Greg stayed in town Sunday night, then he and Chuck returned to the refuge on Monday morning. They discussed the work that needed to get done while Greg was away, and decided there wasn't anything very pressing. Greg took a walk into the woods, and found the migration was still active. He thought wistfully about the mist-net that Matt had left with him. It would be great to get in another day or two of trapping but, somehow, he didn't think that Vic would consider it as important as their honeymoon trip. He didn't either, really, but those two days had been such fun!

   Chuck and Greg ate together Monday night, then played checkers (with the inevitable outcome). Tuesday morning, Greg finished up a couple of office chores, went home to finish packing for the trip, and headed to town shortly after noon. Vic's packing was almost complete, and she, her mother, and Mandy had been going over the wedding arrangements that would be handled while Vic was gone.

   Wednesday morning, they had breakfast with Alice and Mandy, and finally started their journey west at about 10 o'clock. It was expected to be a warm day - maybe into the 90s - but the air was dry, and no thunderstorms were predicted. They rode mostly in silence for the first hour or so. Vic had buckled into the middle seat belt, so she was close to Greg. He didn't mind.

   Greg glanced at her at one point, and noticed she was holding her ear. "Do you have an itch? You want me to scratch your ear for you?"

   "No, thank you. I'm performing a medical operation here."

   "Really? Holding your ear is a medical operation?"

   "I am not holding it. I am rotating the earring, so the ear will heal slowly and properly. I'm supposed to moisten the ear with a little alcohol, then twirl the study, every day for about two weeks. After that, I can wear some fancy earrings. Do you think I will look exotic with some long, shiny, sparkly earrings?"

   "You look pretty exotic to me, already - not in the sense of 'foreign,' but fascinating, extraordinary, unusually amazing.  But I will still enjoy seeing you with new trinkets."

  "Do you think you'll love me more than you do now, when I have sexy earrings?” she teased him.

  "Of course."

  That stopped her for a moment. "I did not expect that! What's wrong with me now, that fancy earrings will improve on?"

   He touched her cheek. "Oh, the comment wasn't specifically about earrings. I was responding to the generic question, will I love you more? Yes, I love you more, every time I see you. I love you more, even when I don't see you. I 'll love you more if you have new earrings, but I'll love you more if you don't have new earrings. I'll love you more this afternoon, and even more this evening. Waking or sleeping, I'll love you more. Dressed or undressed, I'll love you more..."

   "But I bet you'd prefer the latter!"

   " Making love with you, I'll love you more. Not making love..." He stopped.

   "What happened there? 'Not making love with me'...?"

   He smiled. "Oh, I just couldn't imagine not making love with you."

   "Good answer.

   They left the freeway at Twin Falls, and headed south toward Nevada. Shortly before reaching the border, Greg saw what he had been looking for - a large billboard, yellow with big black letters: "Sagebrush is free. Stuff some in your trunk."

   He chuckled. "I was hoping it was still here. It's my favorite of the Stinker gas station signs."

  "Why wouldn't it be here?"

  'Congress just passed a law - something about beautifying the highways - that will eventually remove all the billboards from along the highways. I don't know if it's just federal highways - it probably is, since it's a federal law - but even that probably gets a lot of the Stinker signs. I think it's a good thing, in the long run - the billboards are getting so abundant you can barely see the land in back of them - but I will miss some of the funny ones, like the Stinker signs and the Burma-shave ones."

   "We saw the 'No Nude Bathing' sign over near Mountain Home, when we drove to Boise. I don't remember seeing the 'petrified watermelons' one, though."

   "Petrified watermelons? I don't think I know that one."

  "Well, over near Boise, there's a large area strewn with boulders, and the Stinker sign says - or said - 'Petrified Watermelons - Take one home to your mother-in-law'."

   Greg chuckled. "No, I didn't know that one. Do you remember the one up by Idaho Falls, that we saw when we went up to the wildlife refuge? 'Warning to Tourists - Don't Laugh at the Natives.' I liked that one."

   While they talked, they had passed through the community of Jackpot, and were headed south to Wells, Nevada, where they would meet the freeway coming from Salt Lake City . They would take that all the way west to California.

   Vic picked up the conversation. "You mentioned Burma-shave. Those probably won't have to go, will they? They aren't billboards."

   "No, that's true, and I don't think most of them are along the bigger highways. You have to be going slow enough to read all four or five signs, so I think most are on secondary roads. They might survive.

   "Here's one I remember. 'No lady likes to snuggle or dine accompanied by a porcupine. Burma-Shave.' They're mostly about being clean shaven, or what happens when you drive your car too fast or when you're inebriated."

   "And I appreciate that you take the shaving  messages to heart, and usually do little damage to my face in our more amorous moments."

   "Well, although I have noticed you don't readily eschew any amorous moment, I have often felt that those  same said moments are enhanced for both of us when we begin with a clean slate, so to speak."

   "I'm glad you recognize that, on certain occasions, I have not only not eschewed amorous moments, I have bravely and willingly risked my complexion and rushed in when the need to enter the fray seemed both urgent and inevitable."

   Greg patted her arm. "That's quite a sentence. I can only say in response that I sincerely appreciate your self-sacrifice in such moments."


