Above the fray

Recently I had the fortunate opportunity to take a family vacation that included visits to Yosemite and Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Parks.

Recently I had the fortunate opportunity to take a family vacation that included visits to Yosemite and Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Parks. My wife and I were looking forward to spending time observing and appreciating the parks' beauty and history. Our three kids (two of whom are teenagers and one of whom thinks she is) were looking forward to the fact that our rental minivan would have WiFi. I'll admit I was pretty happy that the WiFi hotspot device doubled as a navigation system, to guide me from one park to the other and every other stop on the trip.

But then something happened on the way to King's Canyon. The remote, high-altitude path we traveled had little if any cell reception, which meant no WiFi hotspot for the van's passengers. We may have been too far above whatever cell towers existed in the region to make use of them, but I can't say that we were above the fray. In fact, the inside of that minivan was the fray for a while. A 15-, 13-, and 10-year-old without internet access, unable either to document their travels on social media or to stream music to drown out everyone else in the vehicle, made for a testy bunch. I didn't count the number of times someone said, "Stop touching me," because most of the time I was just trying not to drive over a steep cliff. But I know that three-word phrase was said, or shouted, often.

Looking at it from a real-life perspective, though, that tempest in a minivan actually was above the fray. When we exited our hotel on the morning we made the drive to Yosemite, we could smell the Detwiler Fire that was about 35 miles away and had forced people from their homes and businesses.

After visiting the parks, we eventually made our way to San Francisco for the remainder of our trip. The WiFi worked just fine for that leg of the journey, so everyone's earbuds were in and no one had to listen to my views on life anymore.

In the city, as had been the case earlier in the trip, we all got some perspective again. One morning a few of us were awake and making our way through some city streets before sunrise. We noticed that overnight, while we slept in the comfort of our hotel room, some people had been emptying trash cans on the sidewalk, no doubt looking for something of value or something to eat.

One of my teenagers was with me that morning, and we talked about the reality that the city that's a tech hot spot and home to some of the wealthy athletes she watches on TV, is also home to the homeless and others in great need. We, thankfully, are not in that circumstance. Nor have we been forced from home by a natural disaster. But it reminds us all that there are things in life far more important than good WiFi reception. I try to maintain that perspective.

Patrick McLaughlin
Chief Editor
patrick@pennwell.com

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