Monthly Archives: October 2017

Fatherless Daughter

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It’s been a year since my dad died of C. diff, and I feel as if I need to say something in recognition of that fact.

In most ways, my life hasn’t changed much without my dad. Before he died, we didn’t talk very often. I’d call him once a month or so, out of obligation, if he didn’t call me first. I tried not to bring up anything controversial during those conversations because I didn’t want to fight. I was weary of having conflict with him, although he didn’t seem to have any such aversions. He said whatever he wanted whenever he wanted with seemingly no thought of whether he might upset me.

Once we both had cellphones, I found texting with him was ok. Maybe he thought about his words before he tapped out the letters or maybe it was just more difficult for him to bait me in writing, but texting made checking in less likely to end in my anger or frustration. When he got his last smartphone, he somehow changed his settings so every text he sent to me was marked urgent. I laughed at his technological imcompotence, but I’d be glad to see one of those red exclaimation marks on a text from him now.

I miss my dad whenever something goes wrong with my van. My dad and I could discuss automotive issues without getting too personal. He enjoyed showing off knowledge I didn’t have, and I honestly appreciated his advice. Recently my van stalled and would’t start again. More than anything, I wanted to call my dad and ask for his opinion. It hasn’t fully sunk in that I’ll never be able to ask him for automotive advice again. When I do remember, recognition comes with a jolt of–if not quite sadness–a sense that something is missing from my life.

I think about him too when I get a good deal or have a frugal success. Dad will be so proud! I think when I realize I’ve tucked away screws I can use in place of the ones I’ve just lost in the dirt or get a flat repaired for free at a friendly tire shop. Again, I feel as if something is missing when I realize I’ll never be able to share my victories with my father.

Recently a friend of my sibling was watching the news and saw a report about extreme weather in the Gulf South. The friend wrote to my sibling, Dad ok? in reference to my father.

My sibling wrote, Hahah! He’s fine…sort of; he died last year.

The friend replied, I’m sorry…Was watching the news…and thinking of him.

I found the whole exchange hilarious, and it took me a long time to stop laughing. I chimed in, Hurricane ain’t gonna hurt Dad no more!

My sibling responded, I know, right?!!…it actually made me oddly happy and I laughed, that I don’t have to worry about the weather in Dad’s life anymore.

For me, it’s a relief to not have to worry about anything in Dad’s life anymore. I don’t have to worry about him being washed away by a hurricane. I don’t have to worry about him not having enough money to pay his bills. I don’t have to worry he will get sick and I’ll be the one expected to care for him. I don’t have to worry he’s going to say something to piss me off, and I don’t have to worry that he’s going to die because he’s already dead.

Despite the title of this post, I don’t actually think of myself as a fatherless daughter. Having a dead father is not some huge part of my identity, but every now and again, I do miss the best parts of my dad.

Shelia

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When I was a toddler, before my sibling was born, my father worked for a pet supply company. Free stock photo of reptile, exotic, snake, constrictorSomehow his pet supply connections led him to bring home a boa constrictor named Shelia.

I don’t remember Shelia, but throughout my life both of my parents recounted the story of my love for her.

At the time, my parents and I lived in a farmhouse on my grandparents’ property. The farmhouse is part of my earliest memories, and I remember it as big, although it may have only seemed big because I was so little. In any case, the house was big enough for Shelia to have her own room.

My mother didn’t care much for Shelia. Whether this was related to her own mother’s fear of snakes or just because snakes aren’t cute in a cuddly, mammalian way, I don’t know. Whatever the reason, my mother’s dislike for Shelia earned the reptile a place in a room with door that shut. My mother had nothing to do with her.

Little toddler me, on the other hand, loved Shelia. Whenever my dad went into the room to see Shelia, I wanted to go with him. I was particularly interested in Shelia’s feeding.

Shelia lived in an aquarium in the spare room. When it came time to feed her, my dad dropped a small rodent (hamster? gerbil?) into her aquarium home. The rodents, also procured through pet supply connections, would run over Shelia where she lay curled in her tank, practically frolicking over her coils until she slowly, slowly squeezed out their lives.