   They stopped in Battle Mountain for gas. It seemed pleasanter to keep moving than to sit still, so they got out sandwiches that Alice had made, rolled down the back windows of the car to allow a little air circulation, and drove on.  It was only 5 o'clock when they reached Winnemucca, but it was a considerable distance to the next logical place to stop, so they decided to make this their destination. They found a pleasant motel for $8.00, about what they had been paying in Pocatello. More sandwiches proved ample for dinner, but later they went to the coffee shop for slices of quite good apple pie, with ice cream on top.

   In the motel lobby, there were several slot machines. Greg stopped to look at one of them, then reached in his pocket and pulled out a handful of change. He found five nickels, and put the rest back in his pocket. "Do you think if I put these five nickels in this machine, that we'll win enough to pay for this honeymoon?"

   "I would think it's pretty unlikely?"

   "Do you think we'd win anything?"

  "I have no idea - maybe, maybe not."

  "You wouldn't make a very good gambler."

  "I know. Neither would you. We're both too analytical. We might take a risk, but only after we'd done enough investigation to understand what the risk really was."

   "Agreed, but I've never played one of these, and I want to try it. I'm going to ask the motel clerk about them." He did. "We're from Idaho, and have never gambled. I have five nickels..." Vic had been rummaging around in her purse. "Wait, I have four more."

   "Okay, we have nine nickels. What's likely to happen if we feed them into that slot machine over there?"

   The desk clerk looked amused, but interested. "With only nine nickels, I'm not sure there is a 'likely' result. No matter what people believe, these machines are not programmed to give any particular short-term results. In the long run, I'm sure that 'the House' - the owners - are going to make more money than they lose, but that could happen in a lot of different ways. You could feed the nine nickels in, get nothing back, and spend the rest of your evening watching TV. More likely - but not certain - is that a few of your coins will return a few more coins. When you've run through your nine coins this second time, you'll find you now have fifteen nickels. If you're not ready to quit, you now have six free pulls of the lever, without using your original nine coins. Whatever you win or lose with those six coins, it's on the House!"

   Vic and Greg took turns pulling the lever for about a half-hour, their minor "winnings" going up and down. The desk clerk came over to watch.

   "This is fun for a while," Greg observed. "The anticipation that the next pull might be a big one. But is it certain that there's a jackpot in here? If not, then we're really not going much farther, no matter how long we play, right?"

   "When you start to ask that, then you're getting to the point of being a real gambler, or not. I think it's the law that every slot has to have the potential for a jackpot. If there isn't, then it's false advertising. I could be wrong about that, but it sounds reasonable.

   "Still, it's the same thing we started with - the jackpot could come on the next pull, or 2,000 pulls from now. The other thing is, the biggest jackpot possible with a nickel machine is probably only $20, or so. Winning 'big' is obviously better than losing, but is that small of a potential return really worth your time? I think the serious gambler would give up on the nickel machines, and start thinking about quarters or dollars slots. If you lose, you lose bigger, for sure, but it you win....

   "If I didn't think I was cut out to be a serious gambler, I'd probably take my original nine nickels, and my winnings - which look to be about two dollars worth - retire to my room for the night, and use my winnings for a free breakfast in the morning."

   "I think that's probably very good advice," Greg said, as he started to gather up their change.

   "You want to convert those nickels into a couple of dollar bills?"

   "Can you? That would be a good idea."

   They went over to the desk, and completed the transaction. "Thanks," said Vic. "That was fun, and also an excellent lesson."

   "Glad to do it. It's always pretty boring here in the evening. All the real gamblers go over to the casinos, and don't come back until the wee hours. It's nice to have some normal people to talk with."


   Thursday morning, they did claim a big "free" breakfast in the coffee shop, and were on their way west by 7 o'clock. It was another clear day, threatening to be in the mid-90s again but, like on Wednesday, not bad in the car with the back windows rolled down. As Greg explained it, rather than using the car's air conditioner, they were employing the "Two sixty" model - roll down two windows, and drive sixty miles per hour. It worked.

   "I remembered something this morning," Greg began. "I've stayed in Winnemucca, before. I didn't' remember that's where it was."

  "What are we talking about - amnesia?"

  He put his free hand over hers. "No, just the faulty memory - or lack thereof - of a one year old baby."

   "You stayed in Winnemucca when you were a baby?"

   "Yeah. It must have been in 1945 - when it looked like the war was really winding down - my parents decided they wanted to take a road trip before everybody else decided to do the same. Neither Dad nor Mom had ever been very far from California, so they decided to go big and go to Yellowstone. Of course, I don't have any memories of the trip - just what I've been told, and photos in a scrapbook - but gasoline was apparently readily available, and Dad could fix anything that went wrong with our '36 Ford, so they just went. Apparently, it all a lot of fun until they got here - well, to Winnemucca - when something serious broke in the car. I said that Dad could fix anything mechanical, but this was a real broken, vital part, and they didn't have the part in Winnemucca - and very likely not even in Nevada. It had to be ordered from somewhere, and with shortages after the war, and a pretty 'iffy' transport system overall, it took maybe a week - maybe more - before they could fix the car and continue home. They stayed in an auto court - what they had for travelers before motels - but I guess they had almost no money for food or lodging. It must have been pretty frightening. I think they had to ask Mom's parents to wire them money to pay for the car repairs. It was my first big adventure which - unfortunately or fortunately - I knew nothing about, at the time."

