Aunt Jo and I hit the road on a warm afternoon that had weather people warning of summer rain. I slipped out of my work slacks and ballet flats and into a tank top and pair of rubber flip-flops that squeaked with every step out the door. In the giant purse I’m known for carrying, I stuffed a sweater in with my camera and stack of Kinfolk magazines.
We rolled out of her driveway, the fifthwheel in tow, about eight minutes after I got off of work. She was antsy. She wanted that desert air on her face and every day life at her back. I wanted to be lost in a world that wasn’t my own. We drove through the golden hills of Highway 88 toward the mountains of the Sierra. When the foliage out the passagenger window turned from a blur of oranges and mustard to bright green and smelling of pine, a few raindrops began to tap the windshield. Then the snow came. It floated down so gently that, at first, we weren’t even sure it was snowing. But it gathered on the windshield wipers, and I rolled down the window and reached out for a tiny, icy snowball. Me and my flipflops and my snowball.
An hour later, we’d finished our pieces of cold pizza from the night before (why waste time on drive-thru when vacation awaits on the other side of the mountain?) and we made it through that high elevation and its white trees. The landscape remained green, but now the land was dotted with sharp-looking bushes and dirt. Hello, high dessert.
Somewhere when the road was flat and the burnt-out mobile homes that I’m pretty sure were once prime meth-lab real estate, I slipped in Elvis and then introduced Aunt Jo to Lana Del Rey (“Pretty voice,” she said). I read a little of the two books I would finish before the end of the week. I made notes for places to return to. Bodie. That old church Jo’s always wanted to photograph in the perfect light. Oh, the hot, hot springs. And now, I know of the Mobil gas station with the amazing chef who cooks up amazing steaks and cocktails (thanks, Andrea).
It was just before dark when we arrived in the random town of Bishop for our random week of vacation at a big, comedic rodeo, Bishop Mule Days (and other little adventures). It’s a world I’m completely not a part of (I don’t own cowboy boots, people, or a cowgirl hat). But I love the people, like the ones who invited us into their camper for homemade cornbread and a pot of beans after our long drive into town. Of course, we accepted. I even had a second helping of buttered corn bread.
That week, we did whatever we wanted and nothing at all. It’s one of my favorite vacations, a getaway to a town that makes me feel like I’m in a movie from the 1970s (that JC Penny in middle of downtown cracks me up). You’ll see ….