America Through My Eyes


Telugu Original : Dr K.Geeta 

English Translation: V.Vijaya Kumar

          Winter in America starts from the months of November, December and continues till February. It is common for children to demand skiing in the winter holidays that fall in the 2nd and 3rd weeks of February. We don’t get much snow in the Bay Area, the Sierra Snow Mountain Range 150-200 miles to the east gives us the chance. Varu insisted on going somewhere different from the usual “Lake Tahoe” visit this time. She gathered the details of “Dodge Ridge” from her friends. As it sounded like “Darjeeling” with a slight difference in spelling, I googled it curiously.

          We have Lake Tahoe on the eastern side and to the south the Yosemite.  Dodge Ridge is located between these two places. Moreover, it is closer than these two.

          When my mother came to America last year, we went to Tahoe. Whenever we come to  these mountains in the month of February, solid snow is seen as a winter blanket. We have heard that as there are still snow storms across the US this year, the snow patches may be found here and there.

          As usual, the preparations for the journey started a week earlier at home.

          This “Dodge Ridge” is one of the Sierra Nevada mountain ranges east of our location. It’s about the border they spread over four hundred miles between the state of Nevada and the east of California. Dodge Ridge is a Ski Resort. There were different ski locations and training centers for those who can ski well and to those who are just learning to ski. Ski sessions here need to be booked in advance. The fee for two hours of training, including ski boots and ski equipment, is about one hundred dollars per person.

          Since we couldn’t get accommodation in the nearby Pine Crest Resort, we booked in ‘Strawberry Inn’. Pine Crest is about three miles from Dodgeridge, while the Strawberry Inn is five miles away.

          We filled four luggage bags with Ski pants, coats, mufflers, snow boots, gloves and everything. Four more bags for clothes and other items in addition to this stuff. I giggled when I thought of Satya, who will be irritated at this load of luggage. He will start a fight with those bags getting into the car. He squirms in annoyance. He grumbles whenever he is carried along the way.

          My job is to get everything into bags. It is always his and the children’s duty to carry the load. That’s why I must be careful not to smile when he’s grumbling with luggage.

          He argued for a while that we must go in the newly bought Lexus car. I insisted on the Sienna van. Finally his proposal was accepted. “He will change his mind after seeing all these bags,” I hoped.

          The California law requires snow chains to be attached to car tires when there is snow on the roads. We bought snow chains for our old cars and have been taking them with us wherever we go in the winter. All these six or seven years of experience we backed them without using them. When I was about to remind snow chains, Satya summarily rejected the proposal saying, “No such business, you unnecessarily dumped those snow chains earlier, stop now!” 

          For the benefit of doubt I made a phone call to our resort and inquired about it. Somebody from that side said something like ‘no need for chains’ in a different accent which I couldn’t follow well. So I simply skipped it.

          The children have holidays the whole week but Satya has no holiday. We usually arrange any two or three day trips on the weekend.

          Usually we prefer on Fridays and come back by Sunday evening. This time we booked on Wednesday as we didn’t get accommodation on Friday. So we can return by Friday, and rest on Saturday and Sunday.

          While listening to the whole plan, Satya said, “I can’t ! Even though they granted me leave for Wednesday to Friday! I have a lot of work.

          “Can we leave by Wednesday afternoon? Otherwise, the journey will be canceled. No other optional days in that week” I said. Satya admitted on the condition that a laptop will be brought and work at night.

          Booking hotels is the only task we have done. Ski classes are also booked for Satya and Varu. Komal is not coming with us because he has exams. Even though it is150 miles away if we leave on Wednesday afternoon, it may take four to five hours to reach there due to traffic and ghat road travel. The room should be vacated by eleven o’clock on Friday morning. That means we have to book classes at the ski resort on Thursday. Luckily they got the ski sessions at the right time.

          By the time Satya came from the office on Wednesday afternoon, I was ready with the children. We have two hours.

          It was 4.30 by the time we got out of the traffic. From Sunnyvale we drove an hour north to Pleasanton, and two hours to the east in the direction of the Yosemite. It was five in the evening when we reached Sonora. It took us another hour to cover another 30 miles on the ghat road, due to winter evenings and early darkening days. Snow piled up all along the ten miles road leading up to the Strawberry Inn. We laughed at the sign boards on the road side.”The roads are icy.” But the roads were very normal and there was no need to get snow chains for car tires. Satya smiled at me understandably.

          At six o’clock we reached our accommodation “Strawberry Inn”. The name of the town is “Strawberry”. We read online that the population there is only 50 people. I understood when I reached there. All there is in that village are hotels like this resort and a small store. Nothing else. All around the trees were thick and wet, shriveling in the dark with shadows of snow that had fallen weeks before. There is thin water flowing on the road as if it has rained every now and then and it has not dried up yet.” We argued that the rain had stopped, no, no the sun had melted the snow and turned into water.

          Here we can’t get food after eight or nine at night outside. Every time before checking in the hotels, we drop the luggage in the room and get to find restaurants and take rest after having lunch. When we come back to our room, we turn on the TV and watch cooking stuff and children’s cartoons until we fall asleep.

          But this time, when we got out of the house, we saw a restaurant opposite. Satya, who went inside to see what was there, came in ten minutes and said, “This is our hotel.” 

          “What are those? I am looking at cottages visible there. If we get out of the car here, how can we walk in this darkness such a long distance? Did you get it right?” My questions were answered when I opened another door next to the entrance hall of the restaurant. Ours was the last of the five or six rooms on the top floor above the restaurant. Although there are many cabins in the resort, they offered rooms in the main building. The hotel is so good. A small well-furnished hallway with a red carpeted staircase, and a flower creeper wall along the small path leading to the rooms.

          Once inside, I tried to see outside. Nothing could be seen through the window in the darkness. The restaurant is just below our cabin and will be open until 9.00. The children sat before the TV and kept their eyes open. Satya took out the computer to work. The sad thing is that the internet is not free there. When there is work Satya won’t stop working. But Siri did not allow him to go with it, she dragged the laptop and sat in his lap. Satya smiled as if he understood that he would not work on holidays.

          “The restaurant seems to be run by Russians. The staff speak English with a Russian accent.” I said. Showing “Bavarian Regional Art” on the surrounding walls, Satya said,” It’s Bavarian”. The pasta and pizza we ordered were very tasty. “Then the cook must be Italian” We laughed thinking that the hotels belong to Italians.

          Looking out through the restaurant’s windows, he said, “The snow is not thick anywhere. We booked skiing here tomorrow. What to do?” said Satya.

          Once we went to “Mt. Shasta” after booking slots for skiing like this we turned back disappointed as the snow was not adequate for skiing. We heard the news that there was a lot of snow this year. “Maybe you are skiing tomorrow I bet.” I encouraged him.


(to be continued)

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