One day it was time to feed Shelia. My mom wanted nothing to do with the procedure, but I happily followed my dad around while he made preparations. We went into the room and Dad dropped the rodent in with Shelia. I don’t know if we stuck around to watch Shelia put the squeeze on it.

Some time passed after my father and I left Shelia’s room. My dad went about his business, then realized he hadn’t seen or heard me for a while. He casually checked with my mother to determine I wasn’t with her. He looked in my bedroom, but I wasn’t there either. He noticed the door to Shelia’s room was open just a crack. The open door got his attention because he was always careful to close the door completely and securely when he left the room.

He opened the door and saw me climbing into Shelia’s tank. Family lore has it that I had one fat little toddler leg in the tank when he found me, and I was just about to swing my whole self in. Apparently, I loved Shelia so much that I wanted to be right there in the tank with her.

(As an adult, I wonder why there was no cover on top of that aquarium, or if there was, why a toddler was able to remove it.)

My dad lifted me away from the tank. He told me to never go into the room without him again. When we left the room, he made certain he closed the door securely behind us. (Maybe some sort of lock would have been a good idea as well.)

My dad let some time pass (days? weeks? I don’t know) before he nonchalantly mentioned to my mother how he’s found me climbing into Shelia’s cage. My mother—of course—freaked out and demanded he find another home for the snake. My dad contended Shelia had been harmless because she’d just eaten. She was satiated and sluggish and uninterested in a toddler who might have been about to lie on top of her. My mother countered by asking what might have happened if Shelia hadn’t just been fed. My dad didn’t have much more to say. I suppose I was small enough and Shelia was big enough that she could have squeezed the life out of me had the conditions been right.

My dad used his pet supply connections to find Shelia a new home.

Image from https://www.pexels.com/search/boa%20constrictor%20imperator/.

Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?

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Click to viewLike Indian Jones, my grandmother hated snakes. She and Indy could have started a support group for snake haters, maybe Snake Haters Anonymous (SHA) or the Society Against Snakes (SAS).

Like most hatred, my grandmother’s came from fear. She was afraid of snakes, deathly afraid of snakes. Her fear might have been a phobia. Sometime in my grandmother’s life, her fear had grown to hatred, but the fear was still there too.

My grandmother was something of a pioneer woman. Born in the nineteen teens, she lived through the Great Depression. As a kid, I didn’t realize how cool the woman was, but looking back on her now—Wow! Every year until she was in her 60s, she planted and tended a huge vegetable garden. In the fall, she canned the produce for winter eating. She sewed her own clothes (always pants with matching tops—I don’t recall ever seeing her in a skirt or dress) and knew the way to kill a chicken for a gumbo (hang it upside down from a fence until it relaxed, then whack its head off with a sharp butcher knife). She was a fantastic cook; I’d give a toe to taste her aforementioned gumbo again, and every year for Christmas, she made the most luscious six (or was it eight?) layer coconut cakes. Once I watched her pluck a small game bird my uncle had shot; she submerged the carcass in boiling water, then pulled it out and removed the tiny feathers. She raised seven kids, then lived thirty years as a widow after my grandpa died.

MawMaw was a woman who knew how to prepare for tough times and live through them when they came. I wish my parents had packed me off to spend summer vacations with her so I could have learned her homesteading ways. Instead, I spent my summers in my family’s air conditioned mobile home, reading fiction and longing for a boyfriend.

I never asked my grandma what she was scared of. Maybe she had a whole list of fears. I knew she hated snakes because my mom knew and told me. It became a joke with me and my mom and my sibling. MawMaw is scared of snakes! Isn’t that funny? I’m sure MawMaw didn’t think so.

One time my mom told us that MawMaw was so scared of snakes, we shouldn’t even say the word. For years after, instead of saying the word “snake,”  we’d spell out “s-n-a-k-e.” Even when we weren’t with MawMaw, we would spell the word to each other. Don’t let MawMaw see this picture of an s-n-a-k-e. I hope MawMaw doesn’t find an s-n-a-k-e in the garden.  I was a child at the time and thought this spelling was great fun, but now I wonder what kind of passive-aggressive bullshit my mother was up to. It’s not kind for a grown kid to make fun of her mother’s phobia.

