Flying the coupe in a newish car |

Flying the coupe in a newish car

by Ron Walker

My ’91 Lincoln Town Car wasn’t long for this world when the muffler dropped off. It has since been replaced with a 2005 gold-colored Lexus, which I dearly love. Now for another moment of truth: It has been a year since Orllyene and I have done any traveling, and I’m as stale as a slice of bread that has sat outside all night. A “one-day vacation” is the answer, and we strike out for Arnold, Calif., home to Calaveras Big Tree State Park, population 2,624.

First stop, a fishing camp on the East Fork of the Carson River. Sensing Orllyene and I are not “Indy 500 drivers,” the kind lady admonishes us to watch out when the yellow line on Highway 4 disappears. When two cars are moving toward each other, you hug the right side of the road with a passion. The white stripe is your lifeline. If you happen to be going around a curve (on the outer portion of the road), there is nothing between you and a 1,000-foot tumble. The other times when you need the little white stripe are the two 24 percent hairpin curves. You tap the accelerator firmly and replicate a dog chasing his tail.

Highway 4 is a fun ride. I lock in at 11-15 mph, steal glimpses of distant mountain ridges, gushing waterfalls, mauve and rust-colored hillsides, and never stop turning the steering wheel.

“This is living,” I tell myself. I glance over at Orllyene. Her feelings are more of the “lucky to be alive” genre. The sky is a translucent blue, the air cool, danger has sharpened our senses, and the shackles of our daily routine fall away. Anyone who says they don’t need time off is a reborn gopher.

We conquer Ebbett’s Pass. We pass Mosquito Lake swathed in lily pads, ricochet around boulders, plunge into crevasses, emerge, and do it a dozen more times. Orllyene becomes enamored with tiny trees growing beneath their majestic parent. Trees grow to 100 feet or more and are so luxuriant you can get lost if you wander a few feet from the trail.

Glory be, the yellow line returns. I use every pullout that comes along to avoid the angry honks of California drivers. (Theirs is a different mission than ours.) Optimism borders on glee as we arrive at Meadowmont Lodge. Joyce, our vivacious hostess, welcomes us and shows us to our room. We have enough towels in our room for a Boy Scout Troop. When she hears we plan to dine at Serafina’s Italian Kitchen, she recommends a reservation and she is so correct. By any standard, the Caesar salad, Orllyene’s Veal Marsala, my exquisite spaghetti, and the freshly-baked brioche are San Francisco-Nob Hill quality. And, if I may be indulged, my date is ravishing in the lavender ensemble she is wearing.

Our “one day vacation” is a resounding success. I face life with renewed vigor. Perhaps the possibility of a trip to the Devils Postpile National Monument for a night might be next considered.

Ron Walker can be reached at