Over 50, Still Kickin'
A slightly skewed perspective on life in The Middle Ages
Lee Ann Rubsam
An eye-opening report on our Peruvian missions trip:
Stories from Paul's career as a letter carrier:
A wealth of articles that never make it to this web site:
My older daughter Susan and her husband abandoned us all awhile back. They "loaded up the truck and moved to Californy," just like the Beverly Hillbillies. They will never be true Californians (I hope). Chris still has his polite manners and Southern drawl. You can take the boy out of Arkansas, but you can't take Arkansas out of the boy, I guess. Susan always was eager to shed her Wisconsin image, but she misses her cheese and brats, whether she wants to admit it or not. Moms intuitively know these things. I will buy her Wisconsinite dish towels for Christmas -- Holstein-spotted, you know.
After a year of not seeing Susan and family, her fuddy-duddy parents and younger sister finally worked up the nerve to board a plane and go for a visit. It was an experience not to remember.
Did you know they have viruses in California that Wisconsinites have no immunity to? Yes, they have them, and we caught them. We spent most of our visiting time lying around groaning and feeling horrible. We spent another week after we came home still groaning and feeling horrible.
We did not see San Francisco, due to sickness. We did not see Yosemite, due to sickness. We did not get a personal interview with Arnold the Terminator (due to sickness, of course!). We did see the ocean and some mountains a few times, and we saw Big Sur, which is what I want to tell you about.
Yes, Susan, my husband Paul, Beebee, and I dragged ourselves out to see Big Sur, in spite of chills and stuffed up heads, etc. Chris (not native Californian, caught the virus) did not feel well enough to go. It's a good thing we didn't take him.
Our plan was to see Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. You'll have to understand that it was months after the fact before we finally comprehended that the park itself is not Big Sur. We thought it was. We thought all the seacoast drive was just preparatory fluff to the object of our interest. Susan didn't know any better, either. She just lives in California; she doesn't know anything about it. Nobody informed us of our ignorance. Non-Wisconsinites just pitied us for being so ... Wisconsinish. Wisconsinite friends thought we knew what we were talking about. So for months, we told people that Big Sur was a whole lot better in the calendar pictures than it was in person.
We had to drive about an hour to get to the park. The seacoast was gorgeous -- water very blue, lots of rocky thingies sticking out of it, sheer cliffs down to the water, etc. On the other side of the road, there were rounded cone-shaped green mountains that the movie stars haven't found a way to get to the top of and build a house on yet. They breed the cattle in California so that their legs are a foot shorter on one side of their bodies. This allows them to stand on the mountainsides without tipping over. (We have no need to do this in Wisconsin.) There were frequent pull-over-and-park spots where Paul took his fill of pictures. He was concerned that his camera batteries would die before he got to the state park. (Not to worry, my good man. There is nothing to take pictures of when you get there.)
Yes, the scenic drive was great. We should have left it at that. We got to the park and discovered after forking over our dollars that it was a park-the-car-and-walk-for-hours-to-see-anything situation. The anything we saw wasn't much. The little signs pointed us to "Valley View" trail. This amounted to lots of trees in every direction and looking down into a large sinkhole. Not that big a whoop. The trail to the waterfall was supposed to be 0.1 miles. Of course it wasn't that simple: "Trail closed, due to fallen tree on bridge." The alternate route was 0.6 miles. Either they lied or flunked math class, because they got the decimal point in the wrong place. It might have been six miles, but it felt like sixty -- all uphill ... through muck. Up until now, my aerobic experience had been confined to trotting up and down the basement stairs to do laundry. After hiking for half of eternity, we ran into some people who were on their way down the trail. At this point, I decided the only way this excursion was going to be any fun was by interacting with the other sufferers.
"How many miles is it yet, and will we get there before nightfall?" They were noncommittal on whether we would make it before dark, but assured us that if they could do it, we could, too.
I began to have some forebodings about whether this waterfall was going to be worth the trek. If it were anything like it appeared in the calendar pictures, we should have been hearing a mighty roar by now. No mighty roar within earshot yet. Either the waterfall was still another six miles off, or it was about the size of the rapids on our own Fox River.
We finally got to the falls, and it was a toss-up whether the Fox River rapids or Pfeiffer Falls would win out in impressiveness. It was high up, but the faucet must not have been turned on very much. An anemic trickle or two was all there was to see. Paul did another several dozen stairs to get to the top. I was in no mood, and the girls had already abandoned us to go back to the car. While he continued to punish himself, I contemplated whether it might not be worth it to disobey the rules and head down the forbidden shortcut trail -- the one with the tree on the bridge. Perhaps we could just crawl through the tree/bridge fiasco, and save ourselves some work. Naw. I think about these things, but am not adventurous enough to actually try them. Besides, how would that headline look in The National Enquirer?
They'd have a picture of me mummified in bandages in my hospital bed, and quote me: "Can't understand what went wrong. Shoot! We git ourselves around this way all the time in Wisconsin!"
On the way down, I discovered that the other folks on the trail do not understand Wisconsinite humor. What's to not understand? My husband thought it was not Wisconsinite humor, but my version of it that they did not get. Perhaps they were in poor spirits because they were still trudging uphill, and we were trotting downhill.
We passed a pleasant-looking fellow, and I couldn't resist volunteering, "It's another forty miles to the top yet." (Complete silence in response.)
I tried again a little farther down. A lady in her sixties was standing off the path, panting heavily. "Do you suppose they have to get stretchers up here often, to carry people off?" (Well, maybe that wasn't the most empathetic thing to say, considering her present respiratory state.) No answer. She was too busy gasping.
A few yards farther down, we met her husband, who chortled in a cheery English accent, "Hi, how are you?" I restrained myself, but was longing to say, "A lot better than you're going to be by the time you get to the top."
Shortly after this, the older couple trudged back to us. They had decided not to go any farther. Paul assured them this was a wise decision, as there was nothing to see at the end of the trail. The husband said he was going to ask for his money back at the park entrance, since he came to see the falls, and it was a much longer walk than had been advertised. Paul asked me if we should request a refund, too. (He makes a good income, but he is a little tight with his pennies.)
"Of course not!" I replied. "We got our aerobic exercise for the day -- probably for the next two years, in fact. It's cheaper than joining the health club. And besides, it has been worth every penny, because now I've got something to write about."
© Copyright 2006 by Lee Ann Rubsam. All rights reserved.