I wish I had known my grandmother better. I know she had a green thumb. I know she was a great cook. I know she was always kind to me, and I know she hated snakes.

Snake image from https://classroomclipart.com/clipart/page-18/Clipart/Animals/Reptile_Clipart/Snake_Clipart.htm.

Rattlesnake

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The Man has his own rattlesnake story.

We were in New Mexico, house sitting for a friend during the week leading up to Memorial Day.

Our friend lives way out in the sage, past the last of the power lines, at least a mile from the nearest neighbors. His place is three miles from the highway, down a dirt road, ten miles from the nearest convenience store. He uses solar power to run his television and his mini-fridge, and he shits in an outhouse. He’s way out there.

Our friend’s brother was dying, and our friend wanted to drive out to California for one last visit. He needed someone to watch his place and feed his big dog, goat, and donkey while he was gone. We were the only friends he trusted to actually care for his critters and his place, and he offered to pay us well if we would help him out. We agreed, because we wanted to be good friends, but also because we needed the dollars.

Using the outhouse wasn’t such a huge problem, but plumbing wasn’t the only amenity lacking. Our cell phones got no service out there, and our friend had no internet access. He did have a landline, but an unexplained and annoying hum on the line made even a short conversation virtually impossible. The Man and I were out there cut off from everyone but each other.

I spent a couple days writing blog posts by hand in a notebook, but when eight or ten were written, I needed to use the internet to schedule them. I drove about 15 miles to the public library in the village nearest to our friend’s home. The library had fast, reliable WiFi, and I enjoyed working there. I wished the library was open longer hours, but noon to 5pm five days a week was all the village government was paying for.

I went to the library several times during our house sitting engagement. Sometimes The Man came with me and sat in the van and used the internet on his phone. Sometimes I went alone and left The Man and Jerico the dog back on our friend’s land.

One day when I’d gone to the library alone, I returned to our friend’s place around 5:30. I found The Man in the sunroom lean-to built onto the side of the school bus living space.

How was your day? I asked him.

I took this photo of the rattlesnake The Man killed after it moved into the sunroom.

He led me outside and pointed to a headless carcass hanging on the fence.

I had to kill a rattlesnake, he said.

The Man had been working in the sunroom all day, making leather and stone bracelets to sell. He heard a buzzing and wondered if it was a rattlesnake, but then decided, no a rattlesnake would rattle not buzz. He looked around the room anyway, but didn’t find any snakes, rattle or otherwise.

About an hour and a half later, Jerico trotted into the room through the open door, and The Man heard the buzzing again. This time when he looked over toward the door, he saw a rattlesnake coiled up in the corner next to the door where Jerico had just entered.

The Man called Jerico to the back of the room and told him to Stay! Whether because of the serious tone of The Man’s voice or the smell of the snake, Jerico did as he was told.

The Man grabbed a metal pipe and used it to crush the snake’s head. He wasn’t happy about killing the snake. He hates to harm any living thing, but having a venomous snake in a room frequented by people and a dog was just too dangerous.

They shouldn’t call them rattlesnakes, The Man told me, shaking his head, because they don’t rattle, but I guess “buzz snake” just doesn’t sound as good.

Snake Bit

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My parking lot coworker quit his job before The Man and I arrived to work in the mercantile. He and his lady friend Donna stopped at the mercantile a couple of times to say hello when they were passing by, and one day The Man came out of the bargain grocery store in Babylon to say he’d seen my coworker inside. I ran in to say hello, and we chatted a few minutes before I went back out into the heat. We talked on the phone a few times, and early one afternoon The Man and I stopped in for a visit at my coworker’s house on the way back up the mountain. It was good to stay in touch.

One week, The Man and I stayed on the mountain on our days off. On Monday, we thought it would be nice to pay Donna and my coworker a visit. We were at the mercantile using the internet, so I decided to call my coworker and find out what he and Donna were up to.

Donna answered my call. I said hello and identified myself. I asked her if they were up for company.

Gil’s in the hospital!  she said of my coworker.

What?!?! I asked. What happened?

Click to viewShe said he’d been bitten by a rattlesnake while getting ready to go to a barbeque. The snake had come out from under the truck and struck Gil in the foot. She said Gil should be home from the hospital around one or two o’clock that afternoon. I know he’d love to see you, she told me.

