Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Modesto to Yosemite National Park

I got up pretty early and rode quickly into Modesto thinking I'd get breakfast there. Once there though I decided I didn't really like it and that I'd find somewhere nicer and maybe smaller down the road. The downtown area of Modesto was pretty rough... like p-fueled barefoot pit-bull rough. I thought the road I wanted – the road I was already on, the 132 East – would just run through town. It didn't. And somehow I got lost. Again. I asked at gas stations and no one knew anything... again. So ended up at Starbucks on the outskirts of town using the wifi there to get my bearings again. Going to Starbucks or McDonalds to use wifi has become a real bloody habit. I did recently realize though that you can just sit outside and use it! Hence no need to buy anything. Genius!

Anyway I found the 132 again... called 'Yosemite Blvd' would you believe. Did I mention I'm on the way to Yosemite at this point? Yeah well, there you go. The road from Modesto to Waterford is pretty average, but once you're a wee way outta Waterford shit gets pretty good. Then you hit this really small cowboy kinda town called La Grange. It's cool. And then the road gets really really good. It'd also recently been resurfaced. There was hardly any traffic and it just rolls and turns through these beautiful prairie sort of landscapes, all ranches and golden grasses. Beautiful.

The 132 ends at Coulterville, which again is an old town, an old gold-mining town I think. It's mighty cool too and reminded me a lot of the TV show Deadwood. I thought I'd have to take the 49 up to the 120 to get into the Yosemite National Park, but the great lady at the info center in Coulterville pointed me up the hill to the J20, a beautiful little back road that takes you most of the way up and into the park.

After an amazing morning of riding I have to admit it was kind of a bummer to then be on the Yosemite road with all the attendant tourist traffic. I was pretty much wedged between cars for the rest of the ride down into the Yosemite Valley. It's stunning landscape, no doubt, but yeah just endless traffic... and it gets worse when you get into the valley proper. I felt like I was in the middle of LA or something. It seemed a bit nuts, and was certainly a buzz-kill. There's just people, cars, and buses everywhere. And when I stopped to try and take photos without cars in them, rangers would pop out of bushes and offer me stern warnings of infringement notices for parking outside of the official carparks. To be in such a devastatingly amazing landscape and to be so often clouted round the head by bureaucracy seemed amusingly ironic somehow, but was just depressing in the end. I had planned to have lunch at one of the food joints in the valley, but I ended up just wanting to get out of there as fast as I could.

I'd booked and paid for a campsite on my way into the park and I was now regretting it. My campsite was quite a ways from the valley floor though – Wawona – a good hours ride south but still in the park. I went to the Wawona store, bought some overpriced sandwich, and went to the campground to pitch my tent and drink some beer. That'd make me feel better. I was strangely pleased when I got to the campsite to find some people had left because they'd been "harassed" by a mountain lion and her two cubs the night before. Apparently mountain lions will try and get your kids and so some families had bailed. Fair enough I guess. Still there were too many people around for my liking. It reminded me of the night we spent in the campground at Malibu. Way too family oriented and not remote feeling enough. Also, like in Malibu, there were fucking boy scouts there. The scouts themselves I don't mind, but the older guys who're there 'guiding' them have done my head in every time. I can't stand them. They're total do-gooders, and vehemently Christian to boot. They say prayers before meals and that sort of thing and I can't help but feel offended and upset by the obvious brainwashing that's going on with these young kids. I went and drank some 40 ounce cans of beer in the woods and then went to bed listening for the mountain lion to come down into the campsite and kill her some boy scouts.

Wild animals are a real thing here. It's funny 'cause I guess it's just normal to everyone else, but I get a real kick out of it. I often photograph the signs that tell you what to do and what not to do around such animals. We don't have anything in NZ that'll kill you really, so yeah I find the bears, mountain lions, snakes, and whatever really fascinating. I wish you saw more of them actually... but there's more people than wildlife in Yosemite it seems.

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