Another day in paradise: Sequoia National Park and King’s Canyon

It just wouldn’t be a Harrison vacation unless the weather sucked and in keeping with tradition, this year’s California trip did not disappoint. Or, actually, it did disappoint, and the weather sucked. While Tennessee baked mercilessly in 100 degree heat, northern California could not buy a ray of sunshine. Troy and I detoured from Yosemite for a day to see the giant sequoias that populate the aptly-named Sequoia National Park. Sadly, they were hard to see.

A canopy of giant trees or the poster for the next Twilight movie: Sequoia shrouded in fog.

Giant sequoias are giant. It’s hard to define giant until you’re standing next to it. Rest assured, these are big fucking trees. Even if the fog was so heavy you couldn’t really see them.

Troy standing inside a fallen sequoia at Grant's Grove in King's Canyon National Park.

Perhaps you missed the white stuff on the ground. They call it snow. In June.

General Grant Tree. In snow. In June. Guess that's why it's called the Nation's Christmas Tree.

I desperately wanted to make a snow ball and hit Troy in the face but he said if I did, he would wrestle me to the ground and shove snow down my cleavage and then I would be really wet and cold.  Having some experience in ignoring threats like this to my peril, discretion won out and I stayed (reasonably) dry. Every giant tree is named after a Union general or other Yankee. I suppose this is because the trees were set aside during Lincoln’s tenure, but it could also be because Yankee generals really wanted to have something long and giant named after them to make up for other shortcomings. Sequoias have really soft, spongy bark and they make crappy wood for building anything because it splinters. Lincoln had to save them from wholesale slaughter because, even though they could really only be used to make pencils, our ancestors had the social conscience of fleas and would have cut them down to make mulch because they could. I am amazed sometimes that we survive as a species despite ourselves.

Troy and I at the world's biggest tree (General Sherman) which we could not really see and now neither can you. This is a crappy vacation picture to be sure.

We finally decided to drive to the far side of King’s Canyon National Park and were rewarded with sunshine and warmer temperatures. We saw no one. This has to be the most deserted park we’ve been to. This would have been a totally awesome place to see Bigfoot, but I was again denied. No ‘squatch for Jean this trip. Just a waterfall:

Grizzly Falls, Kings Canyon National Park. I don't know why they call it that. They have no grizzlies here.

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Real men of genius: Yosemite dancing man

Yosemite is pretty awesome for people watching as you have this odd amalgamation of Europeans who seriously hike, Japanese tourists who seriously take pictures, old people on tours, American families on summer vacation and so on. You do get to meet some odd characters. Today, I salute you, Mr. Yosemite Dancing Man. It takes gigantic balls or a complete lack of shame to dance at your own personal rave without any music for the rest of us to hear at a very busy bus stop. Sure, the bus was packed and all, but you didn’t let a lack of room or the terror of little old ladies who were afraid you might fling your sweat in their direction stop your awesome groove, you just kept right on dancing next to the driver. I’m not sure what awesome drugs you were taking to rave out like that on a random Thursday afternoon, but your excellent dance moves earn you a huge shout out. Rave on my friend, rave on.

Athletic apparel catalog models must die

It’s that time of year when Troy and I start planning the vacations we will take. On the agenda this year, kayaking in Congaree National Park  in South Carolina, possibly a quick trip to kayak in the 10,000 Islands in late March, a trip to Yosemite in June for a week to hike (and die) and then Zion National Park in September where I am determined to hike the Subway before I keel over and hang up my hiking shoes. I am trying to talk Troy into kayaking the Na Pali coast in Kauai in July but Troy is not jazzed about it. With all these impending trips, it’s time to start ordering outdoor clothes for the season.

If you ever want to feel totally inadequate, a quick scan through the Athleta catalog should do it. Exhibit A:

Seriously? Who is this chick and why is she trying to scratch the back of her head with the sole of her foot?

Let’s look at this. This woman has an ass you could bounce a quarter off of. I hate her and I don’t even know her. She’s probably really sweet. I tried this pose tonight and all I got for my trouble is a badly pulled hamstring and a bruise from where I fell over and hit the dining table. Fortunately, Troy had already gone to bed when I tried this.

Sure, she can do this, but if she had a 40DD chest, it would add a little challenge.

This woman is perky even upside down. That’s unfair to the rest of us. Someone needs to hold her hostage and force-feed her twinkies. I started to try this one but was greeted by four very curious dogs who are not helpful yoga partners. I gave up and poured a martini. Fuck it. I’m wearing a rash guard and khaki shorts this year.

I Owe Alabama an Apology

I have always said that Alabama exists to make Tennessee look good. Cross the state line, set your clocks back 20 years. Insert your own Alabama joke here. This was before I drove the length of Georgia on my way to the Everglades. Alabama, I apologize. You may be backwoods, but you are no Georgia. 