Gil was bitten by a rattlesnake! I told The Man after I hung up with Donna. He should be home in a few hours. Do you still want to go?

We decided to go over. Donna said Gill would want to see us despite his injuries, and I knew this was sure to be a good story.

We arrived at 2pm, and Gil wasn’t home yet. He didn’t get back until nearly five o’clock. In the hours in between, we visited with Donna (and hopefully distracted her from her worries) and learned the details of the story.

It all began on Friday. Gil and Donna were preparing to go to a barbeque at a neighbor’s house, and Gill was next to his truck, either putting things in or taking things out. He was wearing sandals, and when he turned from the truck, he felt a sharp pain in his left foot. I’ve been stung! was the first thought through his mind, and he turned, looked down, and saw the snake. It was a timber rattler, and it had just struck him.

I’m not sure if their neighbor and good friend Joe randomly stopped by or if Gil called him, but Joe was pressed into service to drive Gil the 40+ miles to the nearest hospital. The emergency room may have been the destination, but the fellows never quite made it there.

Although Gil and Joe are mature men, they are also party animals. Before going to the hospital, they decided to stop at a bar where a friend was celebrating her birthday. After a few beers, Gil decided he was capable of toughing out this whole snakebite thing (and what a good story that would make!), so he told Joe just to drive him back home. Apparently, the guys decided to stop for a nightcap at the last bar before the climb up the mountain. After a shot of tequila, Gil felt his pain intensify, but for some reason I cannot begin to understand, Gil had Joe drive him up the mountain instead of back to town and medical assistance.

When Gil returned home, he found Donna incapacitated by the three vodka drinks she’d had at the barbeque. His foot continued to swell, and Donna said Gil screamed in pain all night.

Despite the increased screaming and swelling, Gil still thought he’d ride out the injury. However, when Joe dropped by to check on Gil around nine o’clock on Saturday morning, Joe was quite concerned about the size of the snake bit foot. He convinced Gil he really should get medical attention, so they headed back down the mountain to the emergency room again.

Gil was admitted to the hospital where he received antivenin and morphine (!) for the pain. He was required to stay in the hospital for observation for 24 hours after the last dose of antivenin, which meant he should have been released early Monday afternoon.

Gil and Joe were a long time coming up the mountain, but Donna and The Man and I had a nice visit while waiting for them to show. When they finally arrived, they said they’d been slowed down at the pharmacy. The prescription for the painkillers couldn’t be phoned in, so they’d had to wait for it to be filled after Gil handed the paper over to the pharmacist. Also? The guys had stopped for one more beer before they started up the mountain.

Once home, Gil filled us in on some of the pieces that had been missing from the story.

The snake, he thought, had been molting. Molting snakes are apparently blind and grumpy, and the rattler must have used its infrared senses to strike out at Gil. One fang went into Gil’s foot pretty good, but the other bounced off the boney ankle knob on the side of his foot. That fang probably didn’t release much venom into Gil’s bloodstream, which is probably why Gil got away with delaying treatment.

The good-that-came-out-of-it part of the story is that while in the hospital, Gil was diagnosed with high blood pressure and prescribed medication to control it. Maybe this whole ordeal was a blessing in disguise, Gil thought.

Gil walked into his house using crutches, but ditched them as soon as he arrived. He was hobbling around the house unaided before we left. He took off his hospital-issued sock too, and we gasped over his swollen, discolored foot and the one visible fang mark.

As I had suspected, it sure was a good story, but only because my coworker lived to tell it. If he had died, it would have been a tragedy.

Image of rattlesnake from https://classroomclipart.com/clipart/page-9/Clipart/Animals/Reptile_Clipart/Snake_Clipart.htm.

Ophidiophobia

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According to Wikipedia, ophidiophobia

Click to view is a particular type of specific phobia, the abnormal fear of snakes. It is sometimes called by a more general term, herpetophobia, fear of reptiles and/or amphibians. The word comes from the Greek words “ophis” (ὄφις) which refers to snake, and “phobia” (φοβία) meaning fear.[1]

An ophidiophobe not only fears them [snakes] when in live contact but also dreads to think about them or even see them in video or still pictures.[2]

About a third of adult humans are ophidiophobic, making this the most common reported phobia.[3]

This post is a heads up to my readers (ophidiophobic or otherwise), the next four posts on this blog are going to be true snake stories. Consider yourself warned!

