It was 1981 or 82 and we had decided to visit some friends in Southern California. We weren't much for traveling in those days. Not that we didn't enjoy it; we just didn't really have the money and living in Phoenix during the summer, driving 500-600 miles in 115 degree weather just wasn't very appealing. But Janice and Andy had been insisting that we visit since they were such good friends of ours before they left our neighborhood due to his company transfer. Jane and Janice, in fact, were attached at the hip the 7 years they lived two houses down and the kids played together virtually every available moment. Jane convinced me that July this was the year to visit our good friends.
I made the arrangements for the time off from work and we were western bound that last week of August in our trusty camper. We took our time and drove the southern route to San Diego stopping several times to stretch our legs and walk a bit arriving in San Diego that evening around 5 PM where we spent a couple of nights at a very nice RV park near the water and enjoyed two days of Sea World and the San Diego Zoo before heading up the Freeway to the Mariner's home in Costa Mesa. The days were warm but with a cool breeze and the nights were absolutely delightful. Jane slept like a baby after walking both parks for a solid 8 to 10 hours but I was up and down both nights not being used to the coastal air. Driving north on the fourth day between San Diego and Los Angeles we noticed one of those drive-through animal parks and Jane insisted that we check it out. It was quite interesting with animals walking everywhere.
You would drive from one section to another waiting for each gate to open to take you to another animal grouping. Many were walking freely through the park with others just laying in the sun or in the shade and you could stop and take pictures and just take your good old time working your way through the park. It was fascinating to watch the animals in this environment as opposed to the previous day at the zoo. At each gate, there were clear warnings to keep your hands inside the windows, keep them rolled up as animals came close to the car and by all means do not honk your horn. Unfortunately, there was a car of young adults slightly ahead of us that were having quite a time trying to stir up the pot with the large cats.
You could see them taunting the lions that were in the distance in hopes they would come closer. They would call them, stick there arms and heads out the door and wave their arms furiously to get the animals attention. Fortunately, for the most part, the animals paid little attention with just a slight lift of the head, a short glance of disgust and then laying their heads back down paying basically no never-mind.
But that did not hold true for Mr. Elephant. Although the people were not trying to get his attention, he was the one that had had enough of this nonsense. He gradually made his way toward our cars but to our surprise the young couples either saw him coming or got fed up them selves with being ignored and took off just in time.
But there we were between the Elephant and the cars behind us. Not sure what was about to happen we rolled up our windows and watched as Mr. Elephant strolled to front of the camper, slightly raised his trunk, gave a slide nod, then turned and proceeded to sit on the front or our hood.
"Oh my goodness, what do we do now?" I could hear Jane speak. I must admit I was at a complete loss. The big fella did not over do it. He made his statement quite clear then stood back up and moved on with absolutely no fan fare. A couple of tons on my hood left quite an impression, if you know what I mean. At first I was most concerned about my radiator but once outside of the park where we could stop there was no indication of anything leaking.
I pulled up to the office, the people were very apologetic and both the park and ourselves made a few calls to the insurance companies and within an hour or so we were off and on our way to Andy and Janice's. As we pulled onto the San Diego freeway heading north, we had not gone more than 3 miles and a car about 4 cars in front of us got impatient and tried to switch lanes not noticing the car next to them and before they knew it there was a three car pile up that we just barely missed - two cars and a camper. After seeing that everyone seemed to be just fine, we noticed that cars were starting to drive onto the shoulder to get around the crash site. We decided to follow them since we were tired and running a bit late after being held up at the park. What we did not notice was that for some reason, the camper also left the scene of the accident before any Highway Patrol arrived.
Jeff Gustafson is a media professional with iMpro, LLC. An accomplished singer/songwriter as well as founder of http://www.myhatt.com an international cultural awareness concept and StrategyGolfCentral.