One bright October day a few years ago, while I was visiting my parents in California, Dad had this bright idea of taking a day trip from Upland to Edwards Air Force Base, then the spaceport in Mojave, and coming back down through Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear. It looked good on paper.
We get to Edwards AFB and find that there's no public tour, which I could've guessed, since it is a military installation. About the only thing you can see is a B-1 on display just outside the main gate. We get to the spaceport and find a tiny park for a visitors' center. I find out there through a kiosk that you can tour Edwards, but it has to be arranged in advance. Perhaps another time. As for the spaceport, about the only thing on display is the X-plane. Dad gets plenty of pictures of that and we go on our merry way. We stop at the Burger King to relieve ourselves, one of several bathroom stops we'll make throughout the day. Too much coffee.
During the break, Dad snaps a few pictures of a desolate, depressing, sad old second-hand store across the street. It's lousy business but good art. I snap a few Blackberry photos of him taking pictures along with the house on the corner with Bible verses and a model of JESUS carrying a cross on the roof. I can't tell if it's a church, a mission, or a house of an extremely fervent Believer.
The road to lake Arrowhead winds up into the mountains and into the clouds. At a certain point on California 18, it grows foggier and foggier with no clue if you're still on the right road. Thus it is when we get to Crestline and get lost. We can't tell if we're on 18 anymore. Dad goes around and doubles back.
We stop and ask a woman chopping wood on the side of the road how to get to Lake Arrowhead. She barely speaks English. One moment, she says, and she calls forth another man who barely speaks English. He tells us to turn around and go down and back and up again. I'm not sure we trust him.
Thus we venture up the hill and into a real estate office. A lonesome old solitary man sits there, the kind who looks like he should be the grandfatherly security guard standing inside a bank.
“How do we get to Lake Arrowhead?” Mom asks.
“Which way did you come from?” the old man answers.
He spells it out for mom while I poke around the dark, cobwebbed, western-themed office with wood paneling and empty desks everywhere. Stuff sits on shelves that probably hasn't been moved since the 1970's or longer. I find a gigantic Bible sitting underneath a mirror on a shelf stashed up against a wall. It is dusty, untouched. Dad and I both need to use the restroom. This is no country for old men or full bladders.
The kindly gent continues explaining after he directs us upstairs into the attic where the necessary lies. It is a graveyard of holiday decorations and Halloween knick-knacks, curiously not on display yet.
We thank him and proceed to carry out the directions, which are still unclear. We go down the hill and up it again, just like he says. And we're still lost. No signs to point us to Lake Arrowhead, no signs to tell us if we're still on California 18. Nothing but road and cars and fog. Too much fog.
Coming to a fork in the road -- and there are many -- we flag down the driver of a white pick-up.
“You lost?” she asks.
We're confused, actually. But this time, we get better directions. Two lefts and a right, and we're finally out of Crestline and on the way to Lake Arrowhead.
Oktoberfest is going when we get there, but there's no brats or beer. We have lunch at the Golden Arches and spend about an hour rubbernecking and visiting the shops. It's a little nippy and getting late. The trip to Big Bear will have to take place another time, and I'm all right with that. I'm tired and feeling icky from too much coffee. We find the 210 without a problem and are back home by 7. It's not a day wasted, but it is a day prolonged.
Women often complain men don't ask for directions. Often that's not the problem. The problem arises when you try to do too much and find one complication leading to another. Fortunately, my Royal Father knows when to get out of the way and let the Royal Mother get us out of the swamp. I prefer to sit in the back seat, just like I did as a child on family vacation, and let the grown-ups hash it out.