The image of the snake is from https://classroomclipart.com/clipart/Clipart/Animals/Reptile_Clipart/Snake_Clipart.htm.

Nobe Young Waterfall

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Nobe Young waterfall is tucked away off the Western Divide Highway (also known as Mountain 107) in Tulare County, California. It shows up on maps of the area, but there’s no sign marking its location. If you want to see it, you might need to ask a local, or you can use this blog post to find your way.

Who was Nobe Young and why is there a creek and waterfall named after him? I have no idea on either count. When I did a Google search, I found no information online about Nobe Young the person. I’m not even sure how to say the first part of the name. Some locals rhyme it with “probe,” while others rhyme it with “adobe.” I don’t know who’s correct.

From the junction of Mountain 50 and the Western Divide Highway, turn left toward the Trail of 100 Giants. Pass the trail’s entrance and the nearby campgrounds. About three miles after the trailhead, look for three tires placed as a landmark in a big turnout on the right side of the road. The tires are immediately before an unmarked road to Last Chance Meadow. (This unmarked road is a shortcut to Lloyd Meadow Road.) From the turnout with the tires, go 9/10 of a mile. Look for another big turn out with boulders to the right and a big log well to the left. Just beyond the middle of the turnout, the land rises in a gentle slope. Park in this big turnout.

Walk to the left, toward the big log and find the trail. Walk 10 or 15 minutes on the trail. The first part of the hike is flat and easy, but the downhill part of the trail is somewhat steep. When I visited, I was glad The Man had reminded me to carry my walking stick. I was also glad for my closed-toe Keens. I wouldn’t want to walk that trail while wearing flip flops.

Very soon after we started out on the hike, I thought I heard the sound of water flowing. The Man contended we were hearing the sound of wind through the pines. I’m not sure who was right. Maybe we were hearing a combination of wind and water.

Seeing the waterfall was worth the hike, even the steep part. The drop in temperature was delightful, as was the moisture in the air. The Man called the falls “Native American air conditioning.” The falls were lovely, with water cascading down boulders at different levels. Bright green grass grew at the base of some of the rocks, and the water splashed as it fell.

I’ve heard it’s possible to walk behind the waterfall; there’s talk of a cave back there too. I didn’t try any fancy exploring. I did climb up onto one of the huge boulders in front of the falls for a photo opportunity and found the wet rock rather slippery. I’m in big trouble if I break a bone or hurt myself in some way that makes working for money impossible, so I carefully got off the boulder and stayed off the treacherous wet rocks.

We followed the water down the rocks to a small pool. The water in the pool wasn’t deep enough to swim in or even for an adult to submerge in, but it was plenty deep enough for wading. The Man and I took off our shoes and socks and stood in the pool. Yowza! The water was cold (although not as cold as the water in the Rio Hondo earlier in the year). I’d joked about taking off all my clothes and lying down in the water, but I wasn’t nearly hot enough to do such a thing.

We’d come down, so we knew we’d have to climb back up. After our feet dried, we put on our socks and shoes and started up the trail. I was really glad for my walking stick on the way up. I struggled a couple of times, but I made it safely back to the van with no injuries.

It was a wonderful afternoon of exploration. With a picnic lunch, I could have spent half a day out there, but it’s also possible to make it a quick half hour or 45 minute trip.

I made a short video of the falls, which I like because it lets me see and hear the water splashing down the rocks. The sound of water flowing is so comforting to me. I wish I could sleep next to Nobe Young waterfall (or at least the sound of it) every night.

I took all the photos in this post and made the video too.

Leaving the Mountain Again

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I left the mountain this morning. I won’t see it again for at least seven months.

I didn’t sleep well last night. I hardly ever do before a big trip, but last night I was filled with worry. I was wide awake at 4:30 this morning. I went ahead and got out of bed and prepared to roll.

