Day 17: Tensions continue to rise.
When you’re living in 225 square feet, it doesn’t take much change to throw your life and routine into chaos. When your occupancy doubles from 3 to 6, it’s more than a little change.
The more people you have in a group, the larger its momentum becomes. With six people in tow, our group had as much momentum as a locomotive. There was no stopping us. Sorry, I mean *starting*. There was no starting us. We simply could not get in motion. Assembling the crew that morning was like pulling teeth. Although to be honest, I’m not sure where I fit in this analogy. I think Justin was the patient. I was either the dentist or the teeth.
Everyone was running behind schedule, and it was hurting our chances of arriving at Yosemite before nightfall. More than an hour and a half behind schedule, we finally started rolling… only to stop 15 minutes later to buy all the groceries and supplies we neglected to bring.
Despite missing our self-imposed deadlines, getting on the road was a major relief. Tensions settled down, and our new passengers finally had a chance to experience the pleasures of bus life, lounging in the living space, napping, and taking turns popping out of the skylight to enjoy the scenery.
As we were nearing sunset, the bus was facing a climb up a particularly arduous incline. The temperature gauge was stuck firmly in the red, and had been for the last ten minutes, so we pulled over to let the engine take a breather. After stopping we turned around to see a valley fading out into distance, with the sun just about to set over the mountains. Justin rushed off with his gear to catch a few shots, while the rest of us lazily pulled ourselves off the bus. Ethan and Sam grabbed their instruments and strummed out across the street to the bluff, where Justin captured some of the most epic country-western album-cover shots of all time.
We reached our campsite well after dark, on a fire-road just before Yosemite. Ethan assured us this was totally Kosher, but I was too tired to care. After a long day on the road, many of us were getting hangry (angry as result of being hungry), so Sam immediately set about preparing dinner.
After consuming a delicious pile of sauteed veggies I passed out on one of the bench seats, while the rest of the crew wandered down the road to find a nearby clearing to sit and strum out a few tunes on the ukelele and enjoy the full moon.
When they returned Hannah strung her hammock up between two nearby trees, and Justin dragged his sleeping bag up on the roof of the bus for the night. (He later assured us that he slept rather well, but that waking up inches from rolling off the edge would dissuade him from tempting fate again.)
(I’d like to step out of chronology for a moment to note that since we’ve passed through, the Yosemite wildfire has spread drastically, and by the looks of the map, this site no longer exists. Sad day.)
The next day, we headed into Yosemite to do a bit of sightseeing, and take a short hike up to see Vernal Falls. The scenery on the way in was gorgeous as to be expected. Ethan was at our usual viewing station sticking out of the skylight, and as I began to remove to rear skylight to join in we noticed the flashing lights.
We had never bothered to research the legality of our perch, but had a feeling this would happen at some point in our journey. We had been rolling the dice for quite awhile, it was about time we hit a yahtzee. Ethan and Justin, the driver at the time, were called outside to talk to the ranger. At one point as the crew sat there nervously waiting, the ranger stuck his head in the cabin, and took a quick glance around. We held our breath for a moment, unsure where this was leading. After a brief pause he simply uttered “That’s pretty rad”, and left. Thankfully we had most of the proper paperwork, and were generously left with a warning.
Ethan, who had traveled through the park only months before, noted that as long as we were pulled over we happened to be across the road from an acceptable swimming spot. We took this opportunity to shed some of the tension of the moment, and went for a swim in the brisk mountain water. Sam was without a swimsuit and opted to swim in his superhero briefs instead. Unsurprisingly, he pulled it off.
After taking another half hour to sun ourselves on the rocky shore, we headed back to the bus to make our way to the Vernal Falls trailhead. Arriving 20 minutes later, we were forced to take multiple passes through the packed trailhead parking before Justin found an acceptable makeshift spot. Ethan had been severely weakened by his 10-day silent-meditation retreat (hippie), and chose to stay behind on the bus while the rest of us hiked to the falls. About halfway up the 1 mile trail we came upon a bridge with a nice view of the falls. Lacy and I decided this spot was scenic enough, and let the others push ahead to reach the falls themselves. (perhaps another sign for me to cut back on the liquid carbs and join a gym…)
By the time we left the falls, the sun had set behind the mountains, and it was time to make it to our next camp.
The next morning was a lazy start, with each of the crew taking the opportunity to wander at their own pace from the campsite down to June Lake, which was perfectly pristine, spotted only by a couple of paddle-boarders.
After our lazy start we made our way east towards Las Vegas. The hike up the White Mountains seemed endless. Despite opening all the windows, the heat was getting oppressive for us, not to mention the engine. The climb regularly slowed us down to 25mph, squelching any chance at a breeze, and caused the engine to regularly overheat. Well into our drive someone realized our tank was low, and if we didn’t find diesel in the near future we could be in trouble. We tried desperately to search our phones for the nearest gas station, but weren’t getting any signal. As we cleared the summit, we were relieved to have the benefit of gravity working with us again, but were more than a little discouraged to see the road stretch from the bottom of the mountain straight out as far as the eye could see into flat desert wasteland.
While cruising through the flatlands in the middle of nowhere, with one flickering bar of reception, a single text came through from a friend on Justin’s phone: “You’re on Gizmodo.”
We had to pull over.
The rest of the day was a bit of a blur. We found gas, but still no internet. We were frantically trying to get a solid signal so we could see what was happening on the internet, and try to respond to comments. Despite this, spirits were high.
We had “made it”.
There was a damn rainbow in the sky.
We were feeling lucky.
We were going to Vegas.