   "Wow, I bet that really was difficult. I remember Mom and Daddy talking about those times. In general, people had enough money to 'get by,' but if something unplanned came up... Well, there was no extra, and no place to get anything more. It sounds pretty tough. I mean, we're not rich, now, but we don't need to worry about spending an extra dollar, now and then."


   For the first hour or so, there didn't seem to be anyone on the highway except them and a never-ending stream of cross-country trucks. All were moving considerably faster than they were, the acceptable speed seeming to be about 80 miles per hour. (Neither Greg's mind nor his accelerator foot seemed to operate above 65.) By the time they reached Fernley, the desert landscape had softened with agricultural fields, scattered houses, and considerable local traffic.

   At the turn-off to downtown Reno, Greg asked if Vic would like a quick tour of the main street of "The Biggest Little City in the World." She declined, her eyes and her thoughts already on the mountains that loomed ahead of them. Greg didn't object. Few things drew him with the force that mountains did.

   They followed the Truckee River and the freeway west to the California state line at Verdi. By then, the country had changed from sagebrush desert to a mix of sagebrush and evergreen forest. Between Verdi and Truckee, all traffic had to stop at what looked like a toll station at a bridge. A man in uniform talked briefly to each driver. He asked Greg where they were coming from (Idaho) and if they had any fruit with them (no). He waved them on their way.

   "What's that all about?" Vic asked.

   "California - which grows about half of all the vegetables, fruits and grains grown in the United States - is always very worried about alien bugs or plant diseases being introduced that might endanger the crops. Pretty much every highway entrance into California has one of these check stations, where they try to intercept dangerous transports."

   Vic was quiet for a few moments. "And their way of intercepting these dangerous bugs is to say hello and ask if you have any in your car?"

   "That's right." He tried to keep a poker face.

   "So, what if we had a peach and a banana with us, and we had told him that we did?"

   "He probably would have ignored the banana, but would have either taken the peach, or asked us to eat it before we crossed the state line."

   "Oh. Okay, what if we had a peach, but we told him we didn't have any fruit?"

   "He probably would have taken our word for it, and sent us on our way. That is, unless he thought you looked particularly shifty-eyed about something."

   "He didn't look far enough into the car to see my shifty eyes."

   "Well, sometimes when these fellas have been on the job a long time, they just develop a sixth sense about felons."

   There was another long silence. "Greg, you do know that none of this makes sense? There's no way they can stop bad bug introductions this way - whether the introductions are completely unplanned, or the work of some hostile nation."

   "You really think that?"

   "I really think that. There's something else, too. These men who stand there all day, just shooing cars past them, must know that they aren't doing anything to keep bad bugs out of California. But they could make the job more than just a pay check. What kind of man watches cars full of beautiful women and girls pass him all day long, and takes absolutely no opportunity to ogle or flirt with them?"

   "I see what you mean. I certainly wouldn't miss that opportunity."

   "Yes, you would. You only have eyes for me, remember?"

   "Right. I'd forgotten who I was for a minute, there. So, what do you propose we do about this - either the inadequacies of bug detection, or the dereliction of masculine duties?"

   "What can we do? This is just another one of those weird California things, isn't it?"

   "Don't ask me. I'm from Idaho."


   They left the freeway at Truckee, and found a diner that served a respectable hamburger. While they were eating, Greg asked Vic if she'd heard of the Donner Party.

   "Sure, they're the ones who got stranded in the mountains, and ended up eating their relatives to keep from starving."

   "Well, the camp where they spent the winter is just a couple miles up the road, under what is now called Donner Pass, the route that many of the wagon trains took to the California valleys. Due to bad advice and bad planning, the wagon train didn't arrive here until November. All the other wagon trains that year were over the pass in October. In many years, they still might have made it, but there was an exceptionally heavy early snowfall. They set up camp at the foot of the pass.

   "They weren't prepared for any kind of winter in the mountains. They didn't have much food, and the makeshift cabins they were able to make were barely suitable for the long cold that was coming. Some of the group eventually set out over the pass to try and get help. Some of them made it, but the help didn't arrive until almost spring. It had been a big wagon train - nearly 100 people - but less than 40 made it to the Sacramento Valley.

   "And, yes, to stay alive, they did end up eating  some of those who died."

   "Greg, do you really think it's appropriate to talk about cannibalism while I'm eating this lovely juicy  hamburger?"


   When they got back to the car, they started south on Highway 89. But first, Greg pulled Vic to him, and presented her with a long, heartfelt kiss. She reciprocated.

   "That was unexpectedly lovely," she eventually said. "I don't mean that it was unexpected that it was lovely. That was a given. I meant that the kiss at that moment was unexpected - but very welcome, I should add. What brought it on?"

   "I just got to thinking that you, Victoria Cleveland (hyphen) Anderson, are as nutty as a fruitcake, and I love every minute I'm with you. I just wanted to offer a token of my appreciation."

   "Well, that was quite a token. This is a fun honeymoon, isn't it?"

   They drove slowly south through mixed evergreen forests and meadows. The air felt fresh, and the temperature was probably only in the 80s. Traffic was light, and no one was demanding they drive faster. Even at their slow meandering speed, in less than a half-hour, they were suddenly on the shore of Lake Tahoe. The blue waters stretched out to still-snowy mountains on the Nevada shore.

   Vic just stared. Greg let her. "Is this real?" she asked, finally.

