California Dream by Ann Jaeggi

“Stop the car NOW, please,” I ordered. Our family, mom, dad and three teenagers, had been traveling for several days in a rented Ford Crown Victoria, on vacation in California. The plan was to show our children one state, California. We considered ourselves not to be the sort of tourists that see Europe in 8 days, so we would get to know one state, although that state could cover several countries of Europe.

We began our trip in the summer of 1990 by entering the state on Interstate 80 near Lake Tahoe. There we enjoyed the beach and a visit to the Swiss Chalet restaurant. Next we traveled south to Mono Lake, barren and with strange rock formations protruding out of the water and hundreds of mosquitos attacking us. We spent that night in a nearby ski resort area, rather deserted in August. On we went to Yosemite National Park. The pictures we had studied in preparation for our trip did not quite fit what we saw, standing in front of the signs, “Upper Falls” and then “Lower Falls”. It had been a year with little snow and little rain and the otherwise impressive waterfalls had dried up, only a trickle. Disappointment.

Our next destination was a State Park where all were impressed with the Sequoia trees and had fun driving the big American car through the tunnel carved through one of them. We continued northerly on Highway 49, as in “the ‘49ers”, to fulfill the wish of our younger son. He very much wanted to see Sutter’s mine as he was preparing a report about the Gold Rush for school. Johann August Sutter, born in 1803 in Switzerland, is claimed to be the first person to find gold in California. In 1848, the news of which started the Gold Rush. We arrived at the parking lot of Sutter’s Mine at ten minutes to four to see the museum keeper locking the glass door. I jumped out of the car and pounded on the door, shouting through the glass that we had come all the way from Switzerland to visit his museum and would he please let us in. No words, he pulled down the shade in front of my face. To come back the following day was out of the question, the mine is some distance from any motel or town. Big disappointment.

We proceeded to Sacramento where we enjoyed the atmosphere. While taking a tour of the Governor’s mansion, our daughter was allowed to play on the grand piano which, we were told, Ronald Regan played on. A visit to some vineyards north of Sacramento, the wish of my husband, was next on our agenda. He had heard that we should not miss visiting particular vineyards. Instructions as to how to find them were inadequate and our maps were also inadequate. We had been driving around for too long when the explosion occurred. “Stop this car now!” When the driver, dad, finally found a suitable place to stop, all 5 got out of the car and if there had been any building or bus station or farm house in sight, I think 4 of us would have headed toward it, or more likely, each headed in a different direction. “Everyone, take a deep breath and then scream. Now back into the car and head for San Francisco, forget the vineyards, which we have plenty of in Switzerland.” Big disappointment.

Our trip continued in San Francisco. We had not known that it is cold in San Francisco in August but when our tour guide showed up with a warm jacket and wool scarf around his neck, I knew that some of us were going to be cold. Why was this not mentioned in “If you are going to San Francisco, be sure to wear a flower in your hair?” We never did see the Pacific during the following 4 days as, looking out toward the water, there was always fog. Big disappointment.

Alcatraz tour – the kids liked that! Visits to 3 of the Missions were very interesting as well as visiting the sites of the 1984 Olympics. Entrance fees to Disney Land and to Universal Studios took us way over our budget. Getting very lost in Los Angeles was scary but we then did find the LA airport in plenty of time to turn in our big American Ford, which we had become very attached to, and to say goodbye to our California Dream.

Do our children remember the disappointments? I do not know, ask them.

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