On Friday morning, Kenley and I put Malia in the backseat of my Toyota Solara and headed north on the 405. The interstate — which travels over the Santa Monica mountains to connect West Los Angeles to the San Fernando Valley — was scheduled to close 15 hours later, leading people to warn of “Carmageddon” in car-addicted Los Angeles.
The interstate was expected to be closed from midnight Friday to early Monday morning so the Mulholland Drive Bridge could be partially demolished, allowing for construction of a northbound carpool lane. Officials were so worried that people wouldn’t get the message and would clog the nearby roads that they enlisted celebrities — including Erik Estrada from the “CHiPS” television show — to help spread the word:
Our escape plan? Spend the weekend in a cozy four-bedroom mountain house in Yosemite National Park with 14 adults, six dogs and one baby. Some might question just where we were escaping to, but we had a blast!
Our friends Kathy Bryja (former features designer at The State) and her fiance, Justin Shady, both host “food night” at their apartment every Sunday and had organized the trip before the 405 closure was announced.
When we arrived, we were greeted with reports of bears breaking into cars and cabins, scavenging for food. A local television reporter stopped us while we were walking Malia to ask whether we had encountered such a creature.
Thankfully, the bears stayed away. Safety in numbers!
But to our fellow campers Lil and Adam and their baby son, Jah, our dog Malia might as well have been the big nice wolf. Lil captured these cute photos and added funny captions.
You will recall that Kenley is not the outdoor type. (OK, so neither am I, but I have owned a sleeping bag and stepped inside a tent.) Still on Saturday we set out on a hike with the dogs. Our goal was to wear out Malia and the other canines so they wouldn’t have the energy to growl at each other later. The trail took us over a swinging bridge and near a river, where Malia was happy to wade in and cool off. We somehow wandered off the trail, and what was supposed to be a three-mile walk turned into a five-mile trek. No big deal for us humans, but we were a little worried about Malia being able to handle the journey.
There was no reason to worry. The old girl came through just fine. She’s 10 years old and has diabetes, but she was built to lead true expeditions over the rugged Siberian terrain. This was a piece of cake!
While the more adventurous headed out for a tougher hike after lunch, Kenley and I stayed back with a few others and watched four more television pilots, which I’ll review in my next blog post.
For dinner, Kathy and I introduced everyone to a Southern favorite, Lowcountry boil. Neither of us had actually made it before, but turns out it’s pretty foolproof. We even served it the traditional way by dumping it on a newspaper-covered table outside.
Here’s a shot of the whole gang that Justin captured Sunday morning before we left:
After we left the house, several of us drove about 30 minutes north to the Yosemite Valley. After a steep and winding drive, you go through a tunnel and when you emerge, there’s an amazing view of the valley, including the El Capitan and Half Dome rock formations and the park’s dramatic waterfalls. We drove into the valley and took the dogs on a leisurely stroll along the paved paths.
On the way home, once we got closer to civilization, I was able to get a cell signal and discovered that the 405 had reopened earlier than expected. We were able to drive back into Los Angeles as if Carmaggedon had never happened.
Just in case anyone thought the reason for Carmaggedon was made up, here’s a cool time-lapse look at what did happen while we were gone.