Stuck in the Middle with You

We wanted to take a sharp left turn around a substantial tree and climb a steep incline about 20 yards long in deep snow onto the next plateau.

Photo: Visual Hunt
Which is why as soon as my sons passed their drivers test I had them gun our SUV in the empty parking lot at the base of the mountain on the next Mammoth trip.

 

An excerpt from Book Five in “The Knowledge Path Series” dedicated to helping you find the place of your dreams in the Sierra Mountain resorts.

Part One:  Mammoth

Part Two: What Was Mammoth Like Before the Great Recession?

Part Three: Chains that Bind – Bankruptcy, Foreclosures and No Snow

That was then, this was now.

Photo by Stephen G.Howard

Driving through the intersection on CA 203 we found Old Mammoth Road, running parallel to US 395 and took a right instead of driving on Substation Road to Mammoth’s power plant.

Then we looked for ways into patchy white wilderness foothills.

But, we had to drive a ways on dirt roads almost identical to those we explored at Rock Creek Lodge and Tom’s Place to find any more than patches of snow.

Photo by Stephen G. Howard

In areas where snow had just melted the color of the path was darker – slightly muddier.

With persistence we found fresh snow and we made the first tire tracks.

Not quite as epic as snowboarding through the trees on fresh powder, but fun anyway.

We had to guess how deep the fluffy white drifts were and where the dirt trail underneath actually was.

Leafless scrub brush broke through intermittently.

Photo by Stephen G. Howard

So did large rocks.

We kept vigilant for deep ruts.

The kind that could trap us.

Then it happened.

We wanted to take a sharp left turn around a substantial tree and climb a steep incline about 20 yards long in deep snow onto the next plateau.

We slipped.

We slid sideways.

We momentarily got hung up in a trench.

Full disclosure?

I experienced a flashback.

No, not that kind.

But further back to the winter in high school merely months after getting my driver’s license.

Photo: Visual Hunt

Having grown up in a suburb of Cincinnati when every season between December and January or February several storms would drop inches maybe a foot or more of snow.

More than on the ground this trip in the Sierras, and probably with a layer of ice underneath.

My father had taken me out to the vacant church parking lot covered in about 6 inches of snow, told me to slide behind the wheel and gun it.

Do what?

That’s right, punch it he told me.

Twin emotions overcame me.

Sheer fear and sheer joy.

We slipped and slid all over the place.

Photo: Visual Hunt

I turned the wrong way and accelerated the sideways loss of control, fearing I’d bang into something solid.

But, soon enough I got the hang of it.

Turning into the direction of the skid.

Except for that one time.

It was my mother’s brand new station wagon.

Her new baby.

Still had that new car smell.

I had pleaded my case.

Dad certified I knew how to successfully tackle every challenge a winter snow storm could provide.

Photo: Visual Hunt

Except this one time.

Like all mom’s do.

She probably experienced an intuition that this wouldn’t turn out well.

But, she was my mom.

She let go.

She let me go.

Anxious about what would happen next.

Driving down the steep hill and making a hard right hand turn onto the street leading to my best friend’s house, tucked away in the woods, was a little sketchy.

But, I mastered it.

I smiled from ear to ear.

Until.

Photo: Visual Hunt

My best friend’s driveway unfolded on three different levels with three different turns.

Piece of cake I thought.

Until I tried to navigate the drop from the top-level to the middle with a left hand turn.

I could have sworn, and did later to my mother, that no one could have anticipated where the turn began.

Or, that slipping off the driveway and sliding towards the trees could have turned out worse.

No, I didn’t hit the biggest one head on.

I swerved out of it’s way.

Photo: Visual Hunt

But it creased her passenger side from just behind the front wheel all the way back to back seat door.

Which is why as soon as my sons passed their drivers test I had them gun our SUV in the empty parking lot at the base of the mountain on the next Mammoth trip.

But, snapping out of the flashback, we still were stuck.

We rocked forward and backward to get traction.

I got out and pushed.

Nothing worked.

No cell service.

No AAA road service.

Photo: Stephen G. Howard

If we could just free ourself and get a running start while I pushed maybe, just maybe we could take the incline to the top.

We really didn’t have much choice, since the path was too narrow and tree-lined to risk turning around on the lower level.

We tried another trick I learned from my Dad years earlier.

We let a little air out of the tires for more traction.

Kept our fingers crossed.

Part Five:

Steps:

25) Compare what “life” was like in those communities before the Great Recession, how resilient each was during the economic downturn, and to what degree did each bounce back after with any “economic hangover.” 

28) Which lifestyles profiled in the western resort towns during 2008 – 2009 remained five years later in 2013-2014?  Which disappeared entirely? Why? Which new lifestyles emerged, grew or moved in to shift the neighborhood mix? Have longtime locals been forced out by escalating property 

30) Review headlines and relevant news as far back as you can find online to surface each community’s unique pulse and identify information necessary to make your decision. Is there a “ticking time bomb” issue you may uncover that eliminates the resort from your bucket list? Search on topix.com.

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