Muir Woods & Trumpet Playing Taxi Driver

Day 3: Sunday March 17th: Saint Patrick’s Day. Coffee and breakfast at Denny’s again, then off to Muir Woods. We decided to take a Taxi on the recommendation of the Hotel Concierge. Cab fare at $60 was cheaper than paying $18 a person for a Tour Bus and more convenient. It took over an hour to get to the park, which is north of San Francisco. We crossed the Golden Gate and stayed on Highway 101 continuing into the country past the city of Sausalito, which was below us in a valley. We turned off 101 and headed up hill on a windy road into the forest to Muir Woods National Monument. The cab dropped us off and told us that he could not come back and pick us up, it was out of his area. When we realized we did not have cell phone service we began to wonder about how we would get back. Bill explained our situation to the Ranger at the Visitor’s Center and he said, no problem. Just let him know when we were ready to leave and he’d call a cab to come pick us up. So off we headed down the path into the beautiful Red Wood forest.
Redwoods in Muir WoodsThe trees were so magnificent. Taller than anything we had ever seen. The forest floor was covered with ferns and many species of plant and flora that we did not recognize. We stopped at one large tree that had a plaque with a photo of persons standing beside in the 1920s. You could see that the trunk had expanded in the 90 years since. It was impossible to get photos showing the height of any of the trees. Most towering well over 100 feet. But these trees are not the tallest or largest trees in the world. The tallest Redwood, also the tallest known tree in the world measuring 379 feet, is somewhere in the Redwood National Forest in northern California. The exact location has never disclosed in order to protect this tree and its fellow redwoods from human encroachment. The largest tree in the world is a giant Sequoia located in Sequoia National Park in California. It is 275 feet tall and measures 25 feet diameter.

The weather was very nice. We hiked along the trail, enjoying the views, straining our necks to see the tops of the trees. I can’t say it was a peaceful place as it was crowded with hikers, all trying to enjoy nature. As we ascended higher, the path became narrower, snaking along a ledge and between the trunks of trees and large boulders. There were signs posted warning visitors to stay on the path and not to disturb the environment in any way. No picking plants, moving fallen branches or treading on the sensitive ferns. It seems that one family was not able to read English as they moved off the path to frolic in the woods. The parents and their three small children (all under age of 10) were climbing all over a fallen tree, in and out of its hollow trunk taking photos as they laughed and talked in their native tongue, which sounded German. Bill expressed concern for the children, hoping they stay on the path ahead and not fall over the edge as it was a long way down.

After we got back to the visitor’s center Bill asked the Ranger to call our cab, which he did. It was around 3 pm and our cab would take about 40 minutes to get here. So we sat on some benches and ate the snacks we brought with us and drank from our bottles of water. We waited and waited. Around 3:30 we moved closer to the entrance so as not to miss our ride and there we waited some more. After an hour of no cab, Bill returned to the Center and asked the Ranger if he could check on our ride. When he called, the dispatcher said that the driver did not want to come up this far. “It would have been nice to call and let us know.” So the Ranger called a second Cab company. This one said they’d be here in 30 minutes. So again we waited. Now we were a little skeptical. Bill began to speculate that maybe this guy wouldn’t come either, thinking he may drive all the way up here to find his riders already gone, costing him gas money and time. So Bill tried to hatch an alternative plan.

He went up to one of the Tour busses in the parking lot and asked the driver if we could hitch a ride with them back to the city, that we’d pay. The driver said he was not permitted to do this. John started talking about walking all the way down the hill to the city of Sausalito and getting a ride from there. Not sure how far it was, but I bet it would have taken us all night to get there. We thought maybe we could ask someone who was leaving if we could go along, but that would be problematic as there were four of us and any vehicle would have to have a lot of room for extra passengers. As park visitors thinned out we became more concerned about our options. At this point I blurted out, “Well, I’m going to pray about it.” So I began to address the Almighty aloud, “Lord, we don’t want to be here all night. Can you please see to it that our Cab gets here. Thank you.” No sooner had I finished my prayer, than we saw the familiar Taxi light on a car coming into the parking lot. “Yeah! Here he is. Thank you Lord.”

As we all moved toward the approaching cab we heard the sound of a trumpet blaring out of the open windows. Inside the driver, an angel from God, was blowing on Gabriel’s trumpet? Well no matter. We were desperate. We jumped in and thanked our new savior, one Alfonz Marin, who put his instrument back on his lips and began to play ‘Oh Danny Boy’ – in honor of St. Patrick’s Day – as he drove us out of the park. The blaring of the horn was unnerving, but more unsettling was the way our new Messiah was driving. Down the winding hill he flew, holding his instrument with his right hand, steering with his left. To make the drive even more treacherous, Al had to let go of the wheel to down shift – yes this cab was a stick shift. When he whizzed between an oncoming biker and a left turning vehicle in front of us, steering with one hand while blowing a tune on his trumpet, we truly feared for our lives. Evelyn said she was getting sick – not sure if it was caused by the way we were being slung from side to side with each curve in the road, or by the heightened anxiety she was experiencing. Later she told us she actually saw Al remove his one hand from the steering wheel so he could muffle the sound at the end of his horn, at which time his knees took over the steering wheel.

I’m sure we would have enjoyed our musical serenade a lot more if we were not holding on so tight and praying under our breath. I even reverted to reciting ‘Hail Marys’ the one Catholic prayer still in my repertoire. When Al wasn’t playing his horn we heard about his family and the 7 room hotel on Stinson Beach that he and his wife ran. Bill’s mention of the movie ‘Scent of a Woman’ in which Al Pacino plays a blind man who actually drives a Ferrari with only the verbal directions of his passenger, Al began to play the theme from the Godfather. The only time Al got serious and drove like he had some sense was when we were on Highway 101 heading toward the city and he saw two cop cars along the side of the road. But he soon reverted back to his bad behavior when we approached a toll booth. “I need $6 toll,” he announced. We hastily handed the bills to him. As he pulled up to the window, he put his instrument up to this mouth and began to belt out a tune from the Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass, downshifted with his left hand, and the tossed the bills to the attendant, who was shaking his head in disbelief. All we could do by now was laugh.

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