National Parks Getaway

Late May felt like the perfect time to escape Sacramento for a while. We are in-between changing seasons, when the spring chill is fading into the warmth of summer.

David’s parents, Jim and Becky, invited me and David to a three-day mini-vacation through three California National Parks. The plan was to make our way through Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon.

David and I stayed at his parents’ house in Lodi last Saturday night. Then all four of us packed ourselves into their Hyundai Santa Fe in the early hours of Sunday towards Hwy 120. We knew the dogs would be in good hands with Amber, a neighbor of Jim and Becky’s.

Yosemite National Park

Just before noon, we reached Yosemite National Park. Our first stop took us to the Lower Yosemite Falls, which is the bottom part of the tallest waterfall in North America. We had a hearty lunch at the parking lot, and continued on our ride through the park where we got a good look at El Capitan. With our binoculars, we could see a group of climbers making their way up the summit. They were impossible to see with the naked eye, which puts into perspective the sheer size of El Capitan.

We eventually ended up at Glacier Point, where we got a spectacular view of Half Dome and some picturesque waterfalls.

The only low points of the day’s trip was our bathroom stops. The toilet papers were near impossible to roll because of the metal rod they were skewered through, and the bathrooms were glorified Porta Potties. It didn’t help that almost all the people (male and female) who used the toilets before me peed on the seat, so I had to spend an extra three minutes battling with the toilet paper rolls to clean the seats. There are no toilet seat covers in Yosemite.

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La Quinta, Round 1

We drove to Fresno, where we had two rooms rented in La Quinta Inns. Dinner was at the El Torito a stone’s throw away from La Quinta. Their service and food was sub par, but at least we had a 10% discount just by showing them our La Quinta room cards…

When David and I had settled into Room 148, he and I decided to go for a half-mile walk to Uncle Tom’s Liquors for a bottle of Bushmills. We noted that downtown Fresno is nothing like downtown Sacramento. While downtown Sac is bustling with cars, business, and city life, downtown Fresno seemed like a half-deserted ghost town where funeral homes were in abundance and you can walk by a grassy empty lot where a shirtless guy is having an animated conversation with nobody.

At around 10 pm, David and I started hearing very loud female laughter outside our room. The noise got progressively louder as the night wore out, that he had to crack open our door and politely tell the woman that she was a little loud.

Of course, the noise continued until the next morning. Neither of us felt well-rested, as I am a light sleeper and David had to keep standing up to peer out the curtains just to make sure we didn’t have a drug deal or a pimp situation going on outside our door.

Sam & Dave – 0 | La Quinta – 1

On the bright side, La Quinta had a waffle maker, hard-boiled eggs, and yogurt for breakfast.

We were ready to take on day 2.

Sequoia National Park

I first heard of giant sequoia trees during science class in elementary school. We don’t have sequoia trees in the Philippines, so I could only imagine how massive the trees actually were based on the descriptions and pictures in my textbook.

Fast forward over 20 years later and here I am, hugging the sequoias that I thought only lived in my science textbooks. It was a humbling experience walking among thousand-year-old giants.

The air was much fresher in the forest, and the melodic twittering of happy birds was a calming respite from city life. We didn’t want to leave, even though our necks hurt from craning them up to look at the tree tops.

We saw the largest single stem tree in the world, the General Sherman tree. There was a short hike down to the base of the tree, and back up again, but the breathlessness was worth it. Our family didn’t get a photo in front of the tree because a clan of loud Italians hogged the spot, but it’s okay. Just being in the presence of a towering living being was rewarding enough.

For lunch, we drove to nearby Wolverton but found the place was closed for the season, so we made sandwiches in the parking lot, next to a mound of snow. After a long day of walking (I logged 13,696 steps–my personal best), we headed back to the inn.

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La Quinta, Round 2

We should have known that La Quinta wasn’t done with us yet, because I encountered something nasty upon our return. While attempting to change the toilet paper in the bathroom, my fingers hit something that did not feel like the wrapping paper. I pulled out the foreign object and realized it was a crumpled up, used panty liner. The monster who stayed in Room 148 before us was too lazy to toss her personal trash in the bin, so she thought stuffing it in the toilet paper roll tube was ladylike (what a bitch!)

A strongly worded tweet with accompanying  photos were sent to @LQ.

After running my hands under hot water and soap for a long while, we headed to IHOP for dinner. We were told that despite what the front desk at La Quinta told us, IHOP does not give 10% discounts to La Quinta residents.

As usual, around 10 pm, we heard a ruckus outside. The first time, David had to shoo away a transient who was rummaging around the trash for recyclables. The second time, David found a sketchy guy noisily filling two bags with ice from the ice machine that was literally right next to our room. When asked if he was staying at the inn, the guy said, “Yeah, I’m up at the barbecue.” David told him to scram.

Sam & Dave – 0 | La Quinta – 2

The next morning, after Jim and Becky told the front desk of our plight, we were offered a new room.

Kings Canyon National Park

There was much less walking today. Kings Canyon was a scenic drive with a lot of interesting rock formations, waterfalls, and whitewater. We had a quick lunch at the Grizzly Falls picnic area and continued on our way.

Unlike the General Sherman tree, there was no exhausting hike to the General Grant tree, the second largest tree in the world. There was a bunch of French people looking at the tree that day, but thankfully they weren’t rowdy like the Italians.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t continue to Roaring River Falls because it was closed due to the National Park Service blasting around the area. We doubled back to Knapp’s Cabin, poked around a bit, and headed home.

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La Quinta, Round 3

David and I were moved to Room 206, away from the ice machine and away from everyone else in general. We checked the toilet paper tubes and made sure there was nothing wrong with the room. The @LQ Twitter account also took down our information.

Dinner was at the Sequoia Brewing Company‘s Tower District location. The food was great, David and I found a good beer (Blossom Trail), and the service was amazing. I enjoyed my veggie pasta that our server recommended.

Best of all, David and I finally had a restful night’s sleep.

Sam & Dave – 1 | La Quinta – 2

Journey’s End

We were all pretty pooped from our three-day adventure, so we were excited to be heading home to our pups. Onyx was a ball of energy when we picked her up and drove home.

Becky got a call from La Quinta corp and we got comped a couple nights’ stay at the inn for a later time.

I still have a bunch of videos that I have to edit and stitch together, and so does David. And since Monday is a holiday, it means we were off work for three days, went back for two, then we’re off again for another three days. Plenty of time to get our vacation album together.

David and I are grateful that Jim and Becky invited us to this family excursion. It was certainly one for the books. We experienced Earth’s natural beauty, the sheer power of Mother Nature, various cultures not just from all over the US, but from all over the world as well. Every parking lot we went to, we’d see license plates from different states, and we’d hear foreigners chatting excitedly. Our trip was an eye-opening experience that we’ll never forget.