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Words: Laura Austin
Photos: Laura Austin & Matt Petricone

You know those road trip movies like National Lampoon's Vacation where absolutely everything that can go wrong does? And you think there is no way all these horrible things could happen in one road trip, that it becomes over the top and hilarious. Well I recently did just that, everything that could go wrong did, except for maybe the dead grandmother, pulling a dog behind the bumper, and Wally World.

Laura Austin Road Trip 01

In the state of California it is illegal to text while driving. Shooting photos while driving probably isn't the best idea either. Photo: Laura Austin

My friend from New York City, Matt Petricone, was in town for the weekend and naturally he wanted to go snowboarding. I had suggested Bear Mountain, since this was a last minute trip and Bear is one of the closer resorts being only about 2 hours away from Southern California. But Matt seemed to really want to go to Mammoth since he wanted to get some powder turns in. Knowing that it hadn't snowed at Mammoth for a bit, I agreed anyway because this was his first time riding in California and I didn't want to spoil it for him. Normally when you take a trip to Mammoth from Orange County, you dedicate at least a whole weekend to it, leave early Friday morning, get back Sunday night. By the time we had decided we were going to Mammoth, it was already Friday night. Knowing that we wouldn't leave till Saturday morning, we checked out a map online just to see the distance. Which may have been a bad idea. While looking it over, Matt noticed that Yosemite National Park was just a few extra hours out of the way to Mammoth. Being a photographer, he was pretty pumped on the idea of checking it out. And once again, I didn't want to spoil his trip so I went along with the idea thinking it would be cool to see Yosemite and drive straight through the park to Mammoth. That was that, I set my alarm for 5AM Saturday morning to begin our 7 hour drive up to the National Park.

Laura Austin Road Trip 02

You never know what kind of gems you will find at thrift stores, especially in the middle of nowhere. Plastic edged snowboards will be huge in 2013. Photo: Laura Austin.

Things went wrong before the trip even started. When I woke up the next morning and noticed it was light outside, I realized there was no way it was 5AM. Sure enough it was 8, my alarm hadn't gone off, and we didn't get on the road till 9. The drive up wasn't too bad actually, lots of farms, flat lands, and small towns. And we made good time, getting to Yosemite a few hours before the sun was setting, giving us enough time to snap some photos.

Laura Austin Road Trip 06

After driving for hours on end, the littlest things become amusing. Photo: Laura Austin

When we pulled up to the station to buy our park pass for the day, we asked the ranger the way to get on the road that takes us straight through the park to Mammoth. "Oh that road is closed during the winter," she replied nonchalantly. Matt and I looked at each other wide eyed then asked what would be the quickest way to get to Mammoth. She proceeded to tell us that in order to get to our destination that we would have to drive back the way we came, around the park, and up to Mammoth and proceeded to tell us it would take 9 hours. 9 HOURS! That was longer than it took for us to just to get to Yosemite. Before we lost all hope we decided we would cruise through the park for a bit to see what there was to see and figure out the next step once the sun set. If you ever get the opportunity to see Yosemite, do it. There is a view that will take even the most heartless, nature hater's breath away and make a hell of a road trip well worth it.

Laura Austin Road Trip 03

And you thought crotch rockets were panty droppers? Yosemite National Park. Photo: Laura Austin

After the ooh's and ahhs, playing with deer, snapping a ton of photos, and being entertained by the other tourists, we asked the ranger if we could borrow her map to make a plan of attack. We found a route that seemed somewhat shorter, which would take us north all the way up to South Lake Tahoe area and bring us around the park and back down to Mammoth. What we thought would be a 2 hour detour to see Yosemite, turned into 7. That night we drove as far north as the energy drinks would allow and found a Best Western to stay at in the random town of Jackson.

