The drive to Mammoth was ever so serene, the antithesis of the ill feeling of my passengers squished together in Ron. They looked green, not just for the s-bends in the roads, but for the Chupa Cubras sitting not so prettily in their stomachs, from the night before. After being greeted by a casino crossing the border into Nevada, I drove us around the glassy Lake Tahoe. Beauty sparkled from the ripples that lapped the shore.
At our first toilet stop Snitch took a turn for the worse and crouched in between two of the rocks, overlooking the lake. No. 2, The Gannet and I could not make eye contact with each other from the laughter that was beginning to bubble at the scene; which was later described as a cat coughing up a fur ball, in the most scenic spew location we’d ever encountered.
The road led us to a pop-up of casinos in a Tahoe City, a town cut in half by the Nevada/California border. On one side promised windfalls, the other stood still. Not trusting ‘Carmen’, our GPS system who’d led astray at times, we stopped at a homemade booth with a sign that promised ‘Information’. The Gannet asked the woman who was busy drying her finger nails, which way to Mammoth?
“Down the road, there are 400 guys wanting to talk about Mammoth”, came her helpful reply.
We reinstated our faith in Carmen. She took us over a hilltop that felt like the U.S. version of the Kaimais, across farmlands, along rivers, up hills and past lakes. At times there were sleepers on board and in turns we posed interesting life questions. Once again cool, crisp air filtered through the windows, and mountain ranges stood proudly in their magnificence, as we reached the town of Mammoth.
On the front desk of our motel was a photo of a bear in a car, grimacing out of the window. Underneath was a written warning not to leave food or rubbish in vehicles. This particular one had to be freed by the local fire department, with the Jaws of Life, after it had gotten stuck. The clerk also told us that there was a resident bear, Cinnamon, and her cub, Whippersnapper. They’d been known to come in and try their luck at the vending machines, while the staff had to simply tell them to go away. And they do, those obeardient bears. We half-heartedly wanted to meet Cinnamon and Whippersnapper, but knew we’d freak out if we did.
Our hangovers craved grease and salt, so we headed to the local pizzeria with a server who couldn’t be bothered with life. I just wanted a couple of chicken wings and chips and ordered the minimum of ten wings. What I got was a pile of chickens, a farm load of carrot and celery sticks, ranch dressing and a year’s supply of fries. And so began the laborious task of shoving as much food as possible into my mouth. I stopped at four wings, when my hands could no longer grip anything, due to the grease. We’d all made pretty pitiful attempts at pecking away at our food and all walked out with hefty doggy bags for later.
The next day The Gannet went up to Mammoth Mountain to take advantage of the slopes, one last time. Us girls had a bagel breakfast and cawffee in the surprisingly warm morning sun and then went for a walk down a tree and log cabin lined street, ending up at the foot of a mountain range with caves. This time there was no chance that going for some exercise would result in a hangover.
A whirlwind pack and donning some pretty summer dresses to drive into Las Vegas in, we left unscathed by bears. With a quick stop at The Fun Shop for a cat unicorn horn and some ice cream, Ron climbed the mountain to pick up The Gannet and go. Leaving Mammoth was the most mammoth drive of all, rewarding ourselves after the first hour by stopping at Bishop for Shatz Bakkery. Our sandwiches didn’t taste like ‘shatz’ and were the best we’d come across throughout the entire trip, on their amazing home cooked bread.
It’s funny looking on a map and seeing a tiny line from A to B, that you have no idea corresponds to what feels like crossing the entire earth in half a day. Weaving up rocky hills, family photo shoots on the open road without a soul in sight, passing the pock-marked sign from pot shots into Nevada, enduring long straights, across the Death Valley, passing trailer parks and brothel ranches, stopping in for gas at a very hick town that had advertising for ‘Judge Kim Wanker’ (seriously), sighting ‘Area 51’ and finally, the colourful neon lights that winked and welcomed us in to Las Vegas.
I’m shaking my head, knowing that writing the next instalment is going to be epic and peppered with what just happened? Until then, enjoy yourselves.