   "It is real, and we'll be seeing it all the rest of today, and a little bit of tomorrow. It doesn't get old, either."

   "No, I can imagine it doesn't. There's really no way you could have described to  me what it was going to be like, was there? There just aren't words."

   They proceeded down the west side of the lake, gently twisting and turning through groves of evergreens - rising elevations to their right, and blue waters seldom completely unseen to the left.

   "As your tour guide, I should point out to you that Lake Tahoe is about 20 miles long, and 10 miles wide. It's not the biggest lake in the United States, but it's right behind the Great Lakes. Also, it is over 1,500 feet deep - second only to Crater Lake in the United States, but there are a number of deeper ones around the world. Also..."

   "Greg, as my tour guide, I appreciate your need to tell me these things. I may even be interested in them someday. Right now, I am in a reverie, and I  would prefer to just drift along for a while without any statistics. In other words, please shut up."

   "Certainly, ma'am."

   When they were about half-way down the lake, Vic perked up. She touched his arm, and smiled at him. "I'm back."

    He smiled back. "Are you un-reveried?"

   "Not entirely, but I'm kind of coasting for a while. You may speak to me, if you wish."

   "Are you sure?"

   "Yes, please."

   "All right. Well, I've been thinking about my early mountain adventures. I've never told you about them, have I?"

   "No, I know you had a lot of them, but we've never discussed them."

   "Well, this is really where it all began. Not right here on the shores of Lake Tahoe, but just over that ridge of mountains on your right. Well, maybe not right over that ridge - probably a little more to the southwest.

   "Anyway, I think I told you that when I was growing up, my family took a summer vacation trip most years, usually two weeks of camping somewhere. Our usual spot was in the redwoods in a little State park on the Navarro River. We all loved it. There wasn't a lot there - picnic tables, places to build a fire, and outhouses. We never had it all to ourselves, but it was never really busy, As kids, we didn't wonder why - or even think about it - but the reason was because it was a ways off Highway 101 - the main route through the redwoods - so local people probably knew about it, but the tourists kept driving north before they stopped. Anyway, we loved it, and always looked forward to going back.

   "So, it was a real disappointment when Dad found out one year that our spot had been changed from a campground to a picnic area. We couldn't go there, anymore. Dad was kind of at a loss about where to go the next year. We all liked the redwoods, but he didn't know any other 'secret' places like Navarro. Even in the early '50s, the area was getting pretty touristy, and we weren't people who liked crowded campgrounds.

      "We ended up that next year camping near- but not in - the redwoods, on the Eel River. It was okay, but nothing too memorable about it. Then, one of the people Dad worked with offered him the use of a cabin near Lake Tahoe. It wasn't an area Dad knew, but it sounded interesting, particularly because the man said the cabin was very isolated and you had to walk to it. So, the year after Eel River, we went.

  "We came on Highway 50 over Echo Summit from Sacramento - the way we'll leave here, tomorrow. The south end of Tahoe was already a pretty busy place in the late '50s, because of the attraction of the lake itself, but also because the Nevada state line was the closest place Californians could come to gamble. The route to our destination - Lily Lake - left the lake and led along the shore of a smaller lake, Fallen Leaf. The road was narrow and twisty, but it was paved, and there were cabins all along the way - well, they called them cabins, but most looked fancier than our house in Oakland. The Fallen Leaf Lodge was packed with people. We were beginning to think that Dad's friend had a different idea about isolation and solitude than we did."

   "That must have been a little worrisome, after what you'd had in the redwoods."

   "It was, but things got better. From near the lodge, we took a very rocky, rutted, road - it was okay in our '36 Ford, but probably not for a lot of vehicles. Anyway, we took it  another mile or so to Lily Lake. We didn't meet any cars on the road, and the little parking lot at the lake was empty.

   "We'd been told that we had to walk to the cabin, or take a boat across the lake. We didn't have a boat available, so we walked that first time. It was about a half-mile around the south side of the lake. Our cabin was the first you came to. There were several more beyond, but far enough away that you couldn't see or hear anything from them. Actually, I don't think any of them were occupied the times we were there.

   "I think we were all a little disappointed in the cabin. Well, there wasn't a thing wrong with it. It was obviously fairly new, clean, and well cared for. It was just that we were tent campers, and this sort of seemed like being at home with a different view. We all eventually adapted - enough that we all were happy to come back for a second summer vacation - but it was a little let-down, at first."

   "Your mom probably saw herself doing all the usual housework, in a less convenient setting."

   "You're probably right. But being a kid - and this being my first time in the mountains - I probably didn't worry too much about her.  Growing up in California, I was used to hilly country, but these were real mountains! That first trip was a revelation, and quickly made The Mountains my favorite place. I've never gotten over that first feeling.

  "Lily Lake itself is spectacular. It's a small, cup-shaped lake, at about the 6,000 foot elevation, in the forest at the base of a tall cliff named Indian Rock. Every direction you look there is some amazing scene, and there are trails, and conifers, and granite boulders, and bird species I had never seen before. From the first moments we were there, I was off wandering. I don’t think Dad and Mom knew where I was most of the time. I was pretty much of a loner, anyway, so being mostly off by myself was nothing new. The only time I ever got into trouble was right near the cabin. On one of my scrambles, I slipped on a little granite cliff, and tore a big gash in my left knee. I limped back to the cabin, bleeding profusely. The tear should have had a few stitches, but we were a long way from a doctor, so Mom put a butterfly bandage on it, and I went back to my ramblings. The scar, which was about an inch long, is still visible. If, at some point, you find yourself in the vicinity of my naked knee, I will show it to you."

