December 27: Hiking in the small North Bay town of Fairfax.
On about day 3 of our stay at my parents’ house, I found myself going stir-crazy because there was nothing to do and nowhere to go. I’d thought I wanted a spell of total indolence, lying on the couch and reading comfort fiction, but evidently I didn’t. Fortunately, a couple days after Christmas, the family drove up to the North Bay (north of San Francisco) for an overnighter, and we were reminded that you don’t have to go far from home to have an adventure.
We went to a trail near a residential neighborhood, and had a lovely short hike to a waterfall. Then we came back to the car, feeling energized, warm, and ready for dinner. Well, we ran into car trouble, and couldn’t fix it ourselves, though we tried. Our cell phones barely got any signal. We tried knocking on doors, but no one seemed to be home. We were standing in the street, stamping to stay warm, everyone throwing out last-ditch suggestions for what to do, when a car pulled out of a house we hadn’t tried. My sister flagged them down. It was a nice family, and when they heard our story, they returned back up the hill to their garage with us following. They let us use their landline to call AAA emergency road service, and then they went on their way.
When they came back an hour later, AAA still hadn’t arrived. “You must come in and get warm!” the lady of the house urged us. “We’ll make you something hot to drink, and you can use the bathroom.” We declined the offer of drinks, but the bathroom sounded like a good idea. While Mommy called AAA again, I chatted with the lady, and discovered that she’d been a paramedic for 20 years. I thought when I first saw her that she had the sort of face you want to see when you need help: kind, capable, warm, with a sense of humor. The rest of the family was similarly welcoming. She told me, “We felt bad for leaving you there; as we were driving to dinner, we said, ‘We should have just stayed home and made a big pot of spaghetti to share!'” I said we’d already imposed on them enough. Then she mentioned that they had a pair of 5-week-old kittens upstairs. It was harder for me to be polite after that. ;b While the rest of my family waited in the car (their choice), Erik and I sat in these hospitable strangers’ living room, telling them about our travels and watching the adorable kittens as they settled in for a nap, their paws around each other. The lady apologized that the kittens were being so boring, and then she overrode our continued refusals of food, bringing out oranges, crackers, and two kinds of cheese.
Eventually, we did get the car patched up (it was my dad who fixed the problem, ultimately, since the AAA people never showed up — unusual for them), and after many thanks, we took our leave of this lovely family. Then we drove away and had a huge dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant. I don’t know how everyone else felt, but to me it was such a happy adventure. We got to meet new people, kittens, and a dog; I got to spend a lot of time with my own family; there was a box of cookies in the car; and while we were standing around waiting, I danced to stay warm, and admired the night sky and the full moon. It was not raining, it was not terribly cold, we were all together, we were not in a foreign country, and no one was hungry or thirsty or hurt or needing a poo (indelicate, but important!). It felt like a continuation of our travel mindset: taking events as they came, making new friends, and being grateful for our comforts.