In order to get the Z3 to the camp site, we had already driven about a quarter mile down a road that the car was never meant to go down. It was dusty, there were big rocks, and the small hill I had to crest to get off the main road and onto this path was so steep, I only saw sky staring back at me through the windshield.
So we’d driven about sixty-odd miles up into the mountains east of Fresno on these beautiful winding roads that hugged the sides of cliffs and were punctuated with cows. Around every other bend, five or six cows poked their heads out from behind trees at the passing cars. There were cattle guards across the roads, but they didn’t seem to be very effective. I drove through at least one pile of cow shit.
We had two huge bundles of firewood wedged in the back, on top of our gear, throwing splinters around the car every time I braked. You can fit a lot of shit in the back of one of these things, but sometimes you don’t really want to, you know?
Eventually, after a whole lot of switchbacks and sweeping mountain vistas over a half-droughted lake, we crossed a bridge and had to cut right down a dirt road. The road didn’t look bad until we got on it, and then it went up, and down, and then it tilted right, and then it went down again.
I eased the car’s nose onto it, and we made it. Not gonna lie, I felt pretty cool. We parked in the lot next to the camping field, surrounded by slightly larger cars and much larger trucks and unpacked.
The next morning, after coffee and some breakfast, we re-packed. It was early, but already hot. Gross. I did not want to lug all of our gear back up a small hill and across the parking lot to the car. I decided to drive the car right down into the campsite and load up there.
Getting across the parking lot was easy. Going about halfway down the even-more-sand-like connector road was pretty straightforward. But backing down the deeply rutted hill into the campsite was going to be a challenge. There were deep cuts where too many pickups had gone before, and soft sand the whole way. A fencepost stuck up on the edge, marking a deep ditch, but obscured by tall grass.
Many of us were sure I’d bottom out and get stuck.
I had my buddy Kevin spot me, as I backed the Z3 down and to the left, hugging the corner, trying not to lose a wheel in the truck ruts, or a fender to the post. It was slow going.
But I made it! Laziness won! Nobody had to walk a bunch of folding chairs and camping gear across a parking lot!
Let this be a lesson to you, dear reader. Believe in your small, strange car, and you too can take it off-road and go camping. You’ll be glad you did!