   "It's hard for me to imagine being near your knee when your pants are off, but I'll keep the invitation in mind."

   "Well, I can't ask for more than that, can I?

   "Anyway, as great as it was right near the cabin, I soon found that the real adventures lay beyond. From Lily Lake, it was only a couple mile's hike to the boundary of the Desolation Valley Primitive Area. I can still sort of remember the feelings that just reading the sign brought on. I'd never felt anything like it, before!

   "I think Cliff walked with me the first time. We just went a little ways farther, and there was a pretty lake - Grass Lake - and there wasn't another soul in sight, either there or on our hike in and out. Another time, the whole family hiked to the top of Mt. Tallac  - we'll see Tallac later today, or in the morning. It was a long trip - about six miles one way - and gained about 3,000 feet, but it was a gradual climb, and none of us had any problems. 'Spectacular' isn't really a big enough word to describe the view from the top. To the east is the whole expanse of Lake Tahoe, stretching in both directions. To the west, there were peaks and snowfields and little lakes everywhere. The summit of Tallac is almost 10,000 feet above sea level, by far the highest I'd ever been in my life, and my first time in an alpine area. I loved it!

   "During the rest of that two-week vacation, I don't think there were many days when I wasn't wandering somewhere in the Primitive Area by myself. The next year was a repeat. I just couldn't get enough of the area. It was all just day hiking - I never tried to camp out - but, even so, I covered a lot of ground. My biggest adventure was a solo hike to Dick's Pass, covering about 15 miles and reaching a height of 9,400  feet - just a little lower than Mt. Tallac.

   "I'm sure I wished that vacation would never end. But, of course, it did."

   Vic waited for Greg to continue, but that seemed to be the end of the story. "You certainly embraced the mountains, didn't you? What happened next?"

   "Not much, as a family. As I recall, the cabin wasn't available the next year. Dad found us a place to go tent camping in the Sierra, and in a different place the next year. They were okay, but I was really in love with the alpine areas. Also, we were coming to the end of our family trips. I don't think Cliff made the second one with us. I think he had to work. Janna was gone only a year or two later and, of course, so was I.

   "In the meantime, I had met Jack Raymond, who became my best friend for the next two years. We were in the same grade in high school, but probably hadn't had many classes together. He was 'college prep,' and I definitely wasn't. Anyway, when somehow we discovered that both of us were a little fanatical about mountains, we became inseparable.  We read mountaineering books. We pored over maps and trail guides, and planned all sorts of trips we'd like to take. With the Sierra Club, we went on two weekend backpack trips in Yosemite. After that, we rounded up a couple more boys who liked to hike, and started doing our own trips. Through our junior and senior years, we must have gone on seven or eight trips, all of them into the kind of high country that I had first learned to love here at Tahoe. It was an amazing couple of years!"

   Greg went silent, again. "And since?" Vic prompted.

   He seemed hesitant. "I guess that was really the end. When school ended, we all just went our separate ways. Jack and some of the guys went to U. C., Berkeley, and colleges like that. One of the guys decided all he wanted to do with his life was climb cliffs in Yosemite. I think he's still there. I see his name in the paper every once in a while, having just successfully tackled some climb that had long been considered impossible.

   "I went off to a little upstate college by myself. Jack and I made a desultory attempt to keep in touch, but I guess there just wasn't enough there. We lost track of one another pretty quickly. I did okay with friends in college, but I really started with a blank slate. I'm not sure that I ever saw anybody from my senior high class, again. In fact, probably the only person from Oakland High that I stayed in touch with was my roommate and long-term friend..."

   "The Odes of Pindar guy."

  "That's the one. Anyway, I've been near the mountains a couple of times, but with school and work and nobody to go with, I've never done anything else. But I'd like to!"

   "Then, we better figure out how to do it."


   They continued the drive south, each pretty much occupied with their own thoughts. "This has been an excellent day," Vic finally said, "And I'm feeling very warmly toward you for allowing me to have it."


   "Yes, 'warmly,' as in exceedingly romantic. I'm thinking that since we are on our honeymoon, we might consummate our marriage tonight."

   He was feeling a little warm, himself, and somewhat breathless. However, he was remembering a certain conversation they'd had. 'Shut up!' said a voice in his head. 'If she doesn't remember...' But his literal/rational side won out "You do remember our conversation about consummation?" he asked, mentally kicking himself as he said it. "It's a one-time thing. Once a marriage is consummated, it is consummated."

   "Oh, I remember what you said, and I suppose that definition is valid, to a point. But I've been thinking. People re-dedicate their marriages all the time. Essentially, they get married again, even though they're still married. It's just a way of re-stating their marriage vows. If you can repeat the vows of your wedding day, why can't you re-consummate your actions of your wedding night?"

   Greg wasn't finding anything in her rationale to argue with.

   "And," she went on, "Why couldn't we re-consummate every night of our honeymoon? I mean, it would just be showing our continued dedication to one another. Just think about how many nights there are before we get home."

   "I am thinking about that," Greg replied, a little huskily.

