I got some money and found myself a car
We head north as the last of the San Francisco glisten fades from our rear view mirror. We're going to see the Muir woods, a national redwood monument which people travel from far and wide to come and see. We have a thrilling ride up and over steep mountain tracks, through mist and sunshine before we get there and are faced with the challenge of finding a parking spot. A 20 minute cycle of the car parks finally results in a free space!
The air is the freshest, cleanest I have ever breathed. And I live in Scotland. It smells like the Caledonian pine forests of Rothiemurchus - but better. It's not smothered by the wet air of Scotland but instead sharpened by the cool dry air. A lung full here feels like it would last you forever.
Tiny little chipmunks run freely around our feet and across the floor of the visitor shop. I'm madly in love with these little creatures - they are so perfectly formed and manage to achieve an amazing balance between skittish and graceful.
The calls of unknown birds echo softly through the green light and call us forward. We explore the paths for a couple of hours - just the feeling of this place tells you to slow down. I feel very small next to these outrageous giants. I silently offer my thanks to them for reminding me of my complete insignificance in the universe.
We read the information plaque to discover that a UN memorial for Franklin Roosevelt was held here in 1945, in the middle of the two-month peace conference in San Francisco. The memorial was held here as the woods were initially suggested as a place for one of the conference sessions, before FDR passed away. It was decided that cathedral grove in the woods would provide a sense of perspective and time to the delegates and bring attention to the importance of conservation. The Secretary of State said in his closing speech that the enduring redwoods would reflect the faith and ideals of FDR. As we walk around we feel the sense of time hugely and it is easy to understand why the memorial was held here.
The sun is getting lower and we still have to make our way to Lake Tahoe. We climb into the car with a bit of extra sparkle in our eyes. The drive out is long and slow - a traffic jam sets us back two hours. We sit at a solid stop for a good 20 minutes. I take the opportunity to play with the camera and snap the glowing fields and swaying foliage. We're not frustrated, not constantly checking in with the clock. We're just letting America be herself and teach us a thing or two about patience.
Once we get moving we pass rivers, marshland, see stalking herons and birds taking flight in symmetry over the wafting wheat.
After four hours we stop off to eat. We're starting to flag a little knowing we've got quite a long way to go. We eat quickly and get back on the road. But the time the sun has set and turned the lights of the cars around us into bright blurred movement, Stephen is feeling so tired he needs to stop and rest. We Park up at a gas station and allow ourselves to go a little nuts on the American snack-bars - he buys a bucketful of soda. Man these guys like their sugar and salt. I make him do a run of star jumps in the lot to get the blood pumping and the resulting fit of the giggle does more to wake us up than anything.
Feeling revived with soda-bucket at the ready we head off again and it's not long before the lights fade and the dark Road starts to curve and loop around shapeless hills that blossom from the darkness. He keeps his eyes steadily in front of him as Idlewild blares from the speakers, I take in the sheer drops either side of us with minute towns twinkling at their depths. I don't tell him about them.
Soon the Vegas-esque lights of California-Nevada Stateline appear ahead of us as we make into Tahoe town at midnight. A huge darkness looms in front of our hotel and we're too tired to contemplate it. We check in then wander down to the casino floor for a recce (Oh dear god why did we think Vegas will be a good idea?) before heading up to our room.
As we drift off we ponder over what Tahoe will bring.