Love the service, but hate the crowds |

Love the service, but hate the crowds

Just last week, my husband and I took a trip to Yosemite Valley.

It was the grand “anni-birth-sary” celebration – his birthday, followed by our 10th wedding anniversary, followed by my birthday.

Stupid design, I know, but it had to be something special.

We paid what we consider to be a whole lot of money to stay at the Awahnee Hotel in the valley, which included a view of Half Dome and unbelievable room service, complete with turning down the sheets while you’re away at dinner and chocolates placed on the pillows.

I can count on two hands all of the occasions that Ron and I have stayed in any kind of motel, hotel or condo while away on vacation. Being married to a wilderness ranger, and living on the traditionally meager salary of a journalist, we usually settle for a granite slab as our bed and the full moon as our nightlight.

And that’s worked out well for us.

Over the years, our frugal ways have lead us to some amazing places – we’ve kayaked the Sea of Cortez, bicycled more than 600 miles through a tiny portion of Alaska during a snowstorm, walked from Mount Whitney to Sonora Pass over the course of a month, paddled our kayaks down rumbling rivers that have only been scouted by Ron and a couple of his adrenaline-driven friends.

We’ve also lived for many summers out of our beat up, trusty Ford van while we drove thousands of miles looking for the perfect place to windsurf – and take a shower.

But, due to the circumstances, this time was going to be different.

And, it was.

We checked in, ate in the dining hall, walked the perfectly manicured grounds, drank tea at tea hour. You know, when in Rome …

Then we left the bubble of opulence – and found out for the first time what it was like to vacation as a typical tourist.

We drove around in circles, paid our entrance fees, wedged our way between a man from Ohio and a woman from Germany to get a peak at El Capitan. We finally caught our glimpse between the heads of some teen-agers who were discussing whether or not the water stains on the rocky monolith resembled Marilyn Manson.

After that, our stomachs were grumbling. There we were standing in line between somebody’s Aunt Rhonda and a man who was so worried about losing his place that he kept inching forward even though the line was going nowhere. I could tell he ate garlic pizza the night before.

When we finally got to the hostess, she barked “HOW MANY!”

At almost every stop, park employees seemed obligated to tell me about their bear problems: “Bears this and bears that, bears, bears, bears, they’ll break into your car, you know. We’ve had 1,136 bear break-ins this summer. Bears, bears, bears.”

“Uh-huh, uh-huh,” I said, as I daydreamed of those days of cheap travel in our rusty, clunky van. I never realized how much I enjoyed those days.

But this was our turn to see the vacation world from the eyes of a typical tourist.

Now, the next time I am behind someone creeping along on State Route 89 at Emerald Bay, and they’re gawking at the lake that I get to see every day, I will remember my stint as a tourist and try not to get too impatient or annoyed.

But for our next vacation, I expect Ron and I will be back in our van, a little less comfortable but a lot less hassled.

– Mary Thompson is the city reporter for the Tahoe Daily Tribune.

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