While the whole world worries about today’s election – wondering if Americans could possibly choose to elect a bigoted, misogynist, narcissistic, rude, crude, tyrannical bully with zero qualifications to head a school committee, let alone lead a country – I thought it might be a good time to offer a much-needed distraction.
You know how the best surprises come when you least expect them and need them most?
Well, a couple of weeks ago — when my husband and I were driving to our Airbnb rental in Yosemite National Park — I was definitely expecting the worst.
We had just left San Francisco where several people had expressed concern over our choice of lodging in the park: a rustic Airbnb cabin (that may or may not have an adequate source of heat) located 25 winding miles south of the Yosemite Valley entrance.
Adding to the doubters, we had heard that it had recently snowed throughout Yosemite and that some of it was still closed, including the Tioga Pass over to Lake Tahoe where we were driving next.
To make matters worse, our Airbnb host had been incommunicado all week when I tried to contact him about the aforementioned concerns.
In the past, I have always had excellent experiences with Airbnb hosts. I look for the 4 and 5-star reviews and read a lot of the comments. Like all the others, this particular Airbnb host (I’ll call him Jasper) had great ratings, so I was completely baffled by his lack of communication.
Jasper had not replied to a single one of my emails, and when I called the cell phone listed on his profile, the automated voice mail message informed me that his message center had not yet been set up.
Finally I tracked down a family landline number (through some googling) where I left a rather desperate message informing whoever lived there that we were just a few hours away and would very much like someone (anyone) to call us back.
About 45 minutes before our imminent arrival, and despite very spotty coverage, my cell phone rang. Jasper! I was so relieved to hear his voice… until he actually started to talk.
To put it simply, Jasper sounded somewhat “dazed and confused,” barely increasing my confidence in the pending accommodations. However, he was able to confirm that the cabin existed, that we could still stay there, and that there was a working propane heater.
Forty-five minutes later, we pulled up to Jasper’s house where he told us to meet him. Of course, no one was home. We knocked and rang and peeked in the unlit windows, but nothing. The sun had already set and it was starting to get cold, so we followed the only sound we could hear… a leaf blower off in the distance.
Lo and behold, it was Jasper blowing away pine needles in the woods.
He was tall and lanky, with wide eyes and a full beard – and not surprisingly, he seemed surprised to see us.
After introducing ourselves, Jasper led us to the bottom of the hill to show us our rental. To our utter amazement (and enormous relief), the tidy cabin was toasty warm and fully equipped, with a huge deck and a gorgeous view.
Because of the recent snow, the nearby river was rushing – an added bonus, Jasper told us, since it had been dry since the end of July.
Suddenly, our host had an idea. Would we like to take a night-time walk along the rushing river at that very moment?
Why not, we thought. We were freezing and starving and needed to unpack the car, but the moon was full and the air was sweet.
As we stepped outside, Jasper asked us to wait a minute while he ran back to his house to get his dog, who hadn’t had a walk all day. That was fine with us as we love dogs and were missing our own.
So we sat down on the lovely deck and waited for Jasper to return.
A few minutes passed, then 5 minutes, 10 minutes… 15 minutes. We began to guess what could have happened:
a) Jasper got hungry and decided to make a hamburger.
b) Jasper turned on the TV and got sucked into a rerun of My Favorite Martian.
c) Jasper noticed he hadn’t finished the Sudoku puzzle in the newspaper and was working on it at the kitchen table.
Just as we gave up, stood up, and opened the door to our cabin, we heard a peculiar whimpering noise through the trees. I squinted into the dark as my husband shined a flashlight up the dirt driveway…
All at once, a stampede of eight tiny puppies tumbled down the hill, followed by their mom who was herding them forward. Pulling up the rear was Jasper.
“Everyone wanted to come,” he called, “but it was hard to get them all organized!”
You know, you really haven’t lived until you arrive in the quiet forest of Yosemite National Park as the sun is setting and the water is rushing and the full moon is shining and 8 puppies remind you just how truly spectacular the world can be.
Another 5-star Airbnb rating for Jasper and his awesome cabin in the woods.
(Organizing everyone in Jasper’s truck after the walk)