University Square Hotel was what seemed to be a slightly modified old dormitory repurposed but with few updates. There was a weathered printed paper sign posted next to the check-in, “This is not a 5 star hotel, if you are not happy with your accommodations get full refund within 45 minutes of check-in.” The front desk help was pleasant and within no time we had a room for $45 which what can you really ask for more than a place to sleep at this point. Exhausted, we took a quick shower before both of us were out like a light.
Morning came quicker than expected. The front had given us a breakfast pass that didn’t give a time but figured we’d have a brief breakfast with a longer day than the last ahead of us. Breakfast began with a couple of styrofoam plates, a makeshift counter that held the imitation scrambled eggs toast and apples. I believe they had a form of coffee, not quite sure but again the price was right and we had coffee in the car still.
Yosemite was only a little over an hour away and before we knew it we were back to inclining, twisting and turning around a large lake below us as we came upon Yosemite National Park. Again with the handy dandy “America The Beautiful” pass we cruised right in no additional fees. Being the winter months some of the park wasn’t available including the first place just after the entrance, a grove of more Sequoias which wasn’t the biggest disappointment since we had the opportunity the prior day. This park also had steep inclines and declines with areas posted with signage whether tire chains were “chains necessary” or to “carry chains.” Since we had bought chains the day before we were golden, just an FYI to anyone that may be visiting in winter months.
The two lane rolling roads followed along steep cliffs for the first hour. Each overlook area better than the last. Every five to ten minutes we found ourselves pulled over taking pictures, climbing around on rocks and breathing some of the freshest air available. We were able to fill the multitude of water bottles at one of the visitor centers (which is what we used to wash dishes, drink and cook with). As we passed through a tunnel running through a side of the mountain, what was all but black besides what our weak low-lights could illuminate opened up to an extraordinary site of “El Capitan,” from a distance and elevated.
El Capitan is a wall face that just out from the mountain side standing about 800 feet high with a water fall running from about halfway up. In our inventory we’ve carried a coffee mug in our center counsel of the car commemorating my (Alex) grandfather’s 60th year of barbering in my hometown of Munising. We’ve made a point to take pics here and there drinking coffee in the foreground, plus it was high time we pulled over to brew some. After a quick photo opt we continued in search of a picnic area.
Shuffling through the bush off to the right of the road a giant black bear pounced across the drive blending into the woodwork. For his or her size being able to disappear and reappear right in front of us was magical and somewhat frightening as we had just stopped one-hundred feet prior to take a few photos.
Through one the openings we found the perfect picnic spot with a few tables next to a river with a bridge running over. We laid out our bright multi-color Mexican rug for a table cloth, our butane burner, kitchen utensils and of course (my early unnecessary yet greatly appreciated birthday gift) the bluetooth speaker bringing samba to the backwoods. I believe we both appreciate times of peace and quiet but for the most part one of us always has a song playing in the background wherever we are. For lunch we made ramen noodles in our foldable rubber cups. In the compact sauté pan we fried up spam, onions, potatoes and eggs and of course brewed even more coffee. I’m not sure what fueled us more on this trip, petrol or coffee.
After finishing up we did a quick photoshoot on the bridge. A man with a very nice camera came and filmed us taking photos as he was documenting photographers in the national parks for an Australian Youtube channel based out of L.A. Kind of ironic and as much as we’re just amateurs at best and it’s all just a piece of our adventure, taking photos for the blog and social-media.
Just past the bridge was ground-zero to El Capitan
and Half Dome another granite dome and well known. After that it was about all of what we had time to explore before heading towards the exit of the park and continuing on as sunset was soon. We were able to see a magnificent light show that in some areas blossomed across the horizon but with elevation rising and dropping the mist finally took over and night was with us for the rest of the night.
All good things though, on the road again and on a long stretch straight to San Francisco. We had intention of getting some daylight city in but cities at night have always been a favorite of mine. Co-pilot Bia scoured “Campendium” and other google sites for free camping. She had found a great spot at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge that had good reviews and what seemed to be a rest area. Feedback spoke of a shortage of parking spots, car burglary but free sleeping in San Francisco, the most expensive city to live in the U.S. With hours left to drive and the night and city traffic looming ahead we trudged onwards…