I woke to the sounds of one of the very young girls in the family camped next to us yelling “Ma! Ma! Ma!” over and over and over. It was a bit squeaky, and Sarah said it made her briefly dream of birds before she woke. I am not the least bit grumpy in the morning and listened indifferently. A smile crept on to my face. Tom was going to be annoyed and express it in a funny way. I waited. Five minutes later, I was rewarded with a “You’ve GOT to be kidding me!!!” from Tom’s tent.
Even then, the little girl continued. I think the parents thought that it was a bad idea to respond to the cries, lest they reinforce the annoying action. We built a fire, and retrieved some food from a sort of metal chest that you are supposed to keep the food inside when camping at Yosemite. The chest didn’t seem to be air tight, so the bears could conceivably smell the food, just not get to it. Apparently if you leave food in a car a bear might smash it up.
After cooking and eating some bread, Tom’s leftover chicken fried steak, and potatoes; packing up the car; and putting out the fire, we continued to drive around Yosemite. We saw some more redwoods and eventually got to the Half Dome, a huge rock formation and/or mountain that looks exactly like it sounds. It was huge and amazing.
We walked around for some more incredible views and then got in the car. It was getting on time to drive toward San Jose. We had little clue of what we’d be doing once we got there, but we were running out of gas and we weren’t ready to commit to a long hike, so it was time to go. While driving out we saw another controlled burn, and the whole sky was red and hazy with smoke.
We continued on, and passed some people who had gotten out of their cars to take in the view and watch the controlled burn in the distance. A young couple was standing on the side of the road holding a sign that said “San Francisco.”
I immediately said “Let’s pick them up!”
Tom and Sarah immediately said “No!”
The horrors of picking up hitchhikers had long been engrained in all of our memories. Even if we weren’t tortured and murdered, and the car firebombed, something else would have to happen. Something bad. Sarah and Tom immediately objected. We were driving farther away and low on gas.
“Veto!” I said excitedly.
Let’s stop the story here and talk about America In 100 Days parliamentary procedure. Any disagreements are put to a vote, everyone must state an opinion and majority rules. There is a “no victimization” clause, so that no two can vote for the third to do anything, and each person gets one veto throughout the whole one-hundred day trip. No one had used theirs so far. It probably wouldn’t have worked if I wasn’t driving.
Sarah objected that there was no room in the car. It didn’t work. She tried to veto my veto. “You can’t veto a veto!” I replied, thinking of Dumb and Dumber and chuckling inward.
Tom immediately told me, “You are walking if we run out of gas.” I took this as an agreement with conditions rather then as the deterrent it was intended as. With a smile on my face I turned the car around.
A few minutes later we were there and I was out of the car. “We’ll be in San Francisco in three days,” I said to our soon-to-be riding buddies.
“Oh, that’s ok, we need to be there tonight for work in the morning,” they said in a British accent. I walked back to the car, my victory short-lived.
“Well, do they want to go as far as San Jose?” Tom asked. Either he momentarily forgot that he was opposed to the idea or was starting to like it.
“Oh yeah!” I turned from Tom and back to the male and female hitcher. “Want to go as far as San Jose?"
“Is there a bus that goes to San Francisco from there tonight?” They asked. I shrugged.
They briefly talked it over, followed by an “OK, thanks!” and walked to the car. We moved our soft cooler with ice, from the middle back seat and put it on Tom’s lap. Our guests had their backpacks on their lap. The car was very cramped.
We started talking. Our guests’ names were Zie (Zoh-Wee, rhymes with Bowie) and Dan. The conversation turned to how they had been getting around: hitchhiking with a couple foreign couples and one man they described as every negative American stereotype rolled into one. They weren’t sure if this guy was sincere or just trying to scare them. They didn’t elaborate too much (possibly for fear of insulting us) but I think we got the idea.
We stopped for gas on the way out of the park, but it was pricey and we only put a couple bucks in. Soon the conversation turned to middle European politics, advantages and disadvantages to the economy (especially tourism) of the Czech Republic adopting the Euro, and other relatively obscure topics that Sarah, Tom, and I could not have predicted talking about on this drive. I got the impression that Zie’s opinions regarding this topic were partially motivated by her desire to take cheap vacations to the middle of Europe and her belief that this would be less possible if the Euro was fully adopted and prices appreciated. This somehow struck me as funny; I guess all politics are really local. Zie had traveled quite a bit, from Japan to Mongolia to Siberia to the Czech Republic to Ireland and England and America and a few more that I am sure I forgot.
Tom shifted the soft cooler off of his lap and wedged it near his feet. His lap was a little wet; the melting ice had seeped through the corners. We used this cooler with ice seldom but it was a necessity at times because we couldn’t fit a large, solid cooler in the vehicle. Normally we left it on the large rubber foot pads on the floor of the car when we used it.
We stopped for gas again and rearranged the car. Everyone either went to the bathroom or went to the shop in the station. I leaned in the back to see if I could fit some of the clutter in the back, and realized that the center seat, where Zie was sitting, was soaked wet. I wondered if it was the cooler and immediately felt bad. Sarah came back out and we put down one of the covers that we had been using to camp, and was ready to be washed anyway.
Dan and Zie came back out and I apologized. I asked what the wetness was (I was’t totally sure at this point) and Dan, without missing a beat, said, “We like to leave something for the hosts.” I don’t know how to deliver this joke through written word as effectively as he did, but the humor was dry and the delivery quick, and it was absolutely hilarious.
As we continued there was a conversation was going on in the back. Tom and I semi-privately started talking about how much longer it would take us to stop in San Francisco—we didn’t want to say get our guests’ hopes up until we decided if it was plausible. We checked the GPS and going to San Jose by way of San Francisco was only an extra hour in comparison to going strait to San Jose. Tom and I were immediately OK with the idea and asked Sarah if she minded. She did not and, despite Dan and Zie’s objections—they didn’t want to be a hassle—we decided that we were making a detour.
We passed some pretty cool mountains and windmills on the way. It wasn’t long before Dan and Zie offered to buy us a drink at a cool bar near their place in San Francisco, and we immediately agreed. We crossed into the city from the east and the low clouds/high fog over the mountains were spectacular, like no fog/clouds we had ever seen. It started and stopped abruptly like a cloud, but was low, just a couple dozen feet above the ground.
The bar we stopped at was called Zeitgeist, and had an excellent selection of beers on tap. We got a pitcher of an IPA, sat at a bench outside, talked, and took pictures. A man came over to Sarah and asked her to stop shooting photos, something we had never experienced in a bar. What happened at a bar called Zeitgeist (defined as “the spirit of the age”) with outdoor seating in San Francisco that they didn’t want photographed, we wondered.
We said our goodbyes and headed to San Jose, making a stop at a gas station and getting a quick meal from Wendy’s on the way. We Pricelined a room, and everyone agreed that we were glad to have picked up hitchhikers.
Disclaimer: Don’t pick up hitchhikers, you may be tortured and murdered, and your car firebombed. We just got lucky.