Husband signaled left into the Courtyard San Luis Obispo where we would stay for the night.
Before the turn, though, I saw it; off in the distance—no more than a half mile away—I spied a beacon of light shining on a business. Could it be? Yes, a Honda dealership stood by the highway, ready to save us. “The Hallelujah Chorus” played in my head. Husband maneuvered the car into a parking spot at the hotel, grinding us to a halt.
The next morning, Sunset Honda on Los Osos Valley Road rescued us. While running a brisk business, they still agreed to take care of our vehicle’s needs. All we had ahead of us for the day was the grueling work of sunning by the pool and splashing in its warm waters while we waited for the folks at the dealership to do their magic.
Hours later, the phone rang.
“Your car’s done,” the service advisor on the other end of the line said.
Husband and I walked to the dealership to retrieve our ride. We waited for the paperwork.
“You know how Scripture says to be kind to the stranger sojourning in a foreign land?” I whispered to him.
“Yeah?” he said.
I tapped on the little name plate by the computer. “Seems Erik here at Sunset Honda took notes.”
Erik returned to us with a stack of papers for us to keep as a memento. “We replaced the back brake pads, rotors, and calipers. You should be good now.”
We got back on the road, only behind by seven hours and thirteen-hundred dollars. Off to San Francisco…
We chased down our headlights to the home of the Golden Gate Bridge. We ate dinner at one of the few original seafood restaurants on Fisherman’s Wharf, Sabella and La Torre. And the next day we requested a lift to Dumpling Time, a dim sum restaurant in the Design District. Our cab driver hadn’t heard of the place and doled out a warning.
“If there are only five people in the restaurant, don’t eat there,” he said. “That’s my rule of thumb.”
When he dropped us off, though, the place was bustling, the wait substantial enough that we guessed we were in for a treat. And we were.
Later, we found more souvenir stickers for our car topper, rode a cable car around town, and oohed and aahed at the sea lions slabbed out on Pier 39, rooting extra hard for the lazy one who couldn’t hoist himself up on the dock, much as he tried.
We hoofed it to the Haight-Ashbury area, but before picking our way through the vintage clothing shops, we stopped for some refreshments. I reviewed the drink menu:
“Summer of Love IPA: We chose to go with flavors that fondly remind us of a beautiful hippie’s armpit on Haight Street circa ’67. Need convincing? Think dank and musty with essential oils of pithy grapefruit and burning pine and sage. Make sense now? Drink up and we’re sure you’ll agree.”
I showed the description to Husband, two thoughts zipping through my mind: 1. I would definitely order the homemade kombucha now, and 2. where could I snag a writing job like that?
Far too soon for us, we said goodbye to the sourdough, goodbye to that big bridge, and goodbye to the Painted Ladies, a famous and colorful row of Victorian houses across from Alamo Square.
Goodbye, City by the Bay.
After a night in Visalia, California, near Fresno, we drove through farm country. We identified groves of trees bearing oranges, peaches, and walnuts, but were stumped by the crops that sort of looked like corn. We rolled through the tiny town of Lemon Cove, population 308, and who would ever notice such a small place? Except that it reminded me why I preferred a roadtrip to a plane ride. Big hubs didn’t usually offer charming roadside fruit stands in the shape of big oranges.
At our next stop in the Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks, I hopped out of the car. But something embedded in our front tire caught my eye: a large nail.
“Wonderful,” I said, pointing out the intruder to Husband. “Just great.”
“We’ll get it patched,” he said with as much emotion as if I had declared my water bottle empty.
We had more important things like big trees to look at now, and soon came the reminder that hikes were usually longer than their signs indicated. We went on a hunt to see “The world’s biggest tree stump” (or similar pronouncement), only to retrace our steps after more than thirty minutes of following the trail to find it with no success.
The first rain of our epic roadtrip sprinkled us as we appreciated the General Grant tree, the largest giant sequoia in Kings Canyon. And the skies drenched us as we hustled with other tourists to admire the General Sherman tree, the world’s largest, if measured by volume, in Sequoia National Park.
After meeting General Sherman, we drove out of the parking lot, and a sound I hoped to never hear again met my ears. A scraping noise—from the back end of the car. Husband heard it too and I knew it, because he gave me that look.
“Sometimes the brakes sound a little rough after it’s been raining,” I said, hoping what I said was true.
I shelved my dread. As much as I wanted to worry, what was the point? We had giant trees to love and hug and photograph. We tooled along the switchbacks in Sequoia National Park while Joni Mitchell sang to us.
“California, I’m coming home
I’m going to see the folks I dig
I’ll even kiss a sunset pig
California, I’m coming home.”
We shifted our plans and spent a second night in Visalia, foregoing Yosemite in favor of buying some peace of mind at yet another Honda dealership.
“The brakes are fine, but the backing plate was rusted out,” Husband reported back later after his date with the car. “They just took it off altogether. They wouldn’t touch the nail, but I found a place that removed it. Those guys didn’t have a lot of confidence in the patch job, though.”
The next day, our sightseeing would take us to Death Valley in the northern Mojave Desert, one of the hottest places in the world, along with deserts in the Middle East.
We would tootle along in a place that still held the record—at 134 degrees—for the highest air temperature ever recorded at the surface of Earth. But what of our car?
Well, here was hoping our tire wouldn’t blow.
Still want some more traveling adventures? Come back next week for what may or may not be the finale.
*Miss an installment of the blog? Or want to catch the story from the beginning? Visit http://www.tamarajorell.com/blog-entries-by-date
*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.