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Nate’s Cross Country Adventure Part 5: Two Subarus and a Spring

Nate Farrington is an outdoor professional at Cornell Outdoor Education. He is a full-time vagabond who prefers to travel on two motorized wheels. This is part four in a journal of his trip across the country on his motorcycle.

The sound of tourists milling dangerously close to me and my bike wakes me up. They are taking pictures of me and my motorcycle,  speaking to one another in a European language I can’t identify.


Now I’m at least upright. It’s nearly 8 AM and I have accidentally planted myself near the vista for Mono Lake. It’s beautiful. I see why it’s worthy of a stop on a bus tour, and waking up here was a happy accident. Moments later, an Australian starts chatting me up as I find my contacts and wipe the tired off my face.


Next up on this very odd morning is a local. He’s an older man who’s working in Yosemite this season. The conversation he starts is pleasant and harmless enough at first. “Loud morning!” he says. It quickly devolves to him telling me about global warming being a myth. I’m too tired for this sort of foolishness so I just reply with “No, it’s not.” He continues and eventually I say “Well, it’s snowing where I’m at so it must be a myth!” His response: “Exactly! That’s exactly what I mean!” 

I collect my things and head down to the Mobil. I still do not realize that this is the Mobil; I’m too tired. After filling my tank, I sit for a long time with a thousand yard stare and a breakfast burrito the size of my torso. My eyes are completely bloodshot. My hands hurt. My body has been abused on this trip and now I’ve gone and almost froze myself to death on top of it.


Finally, I snap out of it. I grab a few necessities for the day and decide to try and find my friends. I finally get myself outside. Instead of leaving immediately, it dawns on me that I should do some checks on the bike.

As I’m putting a little air in the tires, I see some people in my periphery. It seems my friends have found me instead.

We all embrace and now I’m fully awake. The excitement of finally finding people I know has energized me and I’m raring to go.


Tuolomne. Like so many places out here, it’s beautiful. My friends had left Yosemite valley and come out here several days ago to escape the heat. Now, it’s actually somewhat chilly. This part of the park is about 70 miles away from the other (Yosemite is big) so we climb here.

I’m a kid in a candy store. I’m a puppy. They show me their campsite (I sped past it last night; it’s just outside the park boundaries). My bike stays there and we pile into the car.

We climb, and I’m pleased. I’ve finally gotten on rock in Yosemite.


Upon leaving, we see a hitchhiker. One of my friends says that she’d take him, but we’re going the opposite way and the car is positively packed to the brim. He says he’s been there over an hour and no one has stopped. She says, “Hey, let us try. We’re girls!”  The very first vehicle stops and pulls over. The driver appears to be let down when only the bearded male gets on board.


We depart and meet some people at the Tuolumne store. One has an old Subaru, and we start chatting about it. This chat sets the stage for the rest of the night.

He says he’s getting coffee. Coffee sounds great, so I meet him and we talk climbing. He tells me he’ll probably visit our camp in a while. I get back to camp just as the rain begins and quickly set up my tent.

As I’m crawling inside my fabric shelter, I see a different Subaru pull up and out of the passenger side jumps the new friend. He has hit a rock coming up the road to see us and his car is FUBAR. I agree to go take a look at it with him.


We arrive and it’s bedlam. The car is on a foggy, rainy, busy, rock slidey road. The passenger rim is beyond repair. The tire is flat. The car is leaking something underneath and the whole wheel looks pushed back a few inches from where it should sit. I jack it up, get the spare on, and figure out it’s the control arm. He hit the rock so hard that it broke one of the connecting points. Otherwise, aside from some cosmetic damage to the undercarriage, nothing else looks obviously wrong.


We go into town again and he’s frantically searching for parts and trying to figure out what to do. I try to calm the situation without much success.
On our way back up to camp hours later, I see a vehicle on the side of the road. I pull over and ask if they need help.

“Do you know how to change a tire?”

“I sure do,” I say. It looks like another person has fallen victim to this road tonight­––a gouge out of the side wall has “rock” written all over it. We change their tire to the spare, I give the guy some advice on how long he can drive the car like this and how fast, and we make haste towards camp again.

I’m happy to see my bed.

Day 11

I truly brought the rain with me. It’s still coming down, and it doesn’t appear to be stopping any time soon. Rest days are good, but not when you aren’t in need of one.

The day is full of car shenanigans. I’m happy to help. I’ve signed up for it at this point. It’s draining though. I’m still trying to keep everyone calm.


Step 1­: order this. Step 2­: figure out where it’s going. Step 3­: I’ll help you get it. Hours later, as my own frustration is nearing the summit, he and his car are on their way to where they should be. And now I’m sitting at this coffee shop, resenting the rain, resenting his car issue taking the majority of the day.

As the day wears on and the rain starts to clear, there’s talk of going to a hot spring.  I’ve never been to a hot spring and it seems like it could correct the trajectory of this day.

How right I am.


Once we arrive, I’m amazed. There are others, but not too much of a crowd, and they’re pleasant people. I strip to my boxers and get in. I can see the attraction.

There are some people flying ultralights in a nearby field with an amazing view of the Sierras. Typically, this is the sort of thing that might annoy me. But these vehicles are so alien to me, so strange, so “movie”, that I enjoy it. The pilots start to do low passes over the spring we’re in and wave.

Day fully corrected.
We hit the grocery store, have some food, and plan to climb in the valley tomorrow. I’m sold.


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