Driving across California's San Joaquin Valley at midnight is surreal and hypnotic. The San Joaquin is flatter than Kansas and like the sea, it seems endless when you're in it. Exactly every mile you pass a dirt crossroad with a lonely lamppost standing in forlorn attention and waiting for a wayward bus, a band of travelers to pass. Fueled by anticipation and green burritos inhaled en route from the San Jose airport, Cary, Pete and I are speeding past these moth-encrusted mileposts, reminiscing about midnight escapes from a northeastern college town to ski in the rain at Petersburg Pass, an abandoned ski hill on the New York/Massachusetts state line.
Occasionally, as we approach them, some of the lights start to burn out. After this happens a few times, we begin to notice and speculate on what we might be doing to cause the phenomenon. Could it be the massive energy vibe we are putting out in our excitement to ski across the High Sierra? Could be. Or maybe it's Cary's home stereo speakers being ripped to shreds by Electric Ladyland cranked to mind numbing levels of distortion. As we near Fresno, where we're to meet up with the rest of our comrades, the lights start popping out every mile. The last light before the city goes out and Cary says, "If any more lights blow before we reach the motel, we should take it as an omen and turn around." Fortunately, he isn't serious, because as we round the corner and pull into the parking lot of the Motel 6, all the lights in the city of Fresno go out.
After checking in by headlamp, we crash for a couple of hours rest before breakfast. By seven o'clock there are seven of us in the parking lot trying to coordinate logistics and clear the Hendrix out of our skulls. Lori and Matt trucked up from Long Beach. Jeff from Joshua Tree, and Al from Santa Cruz. In no time we are on the road, shuttling two trucks up to Giant Forest in Sequoia National Park. The park rangers tell us there's no snow in the High Sierras this year and we are in for a terrible time. It really would be a good idea to forget about skiing. We thank them most kindly for their advice and rationalize our decision to persist in this certain folly by impugning their competence in matters of the mountains. Anyway, there's a plane waiting for us back in Fresno.
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