CC and I spent the first two nights of our trip at a basic motel in Mariposa, 35 miles outside the gates of Yosemite. It had everything we needed - comfy beds and a TV with cable. On the first night, we flopped on the beds, drank rosé wine and watched the 2-hour finale of America's Next Top Model. Perfect girly vacation, so far.
The motel was fully booked for the weekend, so for days 3 and 4, we had arranged housing at a KOA "Kampground" somewhat nearer western gate of Yosemite. CC said her "friend" had told her the KOA was a nice place. I was skeptical because I remembered KOAs from my youth.
When I was a kid, my family camped a lot and we considered KOAs the campground of last resort. They always seemed to be little more than dirt parking lots kitted out with the most minimal, rundown and cheesy facilities. I remember showers that were alternately freezing and scalding...laundry rooms with dustballs and spiders in the corners...sad-eyed, filthy children chewing on cold hot dogs as we walked past to the unheated swimming pool.
On our way into Yosemite on day 3, we drove through the Yosemite West/Mariposa KOA Kampground and, much to my surprise, it looked nice. Leafy and cool, with a little lake and these tiny log "Kabins." One of the kabins was to be our home for the night, but it was too early to check in, so we continued on to Yosemite and returned just as the sun was setting about 8 pm.
The office was closing and the clerk was locking up, but she told us the key was inside our kabin, which was across the lake. We drove across a long bridge, down a gravel road, past a bunch of RVs and found our place, K22, which looked charming as hell from the outside. It had a little wooden swing on the front porch, a barbecue grill and a picnic table outside overlooking the green lake.
We walked inside. Hm. One small room with a double bedstead with a thin, plastic covered mattress. A fanlight in the ceiling. A tiny table attached to the wall. Another very small room with 2 bunk beds jammed in. And...and nothing.
"CC?" I asked. "Where's the bathroom?"
We looked around hopefully, comically, as if another door might appear that would lead us to the facilities. We walked outside, all the way around the Kabin, still with a wisp of possibility.
We stood around outside with our hands on our hips, peering into the falling darkness for some sort of bathroom nearby. CC dug out the little map they had given us. It is copyrighted, so I have taken the liberty of producing my own version:
The nearest bathroom - and running water - was about 1/4 mile away down a gravel road, over a bridge.
Have I mentioned that I have the World's Tiniest Bladder? And have I told you about the blisters I had all over my feet from hiking around all day? No?
"Not acceptable!" I barked. "This is ridiculous."
"It will be fine," said CC. Have I mentioned that CC is the most positive-thinking person on earth?
"No it won't!" I yelled. "I am not meant for this type of thing!"
"I'll walk you to the bathroom," she said. "I have a flashlight."
"Oh, yeah, right, three times a night we're going to walk 1/2 mile round trip to the bathroom in the pitch dark over a bridge in an area with BEARS," I shot back. "No, we aren't."
So then, at my insistence, we drove back down to Mariposa in a futile attempt to find a motel. The 10-mile trip down was silent and tension-filled. Occasionally CC would try to placate me and I would snap at her. We scoured Mariposa's eight motels and one charming inn, but the only room we could find was at a filthy Super 8 - one king bed in a smoking room.
After holding my head in my hands a bit, I decided no. Even getting eaten by bears was better than that.
The drive back through the black night to the Yosemite West/Mariposa KOA was even more silent. I could feel my shoulders creeping up around my ears and my back muscles locking up.
I walked in the kabin and threw my stuff on the double bed. I was in such a foul mood that I didn't even put on the pretense of asking CC if it was ok. I relegated her to the bunk beds with no consideration whatsoever. As I put my sheets on the plastic mattress, she said "It will be FUN!"
"Don't you even try to make this ok," I hissed.
I laid on my bed blankly looking at the glaring ceiling light (the only light there was), a bottle of warm screw-top chardonnay clutched in my hand. I didn't have a cup, so I drank out of the bottle. The warm wine was so awful that I could only choke down a couple of swallows before I abandoned the hope of reaching drunken oblivion.
I could hear the sound of CC flipping the pages of a newspaper in the other room and people crunching through the gravel on the long walk to the bathrooms. I laid there thinking of how I was going to get through the night - should I pee outside on the ground? Make the walk, even though my feet were shredded? Or...
I spotted the plastic trash can, which was lined with a plastic bag. The light bulb went on over my head.
Yes, I did, my people. I got up three times that night and squatted to pee into a trash can. I put some paper towels in for sound dampening and stuck it out on the porch between uses.
I felt pretty bad that I was leaving the staff a trash can full of pee, but I was also furious that they would rent me a toiletless kabin for $110 a night.
When we were leaving before the office opened in the morning, I wrote a note on the pay envelope, asking not to be charged and explaining my issues with the kabin and telling them we would not be staying a second night.
"Do you feel better now?" CC asked.
"Let us leave this wasteland and brush its dirt from the hem of our robes and never speak of this again," I said grandly, determined to resurrect my good mood.
Breakfast at the historic Ahwahnee Hotel in the park, complete with brioche French toast and a courtly Romanian waiter helped me to put the KOA behind me. Later in the day, I apologized to CC for my bad behavior.
When I got home, I checked my bank statement online and of course, they had not removed the charge.
I emailed them and asked for a refund, given that our lodging was actually not lodging, but a cramped, facilityless hellhole on earth. They sent this charming reply:
Your reservation was made online and it does have what each kabin has. It isn't the campgrounds fault you didn't read what you reserved. You could of chose a lodge with bathroom and kitchen. The kabin you chose is exactly 200 foot steps to the restroom and we do not have bears.
Have a good day
Yosemite Mariposa KOA
Then I didn't feel so bad about the pee. People who don't use apostrophes and who don't know that it should be "could have" instead of "could of" deserve whatever they get.