Winding through the mountains in Yosemite, I kept reminding myself that these trees and snow-covered mountains were my new neighbors. I also kept reminding myself that the drop off to our side was only a danger if we drove off it. On this day, I rode shotgun in the van, carrying cooking and camping supplies for a group of California motorcyclists from Santa Cruz County on their way to Benton Hot Springs. Julianna and I left an hour before the group, hoping to make base camp before the riders and get the evening dinner going. As it was, we got lost in Yosemite, got found in Yosemite by total strangers and managed to get to the campsite in time to clean up the grills and unpack food.
Before leaving Yosemite and heading to the desert, the cooler’s ice supply needed to be replenished, so I stayed by the van while Julianna went inside. Most people that know me don’t feel comfortable when I’m left to my own devices. Not that anyone has ever died while on an adventure with me, but many people in my close circle of friends have claimed to come close. And a couple of them have had intimate conversations with God on my behalf and in my presence.
At any rate, I noticed that there were quite a few seagulls, circling the pit stop, swooping directly over the heads of the travelers. I was flabbergasted. We had been on the road for hours. The ocean was behind us. Who would have thought there would be seagulls on the desert side of Yosemite? Not me. I was captivated.
Then I got to thinking about my friend, Chris, who shoots some of the most amazing bird in flight photos that I’ve ever seen. I’d been jealous for months as he posted one fantastic shot after another. I wanted a “bird in flight” shot of my own.
As I watched the gulls, I realized they weren’t really landing, but hunting, looking for a tourist to drop a morsel, so they could swoop and pluck like they grab fish in the ocean. Then I had a brainstorm.
Sitting in my lap was an unopened bag of plain potato chips. I didn’t give one second of thought to the digestibility of potato chips to seagulls. I was driven by a sudden over powering desire to get my own “Chris” shot. Since I wanted the shot of a bird in the air, my first few chips were thrown directly up. Within seconds I had a taker. A big bugger that was hungry.
I kept throwing chips and more birds started circling me. I was so excited. I clicked a shot, threw a chip, clicked a shot, and threw another chip. With every click of the shutter I thought just one more photo would be my dream picture. As if the seagulls agreed, they kept swooping and I kept clicking. Then they started landing, walking towards the bag of free food. More birds kept coming; I thought they were staring at me as if trying to decide the best way to steal my bounty.
Too late I remembered that the first psycho birds in Hitchcock’s “The Birds” were seagulls. Where did these birds come from? Were they left over extras from the movie? Do seagulls eat meat? Do they eat skinny white women? Would they peck my eyes out when I ran out of chips?
Here I was, alone, shielded from my fellow travelers by a big blue van, frantically throwing potato chips at the flock of seagulls surrounding me. I tried to be brave, but Hitchcock just kept doing a head job on me and I finally ditched the bag of chips and ran for the van.
When Julianna returned, I was slumped in the seat. She never noticed a thing. We loaded the ice and got back on the road. I didn’t confess. But I know there’s a truck stop on the Nevada side of Yosemite with seagulls that would have made Hitchcock proud, but I didn’t know if the panic attack was worth the shot until I got home. Photo album.