Part of the fun of a vacation is the anticipation and planning, but not all well-planned vacations go as planned. Some spur-of-the-moment adventures turn out to be more memorable.

A camper walking down a trail to fetch water from the river met a black bear walking up the trail . . .

A private pilot pre-flighting his plane removes a bird nest from behind the propeller along with three small eggs and the bird sitting on them . . .

Picnickers at an interstate rest stop turn and wave to the departing motorhome as it broadcasts the tune, “On the Road Again” . . .

We’ve traveled a variety of back roads, each an experience. We were forced to stop while cowhands moved unruly cattle and shepherds herded sheep along country roads. Bison surrounded and intimidated us as we looked up at them through our vehicle window.

Late one afternoon, we arrived without reservations in a remote mountain town during a Grange convention. No vacancies anywhere.  “You might try the Laundromat two blocks over,” the desk clerk suggested. Of the six rooms at the Laundromat, only one was available and that was opposite the busy laundry room and next to the manager’s quarters. It contained a bed, a ceiling light bulb, and a night stand. Nothing else. We considered ourselves lucky until we tried to sleep. The manager’s pet parrot kept us awake for hours whistling the same tune over and over again through the paper-thin walls.

Contrast the Laundromat accommodations with this southern California extremely hot motel room next to a golf course:
Golf Sign

Another evening at a Glendale, California motel, we started to relax in the breeze through the open windows of our room when a banging outside all the ground floor windows startled us. Although it was only dusk, the manager rapped on every door and window and shouted, “Time to close and lock your windows!” The appearance of a good neighborhood misled us.

We found the closest dwelling to a road at Sawyer’s Bar in northern California. A woman sipped morning coffee at a kitchen table next to the window in her shingled house beside the main road. If my passenger window had been down and her kitchen window open, I could have reached out and plucked the flowers from her vase on the table.

Fifteen miles of the General’s Highway in Sequoia National Park climb one mile in elevation with 23 switchbacks and 200 curves. But the worst mountain road, at 7,800-feet elevation, must be the Mineral King Road to Silver City. Plan one and a half hours to drive the 25 miles of graded, steep, narrow road with 698 tight turns. When you reach the parking area at the end of the road, two surprises await: 1) Yellow-bellied marmots like to chew radiator hoses and vehicle wiring and 2) No services are available.

First prize for signage goes to a Nevada County dirt road at a one-lane wooden suspension bridge over the south fork of the Yuba River. The sign, “End of county maintained road,” is posted at the bridge. There is no turnaround. We crossed the bridge because it looked like there was a wide spot to turn around on the other side. Once across however, we stared up the hill in front of us trying to figure out where the road continued over protruding tree roots among giant boulders. The sign should declare, “End of road. Period.”

Speaking of signs, would this large, red sign entice you “to get away from it all” in the great outdoors? Posted at the trailhead to the Devil’s Post Pile National Monument in California:





About Lynne Schaefer

Lynne Schaefer has written two newspaper columns ("The Schussboomer" about skiing in California, and "Notes from Lynne's Journal" about Oregon wildlife); travel and garden articles for regional magazines copy for DVD tours of the High Desert Museum and the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, both in Bend, Oregon. She has published three non-fiction books, A Traveler's Guide to Historic California, Christmas Trivia Quiz, and His Daughter's Remembrance.
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  1. Heather H. says:

    What a wonderful post, Lynne! This could be your next book. You are such an intrepid traveller. I was reminded of a couple (among many) similar oddities from our travels … one when we were on a birding hike in Madera Canyon, southern Arizona, and at a trail junction one of the forks was called “The Very Steep Trail.”. Well, of course we had to take that fork … and yes, it was very very steep, for a very long way! And your description of that warning sign at Devil’s Post reminded me of the sign at the pull-out for Boiling River hotsprings swimming area just outside of the Gardiner entrance to Yellowstone: it includes warnings for bears and bison as usual, but also for strong currents, submerged unstable ledges, dangerously hot water, and a bacteria in the thermal water that even if inhaled “can cause amoebic meningitis which can quickly be fatal.”. It advised that you keep your head above water. We chose to keep our whole bodies OUT of the water and just hike instead!


    • Lynne Schaefer says:

      Thanks, Heather. I’m glad this caused a smile. Your experiences made me laugh out loud. You should consider writing a book of your own!


  2. Loved reading this , brought back my own memories and smiles!


  3. Martha Blowe says:

    What exciting travels you have been on ! Very exciting to read !


  4. Lynne Schaefer says:

    Thanks, Martha. Some did not seem exciting at the time.


  5. Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and
    wanted to say that I’ve really enjoyed surfing around your blog posts.

    In any case I will be subscribing to your rss feed
    and I hope you write again very soon!


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