Laura Austin Road Trip 04

This little guy came out of nowhere while we were shooting photos. Matt was convinced it was his spirit animal and proceeded to chase it into the woods. Photo: Laura Austin

After a few hours of sleep we woke up around 6AM, crawled back into my car, and started on the 5 long hours we had ahead of us until we could get onto snow. We wrapped around mountain passes getting off track every now and then. Relying on a cell phone GPS in areas where you have absolutely no reception is a horrible idea, but definitely keeps things interesting. We made it to Mammoth around noon. After 13 plus hours of driving, it was finally time to get on a snowboard.

Laura Austin Road Trip 05

How do you make a milkshake? Give a cow a pogo stick. Photo: Laura Austin

Mammoth is normally an amazing place to ride, huge mountain, fun park, great tree runs, etc. But the day Matt and I rode there was not one of its better moments. Let's just say, 13 hour drive to the mountain didn't end in pow turns. Had we come a week later we would have hit the 9-13 foot dump. Luckily anytime on a snowboard is a good time and we managed to have some fun with park laps and cruising around. With the luck we had so far on the trip I'm just thankful there weren't any broken bones. After fitting in as many laps as we could it was time to head home, the 5 and a half hour drive that should have been smooth sailing.

Matt Petricone Road Trip 14

Mammoth. Photo: Matt Petricone

Of course it wasn't that simple, as if we hadn't gone through enough drama already. About an hour after we left Mammoth, my back right tire explodes. At this point there was nothing to do but laugh. How could so many things go wrong on one trip? Luckily I had a spare to throw on my car, and Matt to help out changing the tire and soon we were back on our way. Only 4 more hours till I was back in the comfort of my home.

Laura Austin Road Trip 08

If your car starts to shutter when you reach speeds over 60 MPH, it is time to change your tires. Photo: Laura Austin

Matt Petricone Road Trip 13

Unothodox tire changing methods. Photo: Matt Petricone

Karma must have mistaken me for Charles Manson, because two hours after the first tire popped, a second one went. By this time a bit of panic started to set in, we were stuck in the middle of a desert, without another spare, and the closest town an hour behind us. Luckily we had cell reception and were able to call a tow truck to take us, and my car an hour back to the nearest town, Lone Pine.

Laura Austin Road Trip 09

Flat tire #2. Stranded in the desert and the last exit we passed was for Death Valley. All signs point to doomed. Photo: Laura Austin

There was a single mechanic in town, which wouldn't be open till the morning, so we had no choice but to get a hotel for the night. Knowing that I would have to fork out a shitload of money for both the tow truck and getting all my tires replaced, we went somewhere cheap. At this point I would have been satisfied with a sleeping bag and floor space. I was exhausted. Luckily no diseases were contracted.

Laura Austin Road Trip 10

Lone Pine, California. A strange little town with the most ridiculous backdrop. Photo: Laura Austin

. The next morning while waiting for my tires to be replaced Matt and I explored the sleepy little town of Lone Pine, the place where the movie Tremors was filmed. After laying down around $200 for the tow truck, over $500 for all new tires, and the 4 hour drive back to Southern California, what many people may consider the worst road trip ever, was over.

Laura Austin Road Trip 11

At this point there is nothing to do but shake your head and laugh. Worrying is about as effective as chewing bubble gum to solve an algebra problem. Photo: Matt Petricone

Yet if I had to do it again, I would not change a single thing. If this whole trip had gone smoothly, I wouldn't have written this post, I wouldn't have a majority of these pictures, and a few years down the line… I probably wouldn't have remembered this weekend. A trip that might make most people never want to drive more than an hour away again, made me realize smooth sailing is boring.

Matt Petricone Road Trip 15

Home stretch. Photo: Matt Petricone

So for your next road trip to go ride….

– Plan at least a few days in advance
– Map your route and make sure all roads are open
– Check snow conditions of the mountain destination.
– Make sure your car functions properly and your tires aren't past their tread wear line
Or ignore all of the above and prepare yourself for one of the best adventures you have ever been on.

Laura Austin Road Trip 12

The end. Photo: Laura Austin