Photo Credit: Jewish Press

If you are not particularly current on California vacation spots, please do not allow the above title to fool you. Not only am I decidedly not a bear person, I seldom go near any four-legged creature larger than a newborn kitten. And I am admittedly terrified beyond words of virtually all really small critters, especially those of the insect and rodent varieties.

In fact, I was always under the impression that those well-meaning environmentalists who choose to live among the wild animals are generally somewhat out to lunch. And I ultimately admit to feeling vindicated when, often as not, said do-gooders in fact end up becoming the bears’ or lions’ lunch.

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The big bear I am referring to is a very popular west coast vacation destination, especially during the snow-covered winter months. We were residents of Los Angeles for nine years, and never once saw a drop of snow falling from the Southern California skies. However, we had neither the time nor the wherewithal to brave the treacherous (not to mention bone-chilling cold) trek to Big Bear during high season; instead we took advantage of its offerings during the lazy months of summer.

We were fortunate enough to have our brother-in-law, sister-in-law and their children fly out from the east coast and join us for one such summer expedition. And it subsequently turned out to be by far the most memorable of all.

The main feature and tourist attraction that Big Bear boasts is undoubtedly the Alpine Slide, which provides delightful entertainment for countless visitors each season. For the record, it is basically a go-cart ride zigzagging its way down the side of the mountain.

I have never been a particularly huge fan of go-carts (or even Southern California driving in general) so I was more than content to sit facing the mountain and observing our various far more daring family members enjoy the ride.

My daredevil husband obtained permission to hold our youngest son on his lap as he made the descent. Unfortunately, he recklessly decided to take the perilous turns at breakneck speed. B’chasdei Hashem no necks were actually broken that day, but not for lack of trying. Our young, innocent little boy was suddenly thrown from the vehicle, thankfully landing in the grass, and suffering only minor injuries.

Behind them came our next-to-youngest son, who suffers from severe car-sickness even on a routine road trip. After witnessing the debacle with his father and brother moments earlier, he opted to take the potentially dangerous curves slowly. Actually very slowly. Pretty much in slow motion. The line of passengers awaiting their turns grew increasingly longer and more impatient, as our clueless son rode the brake the entire way down the mountain. The painstaking journey was made all the more pronounced (and mortifying) by the relentless announcements over the loudspeaker:

“He’s approaching the Bunny Hill… He made it to the Bunny Hill…” etc.

We seriously did not know whether to laugh or cry! However, unlike his hapless younger sibling, he eventually made it down the mountain still inside the cart… and blessedly unscathed.

The next hair-raising Big Bear adventure started out as a leisurely family excursion, but, in true Klein family road trip fashion, soon evolved into a death-defying never-to-be-forgotten fiasco.

All of us ascended to the top of the mountain in the scenic cable car ride, and appreciatively Oohed and Aahed over the breathtaking vistas. Then, after a comfortable interlude of enjoying the views from the summit, the males and females in our group parted ways. The gals opted for the pleasant descent via cable car, while the guys voted to rent bikes and ride all the way down the mountain.

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