Back in Mammoth, I hop a gondola with daughters and grandsons and ride to the slopes, enjoy a beer while watching skiers skirt the mountainside.
Dinner at Nevados, whose owner, Tim welcomes everyone personally. The bar is doing brisk business, mostly natives. The decor is drab, emphasis on food, which is superb. (Resort towns know they have a captive audience, so there’s never need to renovate.)
Afterwards, a glass of wine at another native bar—this one tucked into an alley in The Village—called Side Door. It becomes my favorite hang: warm, cozy, and locals for company.
I chat with a couple from Glendale who’ve lived in Mammoth for four years, but packing up to leave this very week due to the woman’s “altitude problem.”
They tell me Mammoth Lakes was one of the original ski resorts in the USA, and that it’s creator—still alive in his 90s, living in Bishop—put his heart and soul into it.
For decades, Mammoth was a ski-resort for the middle-class, while the jet set flocked to Sun Valley.
In recent years, it caters to a more affluent crowd, mostly from LA.
They tell me the local Von’s supermarket is the best-stocked, best run Vons in the country. “The locals go first thing in the morning, when they bring everything in fresh. There’s been a lot of growth in just the years I’ve been here. Some [in local government] want to curb it, others want to push on. It’s a good balance.”
Next day I drive into Mammoth Lakes—the original village—for my own look-see.
Vons, indeed, is large and so well stocked, one would be hard pressed to think up an item they do not carry.
Rite Aid, nearby, is no slouch either with every over-the-counter remedy known to Americans.
Coupled with Schatz’s Bakkery (an adjunct to its flagship in Bishop), croissant sandwiches and fresh bread, this mountain town has all you need to hideout for a long while.
The best spot for Wi-Fi is Starbucks—or anywhere in The Village, including the fire pits where skiers huddle to warm their bones after hours on the slopes.
Finally, in the comfort of our condo, I open a book—Alcohol, a History—and read only a few pages before more delightful distractions cut in. This was not to be the reading getaway I’d imagined from low expectations.
Late afternoon, we shepherd the CoW to Tamarack Lodge, about ten minutes out of town. It is woodsy and rustic—and where I now go in my dreams to write a novel.
The lodge’s bar is small, but offers mulled wine and cider. Although we’d booked to eat at Tamarack (their specialty is elk), the kids are tired, would likely not settle through a fine dining experience, so we repair back to The Village, and I retreat to Side Door, a glass of pinot noir and a Panini with caramelized shallots, turn that aroma into a tasting experience.
A sound sleep was not to be.
A youthful element had arrived to party the weekend away: Outside my window, screaming matches and brawls, no manners they.
Next morning, out at eight, a miracle of sorts with kids. This time we are more prudent about stopping to un-crumple.
Next stop: Lone Pine and the Alabama Hills, where TV westerns were shot on location in the 1950s and ‘60s.
In the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans corner, I come upon the double gun belt I craved as a six year-old (I had the toy version).
For few seconds I feel like a little kid again, and when I snap back to the present can only wonder where all the time went.
My first novel about a road trip has been acquired by Skyhorse Publishing in New York City.
It will be published in Fall 2016.