I love the new T-Mobile commercials.

They’re the ones with with the guy leaving a message for a girl he obviously likes a lot. There are so many great moments in those commercials. I wish I could have been in the room when they were writing those commercials. Pure genius!

And now it’s time for the Hot Cocoa Swap question of the week!
What is your most memorable vacation? Where did you go? What made it memorable?

OK, first let me preface this by saying, if my parents are and I are on a family vacation, it doesn’t matter where we are, I will find the cheesiest, tackiest place in a 1000 mile radius and make them go.

One year while I was still living in San Francisco, my mom thought it would be nice if we went to Tahoe and stayed for a couple of days. Sure. Tahoe is beautiful in the summer. So the plan was to stay in a cabin in Truckee and the next day do the drive around Lake Tahoe, possibly stop in a casino on the Nevada side and do a little gamblin’. As we’re driving into Truckee there’s a large billboard with the cast of Bonanza on it. The billboard read someone like, “Ponderosa Ranch, exit blah.” So now I’m getting excited. (Keep in mind I’m in my mid-twenties) My mom already knows what is going to be coming out of my mouth and before I can get a “Oh, we’re sooooo going to the Ponderosa Ranch,” She’s already thrown down the, “There’s no way we’re going.” And she followed with, “it’s probably not the real Ponderosa ranch. It’s probably a dude ranch that uses their likeness or something.” I think I might have countered with an, “I’ll yell the entire way around the lake, if we don’t go.” (I was kidding of course. I wouldn’t had a voice after the first mile.) So we get to where we’re staying, unload the car, and go grab something to eat. After dinner we head back to the cabin and have a nice relaxing evening.

The next day we get up and get on the road for the scenic drive around the lake. As we’re driving and oooo’ing and ahhh’ing at how beautiful it is, I’m trying out comments like “I wonder if Hos and Little Joe are gonna be at the ranch when we get there.” (yeah, I’m suprized my parents still admit that I’m their child.) So around lunchtime we hit the Nevada side. We passed several quickie wedding chapels and joke about it a bit. We decide to pull into Denny’s a grab a bite to eat. Well one of the couples that was coming out of one of the chapels that we passed, walks in… with their wedding party. At this point mom and I are a bit shocked that they’re having their reception, for all intents and purposes, at Denny’s. I make some crack about it and I get my mom laughing to the point where she has to step outside to regroup. My poor dad has to deal with mom and I cutting up. I think at this point he knows that something is going to happen to make mom and I laugh until one of us has to stop for a moment.

After we regroup, pay our bill and leave Denny’s we were on our way again. When we got to a group of casinos/hotels, dad unfortunately didn’t feel he could get over to the parking lot from the inside lane on the road, so gambling away my college tuition was out of the question. We kept going around the lake and every now and then we’d see a billboard for the Ponderosa Ranch and I would beg to go. By the time we got within a few miles of the place I think I had broken my parents spirit and they finally relented.

We pull into the parking lot and there were a few cars but it looked like it was almost deserted. Dad had to park under a tree to keep the car cool while we did the tourist thing. This meant that the car was about a half a mile away from entrance. We get up the the entrance and I ask dad to take a picture of me and mom in front of the mini wagon that said Ponderosa Ranch. Dad “conveniently” left the camera in the car. Mom and I made him go back to get it. While we were waiting for dad to come back, a group of people came up to the entrance from the lot. They were dressed in a kinda dressy casual look. And while mom and I were wondering what these people were doing all dressed up, a “guide” came down the hill – all dressed in Ponderosa Ranch wear. A cowboy hat, a leather vest, levis and a dress cowboy shirt. For some reason I seem to remember thinking he has a moustache, ala Sam Elliot. The ranch hand says to the group, “are you all here for the So and So’s wedding?” And mom and I looked at each other and we both mouthed the word “wedding?” The group said, “yes” and were taken up the hill to the wedding. Mom and I could barely contain our laughter. By this point dad was back with the camera wonder what the heck just happened. This was when I realized that this would be the best family vacation ever.

We paid the entrance fee and made our way up the hill to the ranch. While we were there, there were 3, count ’em, 3 weddings happening there. It was actually kinda cool. They basically built a small town on a hill so that they could film everything in one spot. Some of the buildings were just fronts and other buildings – the church, the saloon and the actual Ponderosa Ranch were full buildings. They built these places with moving walls and such so that they could easily film from different angles without it getting to crazy.

While we were there, there was a guy, who I’m pretty sure was an Elvis impersonator, or Elvis himself, and he seemed to be following us everywhere. He had a camcorder and would point it at a sign and then read the sign. I’m assuming his family is illiterate or not at all hooked on phonics. We got in line to take the tour of the house where Hos, little Joe, Ben and Adam all lived with their cook Hop Sing (yeah, the Cartwrights were not at all politically correct). When we finally got in the house, the tour guides were this elderly women, who may have been alive during the actual wild west. They explained how their were certain sections of the walls that would move for easy filming. Kinda cool… but Elvis and his camcorder were with us on this tour. So everything the ladies and the video that they showed us said, he repeated in the camcorder. At the end of the tour, the big Ponderosa theme song came on the elderly ladies, told us that if we turned around we could see where Hos, Adam, Ben and little Joe hung up their hats for the last time in 1973 (oddly the same year I was born. Coincidence?). Mom and I couldn’t hold it in anymore we we let out with a laugh and we very nicely told that our tour had ended. Poor dad, quite the whole time. He was probably telling people that this was our first day out of the funny farm.

And that was most memorable vacation… until we go to Graceland!

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