   She ran her hand over his upper thigh. "I can see that," she said. She giggled, but not in a schoolgirl way.


   Just south of Emerald Bay, they found a nice-looking motel not far from the lake shore. Greg paid a little extra to get a room facing the lake. They cleaned up, had a relatively early dinner, then walked along the shore for a while, enjoying the still-warm evening. Greg took a few pictures of her by the water, the first photos he'd taken on the trip. She took some of him, then they enlisted a passerby to take a couple with them together.

   "I was thinking how nice it would be to have a full moon tonight, that we could watch rise over the lake, with its moonlight in a line across the water, leading right to our window. Unfortunately, it is a new moon tonight, which really means no moon."

   "A full moon would have been nice," she agreed. "But being together in a nice, big, comfy bed, imagining the view out over the lake to snowy mountains beyond, and with several zillion stars overhead - well, I think the moon may not be missed too much."


      Friday morning, they woke to bright sunshine streaming across the deep blue lake into their window. Greg propped himself up on his elbow for a better view, then lay back down. He felt very content.

   "You have some remarkably good ideas, re-consummation being one of the best yet, I think."

   "Should we write a book about it, or at least give a newspaper interview? Every couple should know about it."

  "Let's see. News headline: 'On the shore of Lake Tahoe, young couple turns age-old activity into new consecration of marriage.' We could probably give a good interview. But I wonder, is there enough for a whole book?"

   "Well, obviously not yet. You're a researcher, so you know that you can't really write about a subject until you know it in and out, backward and forward. We've only re-consummated once - well, we've only called it that, once. We would have to do it over and over again, and maybe take notes afterward about how it qualified as a re-consummation, and not just sex."

   "No, I can see that we wouldn't want it to just be sex."

   "Don't misunderstand me, Greg. It could really be fantastic sex - really, really worth it, in itself - but to be considered re-consummation, we would have to explain and describe how it qualified as a true rite - a real remembrance."

   "No, I understand what you're saying. I think it could be a really worthwhile use of my research skills."

   After that, Vic was quiet beside him for some time. "Do you remember our conversation the first time we talked about consummation?"

   "I remember when it was, yes. I'm not sure I remember everything I said. I sometimes  babble and say silly things when I'm with you. Were you remembering something in particular?"

   "You said you could only consummate once. After that, it's loving fun. Well, now we're saying that consummation doesn't have to be a one-time thing. It can be both - that, and loving fun. I think that's right. I'm just wondering, now that sex seems as much about recreation as it is about  loving - not in our case, obviously! I mean in the world, in general - well, can a married couple really have a re-consummation, if the sex isn't about love?

   "I'll go farther. Couples celebrate anniversaries - so many years, together - but it doesn't seem to me that, with a lot of couples, it really means anything except that they haven't divorced. If they're still having sex, it may not have anything to do with either love or fun. If the next time they have sex, if there isn't anything more to it than something to do, it can't really be considered a re-consummation, can it?

   "One other thought, or question. If a couple makes the effort to renew their marriage, it must be for a particular reason, right? Either to state that they love each other as much as ever, or maybe that they've rediscovered how much they love each other. They're married - they don't have to do it - but for some reason it's very important to them. I think that's what's required for a real re-consummation. Obviously, it isn't commemorating the first time you had sex with anybody, but I don't think it's necessarily in remembrance of the sex on your wedding night, or of the first time you had sex with the person you eventually married. I think the real consummation is the first time that both of you really understand what you mean to each other - and are going to mean to each other for a long, long time."

   She paused. "Wow, this re-consummation business is more complicated that I thought."

   He took hold of her hand under the covers. "Vic, you are a remarkable woman. Well, I've known that since the first... well, actually the second time I was with you. You are remarkable in many ways, but what I'm thinking about right now is how wise you are. You see things, and feel things, and understand things that most humans don't. That is not only remarkable for an almost-twenty young woman, but for anyone of any age. As wonderful as it is to make love with you - as fun as it is to just be with you - I think I treasure that part of you as much as anything."


  After they'd eaten breakfast in the coffee shop, and checked out of their room, Greg drove only a few miles before turning onto the road into Pope Beach. At the parking lot, he turned the car so they were facing west.

   "Why are we here, Greg?"

   "We are here so I can show you the big mountain mass looming in front of us, and tell you one more story. This one is about the goofiest mountain adventure I ever had.

   "This is Mt. Tallac. You may remember me telling you about my whole family hiking to the top of it."

   "I do remember. You said it was a long hike, but not too difficult a one."

   "That's right, but one Easter, Jack and I decided that we were going make it harder. We decided to climb up the snow cross to the top."

   "What's the snow cross?"

   "It's hard to see this early in the year, because there's still so much snow, but if you look over to the far left - below the highest peak of the mountain, you can make out one strip of snow that runs up and down, and another that crosses it from left to right. The snow is in some pretty deep crevices there, and it often stays year round, when everything out in the open has melted away. It becomes kind of a lopsided cross. It's become famous over the years, and all the tourists get to know about the Mt. Tallac snow cross.

