The key to happiness is low expectations. Go to a movie. If you expect it to be great, you will be disappointed. But expect nothing more than killing a couple hours and you’ll probably walk away delighted.
Low expectations is what I had for Mammoth Lakes, a ski resort among the national forests in the eastern Sierras, central California, and where Santa Barbara goes to chill.
Somehow, I got it in my head that it was an artificial ski resort, akin to Vail, which I visited in passing a few years ago, and disliked because it looked and felt like a theme park for skiers.
But when my daughter and son-in-law announce they will go to Mammoth Mountain for a winter vacation with their son, I decide to join in, take my other daughter, and her son, along and turn it into a COW trip.
Just a getaway, I reason; I’ll stay inside by a fireplace, read books while they frolic in the snow.
We drive an astonishing four hours, thirty-three minutes straight without anyone needing to stop for any reason.
When I un-crumple myself outside Schat’s Bakkery in Bishop, I realize so much driving without stopping to stretch, at my age, is a huge mistake. A friend of mine once told me about road trips, you need to stop at least every two hours, get out and walk around, otherwise you risk blood clots—or difficulty un-crumpling.
Schat’s is a carnival of color and aromas: cookies and cakes and all the sweetest stuff in life, including
house-cured teriyaki beef jerky.
As we ascend the Sierras, a setting sun reflects orange and pink on a mountain range to the west.
I’m still not expecting much as we roll through the old mining town of Mammoth Lakes. But I’m coming round. There is a real-ness here.
My son-in-law had chosen The Village Lodge, adjacent to The Village, for accommodation. It is a hub of sorts for winter vacationers, conveniently huddled by the gondola station.
The key to the success of this resort is its simplicity evidenced by a fast check-in followed by convenient color-coded underground parking next to the appropriate elevator. Within minutes we are inside our three-bedroom condo.
A feeling of giddiness overwhelms come me. Maybe it’s contagion from the kids, free to romp after a six-hour, 43-minute drive. Or maybe the altitude: 11,060 feet.
We’d already made a dinner reservation at Petra’s, walking distance, and it seems the perfect venue for après-road festivity: good food and drink near a roaring fire that evokes a true sense of place.
Daughters and grandsons happily tucked in, my son-in-law and I do the nickel tour of the village, stopping first at the Clocktower Cellar—the local dive—then settling into Lakanuki—a Tiki bar—for a dark beer.
My true calling, I realize, is après-ski coach, though 19th Hole coach works, too.
I’ve never been one for sports like football and skiing, which may partly explain why I’ve never broken or fractured a bone, or even needed a stitch.
Must be the Armenian in me.
My first novel about a road trip has been acquired by Skyhorse Publishing in New York City.
It will be published in Fall 2016.