I-75 is pockmarked with billboards. To amuse myself on this very long road trip, I started paying close attention to the billboards. Leaving aside the billboards advertising hotels, gas stations and restaurants, the overwhelming majority of billboards along the interstate in Georgia are about “getting rid of liberals”, abortion and massage parlors/strip clubs.  Apparently, Georgia is overrun with people who frequent sex parlors and strip clubs that get girls knocked up and that are just ripe for being marketed to via the billboard. I’m not sure what liberals have to do with this, but maybe they oppose people going to sex parlors and knocking up girls.

You have many options available to let someone love you long time in Georgia

Once you are done fornicating, it’s time to deal with that unplanned pregnancy:

Apparently, abortion accounts for 20 percent of Georgia's GDP because abortion billboards account for most of the billboards

Then, for some unknown reason, the liberals must be removed from Georgia. This was next to an abortion billboard:

Apparently, communists oppose easy abortion and strip clubs in Georgia because Jody Hice wants Obama out.

So if you are a communist-hating, strip club patron who likes to knock women up and/or you like to have abortions after fornicating, Georgia looks perfect for you. For the rest of us, close your eyes and think of baseball.

Canoeing with Susan: a lesson in why kids should be sent to summer camp

My little sister is turning 40 soon and we planned to head to Florida to recover from the horror; her from turning 40 and me from having a little sister who is 40. The house we are staying at is on the beach but also is adjacent to a brackish water lake and they rent canoes.  I love to canoe and all things water-related.  I also know how to canoe. I assumed that Susan knew how to canoe because my parents also sent her to camp where I had learned to canoe. Big mistake. Susan has no idea how to canoe.

My Dad is a salt of the earth type whose parenting skills included spouting such gems as “life is hard in the far west” when confronted with a reasonable request for assistance. Dad also believed I should go to 4H camp so I could “toughen up”. At 11, I discovered that 4H camp meant get in a canoe, try to stay afloat and catch and make your own dinner.  My formative summers were spent in exotic locations like Kansas and Missouri canoeing and illegally trawling for bass to stay alive. I assumed Susan got the same treatment, but I never asked since she was younger than I am and was completely beaneath my notice. So when Susan said “hey let’s rent a canoe”, I was hit by a wave of nostalgia and though it would be a lark, especially since I could spend an enjoyable day in the sun paddling around the beach and then head out for a nice dinner without having to catch it first.  I did not consider the danger of Susan.

The site of the canoeing debacle, except the lake was attached to the ocean

To start with, Susan is a completely charming and utterly dangerous human to hang out with. She thinks nothing of lighting a cigarette with a map gas torch while driving down the highway.  She once blew the doors off a microwave while boiling eggs in a Pyrex bowl because “it seemed like a good idea.”  This is the person I decided to canoe with. In my defense, I had no idea she had never canoed because she had been to camp.

Getting in the canoe was the first trick. She almost took a header out of the canoe because she did not understand that the canoe was balancing in the water. I pressed on with the adventure because I thought she was just rusty and would remember how it all worked soon. The concept of balance remained elusive as she continuously lurched over the side to try to reach things in the water. Then, because there is such a thing as a “tide” and she did not heed commands to paddle hard, we foundered on a sand bar.  People from the beach could see us. They were laughing at us. Susan picked that time to jump out of the canoe to “push us off the sand bar”. Genius. Never mind that there were drop-offs everywhere around us.  Drop offs with sharks. She did manage to free us and somehow get back in the canoe just as this swam past us.

OK., this was not really us and this did not really happen, but we did see a 3 foot long baby shark 60 seconds after she got in the canoe. Of course there were bigger sharks just waiting to eat her out of my line of sight.

The bigger question for me was why did she not know how to canoe? The answer was that she got to go to civilized camp. With air conditioning, and three meals a day brought to her by people interested in her survival. Obviously, as the first born, I was expendable since they had a spare. So Dad, remember it will probably be me pushing your wheelchair and I am holding a grudge.

How to blow 320,000 Skymiles

So we have a ton of Skymiles on Delta to burn and I wanted to see where the most expensive place in the world is to fly to from Nashville. Courtesy of our friends at Kayak.com, I learned I could fly anywhere in the world for between $90 and $9,170.   I expected that for $9,170 in cold hard cash, it would be some exotic South Sea destination with black sand and blue oceans.  Not so much. $9,170 buys you coach to Baghdad. As in Iraq. Now there’s a garden spot I want to blow my Skymiles on.

You too can travel to exotic places, meet new and exciting people, and possibly be abducted and killed by them.

 Alternately, I can fly to Afghanistan for $8,260. Bargain travel to paradise.  Anyone up for a road trip?

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Penis rock, Arches

Some things need no explanation

You will not find this in any guide book. If you look to the right (of the you know what), you will see the famous Double Arch in the Windows Section at Arches National Park. Oh sure, I know you claim you were looking at the arch the whole time, but we all know where your mind is. Pervert.