I miss most of the spectacular scenery on the zigzag mountain road west from Yosemite back down to Napa Valley because I have my eyes closed. I can hear a pathetic whimpering sound: it's me. I have my foot on the floor trying to apply the brakes and I'm not even the one driving, which is a good thing, given that I have my eyes closed. When I do gingerly open them I concentrate on my knuckles, which are white because they're gripping the dashboard, and on the Beatles album I'm listening to through my headphones, which is also white. At least if I'm going to die While My Guitar Gently Weeps will be the last thing I hear.
"Mummy is freaking out," I hear a boy say. This is true, I think, and a perfectly rational reaction to taking Italian Job turns down a mountain with a sheer drop to certain death to our left, in an enormous metal box on wheels that has such a long braking distance it practically needs written notice in advance. Thank God they drive on the right side of the road here.
Actually, just after I booked this trip I thought I'd got the route the wrong way round for this very reason. Going to Canada we'll be on the inside lane on the scenic 101 and not next to the ocean, I thought, so maybe we should do the thing in reverse instead and end up in San Francisco rather than beginning there? When we went to pick up the RV I changed my mind back. "Oh my fucking God," I said. "It's huge."
You might say I should have known it would be huge since I booked it. At least on the inside lane all the way north we won't career off the road into the sea. I hope. Or off this winding road down from Yosemite. Why did we even go to Yosemite on a road trip to Canada? you may ask, like my boys did. The answer is that my mother suggested it. "And are you doing everything to please your mother?" my boys said.
"Isn't everyone?" I replied, "and mine is quite bossy."
"Ours is too," they said, except for one of them, who said, "No she's not, our mother is a hippy
I like being called a hippy, even if it is a wildly inaccurate portrayal of my character. Perhaps he thinks I'm a hippy because I brought him to San Francisco and suggested we hit the road in an RV? The truth is that the RV terrifies me and so far I haven't driven it once, although it is true to say that I love the freedom it brings. It's a joy be able to go wherever you like with everything you need in the back, like we're a band of snails with the three baby snails actually pulling their weight for once because they're so happy. Attach the shore line, we say (that's the electricity cable), fill the water tank, check the propane, get the collapsible chairs from the trunk, and miraculously they do it all without complaint.
Of course we do make it down the mountain from Yosemite in one piece, and then we camp in a State Park in Napa Valley near a place called Calistoga. We're in woods with a creek at the back. At night there's no other sound but frogs and cicadas and nothing to see but stars. It's like Little House on The Prairie on wheels. The boys complain about the heat in the RV at bedtime so I say leave the main door open to the elements and just use the insect screen and they're horrified. "But California is full of serial killers!" they say.
"Like who?" I say.
"Like that Zodiac killer, with the code," says one of them, "they cracked it, and it turned out he was saying he wanted to hunt the most dangerous animal of all... man."
"That's great," I say." That's so going in my blog."
"I forgot about the blog," he says. "I take back what I said about you being a hippy."
Love E x
P.S. We're on the 101 heading north now. "I'm on the road I want to be on, going to the place I want to go, with the people I love the most," I say.
"Lame!" shouts one of the boys, smiling.