June 18 – 20
After leaving San Luis Obispo and our hearty lunch, we made good time into Oakland and caught a break with the traffic. With luck on our side we found a spot on the street close to the apartment where we could park for the two hours needed to get us to 5:00pm, when the permit requirement expired.
Dinner that night was a combination of left overs and one of the Blue Apron selections Jessica and Kris had on hand. We arose the next morning and moved the car prior to 10:00am, the start of the permit requirement and parking for a brief period of time in the apartment’s garage, loaded up for our journey to Yosemite.
On the road, our plan was to stop for lunch an hour or so out from the Bay Area so that Kris could make an important phone call. As luck would have it that occurred around Tracy, where we exited to eat at a 5 Guys. Founded on the east coast in 1986, this chain has been expanding nationwide since then. It was the place my former boss Jim took me to in Charlotte the day I flew back to Los Angeles at the end of my interviews with him, an event that changed our lives and precipitated our move east.
These burgers are good, but they won’t change your life. Albeit made with fresh ingredients and hand built, they are still somewhat expensive compared to other fast food chains and while enjoyable, not usually our first stop when we crave one. They do have free peanuts and their hot dogs, split down the middle on grilled on the flat top are delectable.
We drove on to Yosemite, including a tiresome section of road on highway 120 from Priest to Groveland that ascends steeply with numerous switchbacks, seemingly intended to make passengers in the back-seat car sick. We made it into the valley a little before check in time of 4:00pm, found a place to park in the lot next to Curry Village, now renamed Half Dome Village due to a trademarks dispute with the former concessionaire. Going forward, we’ll use both names when describing locations.
With Kim and Marty’s arrival we checked into our reserved tent cabins and asked that our two units be placed near each other, which happened to be on the outer edges of the property in units 744 and 735. Our cabin had one double bed and two singles, and the kids graciously volunteered to let the old folks share a bed, not knowing that after 35 years of marriage we might have been looking for a break.
Unlike the last time we stayed in the tent cabins two years ago, this one was unheated (not needed in the summer) and thus didn’t have any electricity, a minor nuisance as I’d planned on using our electric hot pot to make coffee each morning. This was resolved by taking a short hike to the restroom to plug in there, then walk back to the tent to make the coffee.
For travel we use a Zojirushi insulated bottle we’d purchased at REI some time ago that is convenient to carry and store and does a very good job of holding the temperature of the liquid inside.
To make the drip coffee we like, we then use a neat foldable GSI Collapsible Java Drip (also from REI) with a number four paper filter for a credible cup of Joe. In camp, to heat the water we use the GSI Halulite Tea Kettle, small and efficient, quickly heating water to the desired temperature.
Curry Village (Half Dome) provides a convenient golf cart-based concierge service that will transport your gear to the cabin, good news for us as ours was so far from the car and we had a cart full of stuff. After unloading we had just enough time for one drink, sitting in the chairs around our tents, before heading over to the Ahwahnee (Grand Majestic) Hotel for our 6:00pm dinner reservation.
The Ahwahnee is the crown jewel of the park; each visit to Yosemite finds us there at least once, almost always for a drink at the bar, sitting on the patio with its great view Only once before have we enjoyed a meal there as it is a pricey but worthwhile experience. We figured we’d take the shuttle over to the hotel, usually the quickest and most convenient way to travel in the valley but would soon find that during the high season it is anything but that.
During that time of day, the buses are supposed to run every 10-15 minutes, but we waited more than twenty and witnessed three bunched in quick succession going the other way, without a hint of one coming in our direction. We concluded that waiting would be futile as a large crowd had gathered at the stop and there was a good chance we’d not be able to get on a bus should it come.
Fortunately, one of us had cell phone coverage and called over to the hotel; the reservationist there advised that it was an easy twenty-minute walk, gave us directions, and soon enough, we arrived for our meal. It’s a spectacular location, a two-story high grand dining room with floor to ceiling windows along one wall with a view of the southern side of the valley.
We were seated and had a round of drinks (our service would be friendly, attentive and efficient the whole time) and then ordered, for Joanna and I starting with a delicious bowl of Manhattan Clam Chowder for her
and the Roasted Cauliflower (Apple smoked Bacon and curried yogurt dipping sauce) for me.
Mine rivaled the Brussel Sprouts we’d enjoyed at the Wolf earlier in the week, vegetables so good you’d eat them all the time. For the main course, Joanna had the Crispy Dungeness Crab Cake with pickled root vegetables and Chipotle Mayo
and I the Roasted Free-Range Chicken Breast with fricassee herbed fingerling potatoes and fall vegetables in roasted Rosemary Chicken reduction.
The dessert menu was extensive and given there were six of us, we ordered three to split, with the winner being the berry cobbler with vanilla ice cream. It was as fine a way as any to finish up our first day in Yosemite and we’d while away the rest of the evening in the warm summer air with one last drink and more conversation, before crawling into our tents for what we hoped would be a good night’s rest.
5 Guys: http://www.fiveguys.com/
Trademarks Dispute: https://www.fresnobee.com/news/local/article170192292.html
GSI Halulite Tea Kettle: https://www.rei.com/product/768513/gsi-outdoors-halulite-1-qt-tea-kettle-1-liter