   "The reason we wanted to climb it – and why we wanted to do it in winter, when neither of us had any snow and ice climbing experience – is lost to memory forever, along with a lot of other grandiose dreams of childhood. I suspect the germ of the idea had to have started with me, because I was the only one of our group who had some previous experience in the Tahoe mountains. Before we started doing things together, Jack had done most of his hiking around Sonora Pass, halfway between Tahoe and Yosemite. None of our other regulars had been in the mountains, at all. Whatever the motivation, it seemed like a good idea at the time. With two newer recruits from among our high school friends, on Easter weekend we headed off over snowy Echo Summit to Fallen Leaf Lake."

   "You don't like snow and ice."

   "I know, and I didn't like them any better, then. I never got completely comfortable on nice, dry, solid granite. Just the idea of ice climbing sounds really scary to me, even now. Jack was our most experienced mountaineer, but he had never ice-climbed. I mentioned the guy who is probably still climbing in Yosemite - his dream was to get out of the car at the base of a cliff, and start climbing. I can't imagine him ever wanting to slog through snow to a wet crevice in the face of a mountain. That's why this trip seems so weird,  looking back on it. I mean, it was an impossible trip from the start. The snow was already deep and powdery, and more fell as we hiked from Fallen Leaf Lodge up the approximate route of the trail to Floating Island Lake. As we started uphill toward the face of Tallac, we were sinking into the powder up to our waists. Finally, we decided we’d gone as  far as we could go that day, and stopped and – using our metal 'Sierra Club' cups as shovels - built a snow cave big enough to hold the four of us."

   "A snow cave?"

     "Well, it was really a big hole in the snow. We were a little worried about the top of a real cave collapsing on us, so we dug a hole, put one of our tarps over the top of it, and buried the edges of the tarp in the snow, so that it would freeze hard in place.

   "It worked fine. We were out of the wind, and the 'cave' itself was fairly warm from all our body heat. We huddled inside and told ghost stories until we finally fell asleep. "

   "Ghost stories?"

   "Sure. Isn't that what you do when you're in potentially creepy situations, and you want to scare yourself and one another?"

   "It is. You can even do it in your own bedroom, with your little sister."

   Greg laughed. "Well, the Abominable Snowman couldn't get you in your house, but I can see that the idea is the same. So, anyway, we weren't really scared, but with the wind roaring outside, and the very odd bedroom arrangements, we were all a little keyed up, I suspect.

   "Sometime in the night, something woke me up, and I began to hear  strange 'whooshing' sounds that seemed to be inside the cave with us. Soon, we were all awake, hearing this odd slurping sound. There wasn't any room in the cave for the Abominable Snowman - or anything else! - to be in there with us, but the surreal aspect of everything was enough to get us all concerned - well, three of us, anyway. Finally, Jack couldn’t keep it to himself any longer, and laughingly confessed to making the noise by sucking water off the wall of the cave. It had started because he was thirsty, and continued because he had us all going.

   "In the morning, it was gray and spitting snow. We half-heartedly climbed another hour or so, but knew we were done for this trip. When I dropped a glove and it skidded thirty feet down the hill, we unanimously decided it was time to turn back. We retrieved my glove and sloshed our way back to Fallen Leaf. Sitting in Jack's old car, drinking hot soup before heading home, I don’t think any of us were really dissatisfied with the adventure.

   "It's probably really lucky for us that conditions were so bad. Ice climbing can be pretty risky even for professionals. If we had actually got into the couloir..."

   "Cool war?"

   "Sorry, I didn't need to use that word. It's French - spelled c-o-u-l-o-i-r - and is just a name for the deep crack - fissure - that holds the ice and snow, and creates the up and down part of the 'cross.' Anyway, if we had actually tried to climb up the crack, I'm sure we would have all fallen, and our bodies wouldn't have been found until spring. Thank heavens for deep snow."

   "Wow, that is kind of a crazy story. And you really don't know why you did it?"

    Greg had started the car, and headed back to the highway. "Not a clue. 

   Not long after leaving Pope Beach, their road intercepted Highway 50, and they began the climb west over Echo Summit. It was a relatively short rise on the east side - only a thousand feet to the pass - and Greg thought that the road had been much improved since the days of his family trips. Once over the top, it was a long, gradual downhill trip all the way to the Sacramento Valley. It was a pretty trip in the canyon formed by one of the branches of the American River.

   At Pollock Pines, about an hour east of Sacramento, Greg stopped at a roadside diner. "We're going to be leaving the mountains, soon. It'll be grassy hills, farm fields, and lots and lots of people until we head north from Oakland on Monday. I thought this would be a nice place for lunch while there were still a few trees."

   "Good idea."

   It was pleasant, eating good deli sandwiches while sitting at a picnic table under tall pine trees, while a clear river rushed by. However, the sun was bright, and the temperature was already in the mid-80s.

   "The next couple of hours of our trip won't be the nicest," Greg said. "It's going to be hot - probably well up into the 90s. Our 'two 60' air condition will probably not be enough. There are a couple of sort of nice things to say, though. I caught a glimpse of a newspaper in the restaurant this morning, and it said that the Valley temperatures were over 100 earlier this week. So, 90s is good, right?"

   "If you say so. I'm not convinced. What else will be 'nice' about our trip today?"

   "Well, let's see. We will just be crossing the Valley today, not driving up or down it. Two hours of heat is better than six or seven hours of it. Also, the stretch west from Sacramento is often the coolest in the Valley, because coastal air often pushes up from San Francisco Bay. I'm only talking about maybe five degrees cooler, but any cooler is better, isn't it?"

   "Well, when you put it that way... No, I'm still not convinced."