Yesterday was foggy and drizzly at the campground. When I tried to open the doors on my van this morning, I had to give them an extra tug because they were a little bit icy and the ice was holding them extra shut. My windshield was iced over too. As soon as I got the door to the driver’s side open, I started my engine and kicked on the defroster. The ice was melted by the time the van was packed.

The Big Boss Man sent me an email last night and asked me to stop by his trailer before I left this morning, so I did. He wanted to tell me that my name had come up twice at the company meeting he’d just returned from. I was the only non-managerial employee mentioned. Two highers-up in the company said what a great job I did in the mercantile this summer. They really want me to come back next summer, which means The Big  Boss Man really wants me to come back next summer. He said when his employees do a good job, it reflects well on him.

It was still dark as I made my way down the mountain. I got to see the sky gradually lighten until morning broke and the earth was blanketed in a beautiful golden brightness. I stopped in the first little town on my route, gassed up and bought a rather disappointing breakfast burrito. This is what I left behind me:

The highlight of my drive was a forest of Joshua trees. I’d driven through this forest in 2015 and have always regretted that I didn’t stop to take photos. Today I remedied the situation.

Despite my worries of last night, my van and I made it fine to tonight’s destination. I did have to get a jump start in the truck stop parking lot. I drove through one of those safety corridors where drivers are supposed to turn on their headlights. I dutifully turned mine on, but forgot to turn them off. My laundry was almost dry when a man in the Subway portion of the truck stop asked who the van belonged to. When I said it was mine, he said, Your lights are on. Oh no! I rushed outside and turned them off, but it was too late. After folding my clothes and putting them away, making my bed, and tidying the van, I tried to start the engine, but it just wasn’t happening. The nice man parked next to me helped, much to my relief.

I’m very tired, and I can’t wait for the sun to set so I can hunker down at the truck stop and get some much needed sleep. Tomorrow, my adventure continues.

I’m happy to move on to something new, but as always, I’m going to miss those giant sequoias.

I took the first two photos in this post. Photo of me hugging the giant sequoia by The Man.

Do You Know the Way to San José?

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The tourist asked the manager of the mercantile how to get to San Jose. The manager explained the directions to him in great detail—twice. The tourist and the young woman accompanying him seemed satisfied after the second time. They walked out of the store but were back in a few minutes. He requested the manager tell them again how to get to San Jose. They wanted to write down the directions.

Maybe there was a language barrier. The man spoke with a pronounced Spanish accent, so maybe he was unsure of what the manager told him. I grabbed a map so we could show as well as tell.

Take a left out of the parking lot, I said. Go to the stop sign, I told him, and make a right.

His fingers skimmed across the screen of his phone. Apparently he was taking notes.

At the second stop sign, make another right, I said.

Will there be a sign there?  he asked me.

Yes, I said, a stop sign. Make another right.

So there will be only the stop sign I see? he asked me.

Yes, I told him, fighting the urge to beat my head on the counter. At the first stop sign you see, make a right. At the second stop sign you see, make another right. When you get to the town with the stoplight, your GPS should work.

It looks like I can keep going straight, he said, pointing at the map.

I’m not sure, I told him. I don’t know how to get to San Jose, I said. When you get to the town with the stoplight, your GPS should work, I repeated. Or you can buy this map, I continued, tapping on the map spread out in front of us.

What highway is this? he asked, pointing to a roadway shown on the map.

If he had looked closely, he could have found the number for himself, but I did it for him. I looked at the map closely, found the highway number, and read it to him. He continued to study his possible routes.

I think we can go straight right here, he said again, pointing, and I agreed, Yep, that’s what it looks like.

They didn’t want to buy the map, but they did thank us for our help.

When they left, the manager and I shook our heads at each other.

I don’t know how to get to San Jose,  I told her. He wanted me to tell him exactly how to get there, but I don’t know!

Well, I do know, and I did tell him, but he wouldn’t listen to what I had to say, she complained.

I’ve noticed people—particularly city people—expect to find an interstate or a direct route to an interstate up on the mountain. I hate to be the one who has to break it to them, but it’s just not happening. It takes two curvy mountain roads to get to a state highway to get to another state highway to get to an interstate to get to San Jose. I could see how all that could discourage even Dionne Warwick.