Friday, July 15, 2005

Our American Adventure Continues

It’s Friday night as I write this. We have been enjoying American hospitality since Tuesday morning when we landed at the San Francisco airport. Other than the inevitable delays caused by extra security at the Lester B. Pearson airport in Toronto, things went fairly smoothly. All of our luggage was accounted for when we landed. Our rental vehicle was ready for us. The Hertz people were friendly and helpful. Sure, we had ordered a Ford Windstar van and what they actually had available for us was a Mazda MPV van. We decided not to press the issue. We have had a number of Mazdas over the years and liked them, including the MPV that my wife drove for awhile.

We headed off to our first hotel, near the Golden Gate bridge, and were pleased with the beautiful scenery everywhere. The brisk, cool temperature, compared to the heat wave we had left behind in Ontario, was a welcome change. We looked forward to our 30-day adventure ahead in California, Arizona and Utah.

Wednesday morning didn’t start out well. During the night, some idiot had sideswiped the brand-new rental MPV somehow and punctured the rear bumper in the process. I figured an easy $1,000 minimum in damage to the vehicle. I always expect the best from people, so I headed for the hotel office to see if anyone had reported the accident, leaving their name and insurance information for us so the vehicle could be repaired. That would have been the honest and responsible thing to do. My wife and employees are always telling me that I never learn and that I always expect too much of people. I guess they’re right. No-one had bothered to do the right thing. Maybe next time.

American Express came to the rescue. The rental expense had been charged to our American Express Gold Card, so the damage will be covered by American Express. They will deal directly with Hertz and we won’t be out a penny. That’s capitalism at work, folks. The big bad corporation is taking care of what some cowardly, irresponsible asshole did. Isn't that contrary to the oxymoronic common wisdom?

Thank you, American Express.

At the suggestion of a hotel employee, we headed off to Muir Woods to see some old redwood trees. While there, I saw a sign pointing to a trail heading towards the road where our hotel was located. It was only 4.6 miles, said the sign, over several sizable hills, so I decided to take the hike and meet up with my wife and son at the hotel later. I thought that the trail would meet up with the hiking trail that passed by the back of the hotel where we were staying. Since it all made perfect sense to me, away I went.

It was quite a hike. I climbed and climbed. Soon, I thought I would collapse and die and that a day or two later, some other hiker would find my body bedside the trail somewhere. But, after an hour or so, my body switched on automatic mode and it got easier. I just kept on chugging along, secure in the knowledge that in the two hours it would take to complete the rather strenuous hike, I would be at the hotel enjoying a cold drink and a swim.

My time estimate was fairly accurate. Instead of arriving at the hotel, however, I ended up at the end of the trail at an unmarked and unfamiliar road. I have a pretty good sense of direction, so I turned left and started walking. I walked for about 90 minutes until I got to an intersection where I saw some road signs. I discovered that, according to the signs, I had been travelling in the wrong direction. There was no-one around, no place to make a phone call from, so I decided to take a break and figure out what to do. It was already after 7:00PM. I really had no clue where I was, and had no idea how long it would take to get back to the hotel.

After I had been standing at the corner for about fifteen minutes, a car pulled up. Two young women were in the car. The woman on the passenger side rolled down her window and asked me where the village of Stinson Beach was. A sign indicating the direction of Stinson Beach was right beside the road and I basically read the information to the women. I then asked them, since they were going to be heading that way, if they would consider taking me along. Once there, I figured, I could find a telephone, call my wife, and ask to be rescued.

I’m sure you can guess what happened. I am so naïve. The women looked at me with their best ‘are you nuts’ expressions and started to pull away. I told them that I understood their reluctance and waved them on.

I don’t look like a serial rapist or murderer, do I? I certainly don’t think so.

That’s not really the point though, is it? A serial rapist usually doesn’t look like a serial rapist. A murderer often doesn’t look like a murderer. I can’t blame the women for not wanting to give me a ride. I mourn the fact that there are so many evil people in the world that we go through life afraid for ourselves and our children.

Eventually, a park ranger on his way to work came along. I flagged him down to find out exactly where I was and he told me that I had been heading in the right direction in the first place and should have kept on going. How far? Twenty minutes, by car. A long, long way on foot. But, there was an inn just up the road, he said. It had a pay phone. I could go there and call my wife.

That’s what I did. At the Pelican Inn, a customer in the lounge helped me look up the telephone number to my hotel, because I didn’t have my glasses with me and couldn’t make out the tiny print in the phone book. The bartender, a nice young chap, overheard me telling my story and gave me a coke to drink, because I looked thirsty. He wouldn’t let me pay for it. I guess I looked too pathetic.

Or maybe, just maybe, he is one of the good guys, one of the people with whom I occasionally cross paths and who help restore my faith in human nature and the basic good that I want to see in everyone.

Yes, that’s it. At least that is what I would like to think.


  1. After reading about your adventure, the least I can do is acknowlege the unwise decision as typical of the kind of thing I've done more than once in my life. How do you think I earned the name of "Wild Bill". Keep in touch, but if you happen to really get lost, drop a blog. Plug your laptop into a "Redwood Giant." By the way, we had a torrential rain yesterday which has already changed my Baghdad looking lawn into a semblance of brownish green. Take care old buddy. Wild Bill.

  2. Hi Seig

    I have just spent 5 minutes commenting on your adventure in the wrong place. OOPS!

    Please read our response to America America and apply it to Our American Adventure.

    Hi Chrysta and Zach

  3. California could use some of that rain too, Bill. Hotter and hotter as we get further south.