THELMA & LOUISE ...Eat Your Heart out! Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon Only Drove through Four States: Sharon Miney Bagged 27 in 28 Days. Armed Only with VBF, Car, Credit Card - and a Case of Napa Valley's Finest; the Mounted Cop Quipped: We May Need to Detain You Two Ladies for Questioning
Byline: Sharon Miney
If it comes to it, we can always sleep in the car...' The voice of my friend Karen. That didn't sound so terrible, I reasoned. Our rented Ford was certainly roomy enough. But what about Yosemite's infamous bears? I'd heard they routinely broke into parked cars in search of a snack, lured by the scent of a carelessly discarded chocolate wrapper within - or a tasty tourist... 'But I'm sure we won't need to,' she added, not entirely convincingly, even as I double-checked the booking confirmation that announced check-in closed at 8pm.
It was already nine and we were still 100 miles from the park, having frittered most of the day away touring the Napa Valley's wineries. Still, the melodious clinking that occasionally emanated from the boot - thanks to a dozen bottles of award-winning wine from Artesa winery - was a comforting reminder we would never need to trouble a roadside 'liquor store'. But wait - did bears like grapes, or wine for that matter?
Undaunted, we pressed on, San Francisco already a blur in our memories and a mere blip on a 6,000-mile odyssey that would take us from California to New York City - an undertaking to make Thelma and Louise's little jaunt through the Southwest look tame by comparison. We had four weeks to complete our crosscontinental caper, plenty of time, we'd thought, to see all we wanted to see.
Alas, given our indisciplined tourist giddiness, that was proving to be any attraction on the map within 100 miles - meteorite craters, Indian settlements, comically shaped rocks... Now, as the freeway gave way to climbing mountain road, the car's temperature gauge began to plummet (pity we didn't understand Fahrenheit). The snow soon thickly coating the verges was our first hint as to how cold it really was outside. An ominous thought struck: would the Ford end up an icy tomb to our frozen, bear-gnawed bodies?
No, as it turned out. Hours later, we froze in less dramatic fashion in our 'heated cabin' - a glorified tent with no discernible source of warmth in a snow-blanketed campground. Mercifully, a night porter had materialised to check us in while, on a monitor behind him, mesmerising foot-
age of a bear expertly breaking into a car played as a warning to visitors not to leave food in their vehicles. Close call.
Before we attempted sleep in our subzero shack - our wine stash cooling in a 'bear-proof locker' outside - we promised we'd never cut it so fine again.
'If it comes to it...' I heard myself say, 'we can always sleep in the car.'
Friday night in Las Vegas and we'd already tried two hotels on the Strip to no avail. 'The MGM Grand has 5,000 rooms!' Karen protested. How were we to know we needed to book ahead? But by now it was midnight - and a hair-raising detour through Death Valley into Nevada was beginning to look like an indulgence too far.
'Spring break, ma'am,' the third receptionist informed me apologetically, as Karen idled in the car outside surrounded by rampaging, inebriated college students toting Eiffel Tower-shaped cocktails. 'We've got nothing but, wait, I'll call our sister hotel for you.' Minutes later he put down the phone, looking thrilled. 'They have one room left for the weekend - $250 a night, plus taxes.' Oh well, we'd just have to win the money back on the blackjack tables (fat chance)... and at least we wouldn't have to pay for drinks.
Groundhog day. As we barrelled down rural Utah's winding roads chasing the sunset, the prospect of the car as our home for the night hung unspoken between us. Despite our best intentions, a certain devil-may-care pattern to our trip planning was becoming evident. We'd bought tents in Walmart for $9 each (child-size versions - American kids are BIG) but there was no way we'd be able to pitch them in the dark in remote Arches National Park. This was to be our third state-protected natural wonder of the day, after Zion National Park's red rock formations and the hypnotic hoodoos of Bryce Canyon. …