute I walk out of the camper van. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure if it was day or night: the entire forest was covered with a thick layer of smoke and the sun didn’t appear to be shining. It is absolutely CRAZY, and I had never seen anything like it.
When I ask her about the fires, the cute park ranger tells me that we’re still absolutely safe, however yesterday I heard her -no joke- shouting to her colleague “Noooooo, It’s coming for us!” We head out north anyway.
Where I write this:
In the car somewhere in California northbound towards Yosemite National Park. It’s about 1 pm, the radio’s on and playing Johnny Cash. It’s sunny outside and I’m pretty hungry. I kind of feel like eating a big, fat juicy burger but don’t want to tell Annemiek because she’ll make fun of me.
Smokey, but magical
When we drove into the big tree park (Sequoia Nat. Park) yesterday, the park people already warned us: be careful, the north side of the camp has already completely been evacuated because of the massive forest fires. Driving up to the park we could already notice some things it had affected: the views. It was like being in the smokey mountains again (That’s in the Appalachians Mountains on the east side of the country, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina): there was so much smoke coming from the fires (that we still couldn’t see) that a clear view of the surrounding mountains was completely blocked. Yesterday afternoon all of a sudden there was a giant smoke cloud colouring the blue sky and waking up this morning like waking up inside a barbecue.
The park is beautiful, the big, tall trees standing next to the road as big, brown, majestic guards, some burned, some fallen over, but all of them as impressive. It’s funny, the same thing that makes the Sequoia tree such an evolutionary successful tree – the thick bark protecting it from forest fires and the tannins, making it almost impenetrable by rot- makes it, once fallen down, lie there for pretty much forever.
Going down this beautiful road, it reminds me of car commercials. Big big rocks on the right, massive trees all over and a black asphalt road . I keep my eyes on the bright yellow line as it twists its way down the mountain like a hypnotising snake leading me down its curves, taking me from bend to bend all in one smooth motion.
Unaltered photo from sky above the park. It’s almost apocalyptic.
Hypnotisingly (is that a word? If not, it is now: I’m claiming it! New words get added all the time, why should I not be able to create one?!) pretty.
After a we get down into the valley I at some point get bored of driving, and Annemiek takes over. We take the 99 north up to Merced, driving on a B-road now, with Johnny Cash’s Ghost Riders in the Sky coming through the speakers of the stereo system. The camper van is from 2012 but the interior seems to be made by two neanderthalers with a rock and a stick.
The gear lever is as big as Hercules’ leg and takes his strength, too, to put it actually into a gear. There are two knobs on the dashboard, once that says low-hi, regulating how much half warm air is coming through the vents, that says cool-warm and one that says many things but doesn’t do any. Then there’s the radio, which produces a sound almost as nice as two toddlers banging on a can.
A small tornado whirls around the flatlands here in middle California. It’s surprisingly flat here, making me feel more at home than I expect. Annemiek has turned the RV around, going a bit too fast over a bump and through the corner, causing the tomatoes, garlic and a pear to jump out of the cupboards and splatter onto the floor of the RV. “Oops,” she says. “Well, you have to make some speed sometimes.” Poor food. Annemiek turns the RV in the direction of Merced to do some groceries. And so we do.
About as exciting as it gets in flat California.
Road trips are exciting, but there’s a lot of driving to be done, which can get boring at some point. Taking photos helps keep the boredom away for a about a minute of three. Please note my very
patriotictouristic stars and stripes T.
Lots of orchards and vineyards in this region.
Point your hairy fingers at someone else
There’s a big bear on a billboard sign in front of me. We’re driving again and we’re about half an hour away from where we’re going. The bear’s wearing a hat and his finger is pointed at me. “Only YOU can prevent wild fires,” he says. On his hat some letters form the word ‘Smokey.’ I don’t know who’s in charge of the billboard campaign against wildfires, but they better have a good look at themselves before they start pointing their hairy fingers at me.
We arrive at a camp site just outside Yosemite National Park, park the RV and I go in for a very cold swim. Coming back I BURN make a pizza and stay outside writing for a bit. Annemiek heads for bed early while I use the wifi to upload some posts again, as there was no internet in the past couple of camp sites.
I’ve heard only great stories about Yosemite, never did I hear anyone say: Don’t go there, mate. It’s bloody boring. No, instead people are always lyrical about it, I’ve always heard it’s a magical place with real rocks and trees and water. Can’t wait to see it, for now: I’m headed for bed.
I wish you a good night.
This is where I am right now (my mom said this would be a good idea):
READ NEXT: I’M ON FIRE (FIREBALL)