   "While you are not liking the weather forecast, I'll add something else for you not to like. There's also going to be a lot of traffic, both because it's Friday, and because it's sort of a holiday. A lot of families will probably be traveling for Father's Day."

   "This isn't sounding good. Could we just stay here, or maybe go back to Lake Tahoe?"

   "Oh, I like the Tahoe idea. We could get our old room back, and 'research' for our book until our money for motels and food ran out."

   "And then...?"

   "Well, if we saved out a few nickels, we could drive over to Stateline, win a jackpot, and extend our research a lot longer."

   "Or, more likely, we would end up sleeping on the beach, and begging tourists for handouts. No, as unappealing as you have made it sound, I think we better go West, young man."

   "I suppose, particularly if we stop to consider that this trip is partly about family obligations. They are all on the other side of the Valley. So is the ocean and all the redwood trees. We're going to have to cross, sometime."

   Vic stood up. "Well, let's get to it."

   "Actually, there is one real decision that we need to make, today. When we originally talked about the trip, I had it in mind that we would stop tonight before we got all the way into Oakland, then go in tomorrow morning. Now, I'm wondering if we need to do that?"

   "Well, what are the pros and cons of not going to Oakland tonight?"

   "I'd say the big reasons for not stopping are that we'd be paying to stay in a motel and eat a couple meals in a restaurant when free room and board are less than an hour away. We'd probably be paying big city rates for the motel - not Winnemucca rates - and it wouldn't be in any picturesque spot. Rather than a lake or a mountain, we'd probably be looking out at a busy freeway.

   "I think my original thought was that it might be good to have a little time to relax and get cleaned up before spending two nights with the in-laws. It had also crossed my mind that having one night all to ourselves before spending two with the in-laws might be nice."

   She was quiet for a moment, as she considered. "In my mind, the cost of staying in a motel seems awfully steep for what we'd actually be getting.  We could certainly find better uses for the money. As far as needing a little relaxing time, it hasn't really been that hard a trip. We may be a little sweaty  when we get out of the car, but I don't think we'll be offensive.

   "So, that only leaves one thing to consider, and don't you think it will be a lot to pay for one night of wild, passionate, erotic, fantastic sex?"

   He glared at her until she giggled. "Perhaps I didn't word that exactly right... "

   "Perhaps you didn't."

   "I'm just saying that the honeymoon isn't over. There will still be a number of nights in motels, with nothing to do but watch television, or... Besides, even in Oakland, we will be in a bedroom by ourselves, with a bed to ourselves, and if we're relatively quiet about it.... "

   "I think you just convinced me. You'll meet my parents this evening."


   As expected, the air got hotter and the traffic got heavier as they descended into the Central Valley. Beyond Sacramento, there was still a lot of traffic, but it was moving west on Interstate 80 with no impediments. There was even the hint of a little coastal air seeping in, and lowering the temperature a few degrees.

   "I'm glad we're going on to Oakland tonight, but there is one other reason why I considered waiting until tomorrow."

   "What is it?"

   "I'm not sure - maybe my imagination - but I've been kind of dreading seeing my brother and sister. What I told you about us not really knowing each other as adults is true, but I've always felt there was something else involved. There isn't any open hostility, but it's just like they don't really consider me part of the family, anymore."

   "You said you haven't seen them very often in recent years. Maybe that's all it is - just a lack of knowledge of each other's lives."

   "Maybe so. Don't worry. Everybody is going to love you. They won't be able to help themselves. As for me, my mom and I are probably about as close as a mother and an adult son can be. My dad and I don't have much in common, but we like each other a lot, and always have a good time. It's just the sibling thing that worries me a little bit."

   Just past Fairfield, Greg left the interstate, and drove south to Benicia, crossed Carquinez Strait on the bridge to Martinez, and continued south through Concord and Pleasant Hill to Walnut Creek.

   "This is kind of the back way into Oakland," Greg explained. "There's a lot of traffic, but nothing like negotiating all the freeways through downtown Oakland at this time of day. Another good thing for us is that a lot of the people who live out in this area work in the East Bay, or even in San Francisco. That means that, at this time of day,  most of the traffic will be coming east, while we'll be going west."

   Just west of Walnut Creek, the highway entered the Caldecott Tunnel, almost a mile long. "Quite exciting for a little boy," Greg offered. A couple miles farther along, the white walls and gold turrets of the Mormon Temple dominated the view, with the large, curiously-shaped Greek Orthodox Temple a little below and to the right. They held Vic's attention for a moment, but suddenly there was something more magnificent. Spread out for her to view was the entire Bay Area - Oakland and the other East Bay communities directly below, with Lake Merritt and downtown skyscrapers (surprisingly few, for such a big city, Vic thought); the San Francisco peninsula and Marin County beyond; the vast expanse of San Francisco Bay between, spanned by the San Francisco-Oakland bay bridge; and, at the farthest distance, a bit of ocean showing beyond the Golden Gate Bridge.

   "This has to be one of the most amazing views in the world!" Vic exclaimed.

   "It would be hard to beat," Greg agreed. "I've spent a lot of time up here, looking out over all this. I never get tired of it."

   Near the bottom of the Lincoln hill, Greg turned left through long-established but well-kept neighborhoods. He stopped the car in front of a neat, two-story house.

   "Here we are," he announced.



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