We drove up the snake-like road that hugged the fuzzy mountainside toward the Rattle Snake Canyon wildlife reservation. The soft, rolling hills stood like grassy ant piles around us in varies shades of green. The brush was thin and the wind constantly robust.
A large sign stood elevated above us that read “Santa Barbara Bjorklund Ranch.” Our beloved, trusty Subaru crackled on loose rocks as we crept beneath the sign. We drove up a steep and unpaved road only to be run off the road by what seemed to be a disgruntled employee who sneered at us as he bullied us out of the driveway. We would find out later that he was the owner of the property.
The ad said “a unique, one-of-a- kind experience” when I investigated the vacation rental in Santa Barbara and the website introduced a thirty-foot yurt nestled in the mountains, overlooking the city and ocean. I read recently that yurts were gaining popularity for its eco-friendly design.
Sleeping in a yurt never crossed my mind until reading the ad because it appeared as if staying in a yurt interconnected with a spiritual experience. Much like camping in a 5-star tent, yurts are large, round, open structures with high ceilings reaching to a skylight in the center. The walls are made from a heavy, insulated material and supported by wooden lattice.
The car-trip was planned carefully to Monterey California with my husband and 4-month-year old to attend my brother-in-laws graduation. I welcomed new experiences.
Pulling up in front of a large circus tent structure, I noticed right away it didn’t look as splendid like the pictures on the internet. Opening the door, a trapezes swing hung directly in the middle of the rounded tent and appeared to grab the spotlight as the window from above lit the ropes all the way to down to the bar. The swing hung low and I imagined short carnies entertaining a crowd of yurt lovers.
A closet half-open containing cleaning supplies, a broom and clothing iron were tossed haphazardly like a teenager trying to hide a mess from their parents.
A dingy, off-white accent lambskin rug draped over a forest green couch presented a sofa that was no longer suede. It crossed my mind that if I used the lambskin rug for toilet paper no one would notice. The couch offered a glossy sheen from where the suede had been rubbed off by past visitors and stuffing was lacking in several places much like a flat tire.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I blurted out.
It rained the night before because the ceiling, made of plastic, was hanging along the circumference of the roof and resembled canteens full of water, forming stalactites.
A door leading to the back deck constantly puttered against the door frame no matter how many times it was locked. The noise surrendered when a chair became wedged against the doorknob. The sundeck presented the stage for sun-rotted table and chairs almost good enough for firewood. The hammock whipped in the wind and when I went to lay on it my butt touched the ground.
The ocean or city were nowhere in sight. A chainsaw echoed in the near distance.
The bathroom, a wooden fort topped with a tin roof, whistled as the wind blew through the cracks in the lumber and housed a vintage claw-foot bathtub. The toilet sat outside and down 20 stairs from the yurt in an outhouse-size room with a sink and toilet minus the walls. When I used the toilet it felt like I stepped into a 30 mph wind-tunnel and the owner stared at me in a photograph of herself as her boobs peeked through a Hawaiian lay.
The only thing that seemed sanitary was the bed. I stood grateful and called the queen sized bed my diamond in the rough.
I stepped into the deep bathtub and a large spout with a pull-chain attached hung over my head. Water flowed out only when pressure was put on the chain; a water saving device. The wind picked up and the plastic shower curtain plastered to my butt and thighs like silicone. I desperately tried to remove the cold material off my skin, reminding myself how unsanitary it probably was.
The hot water turned on me and out flowed ice cold water as I began rinsing the shampoo from my hair. Franticly, I washed the remaining lather out of my hair and stepped out of the tub into the frigid Santa Barbara air.
The sole form of heat the oversized tent relied upon was a wood burning stove. The owners dropped off wet wood for us to burn and send smoke into the California night air.
A shiny axe laid against the woodstove, on a large piece of flagstone and invited visitors to chop their own wood. My husband chopped wood destructively on the flagstone shaking the elevated tent until the loud blows halted.
“Shit,” said my husband.
He split the stone right down the middle.
After muttering his apologies to the owners over the phone we inspected the archaic television that sat on an outdated entertainment center against the pliable barrier wall. A handful of outdated VHS tapes lined the cabinets and I popped a tape in the VCR labeled, “Welcoming Video.”
The video introduced the husband and wife owners along with their two blonde-haired daughters. The family prided themselves in having their children in the claw-foot bathtub that resided in the yurt and the countless recycled items they obtained when building the tent, including a chair in the bathroom they found shipwrecked on the beach.
A photo album sat nearby and displayed pictures of nude guests basking in a homemade Jacuzzi made of iron with a fire pit built into the bottom. It appeared as if humans where being cooked for soup. An ongoing theme in the photo album revealed a man who wore a mud encrusted cloth that covered his penis and butt. He resembled a malnourished yeti and seemed to hold celebrity status on the ranch.
After flipping through the pages my husband looks over at me and says, “Judging from all of the positive reviews in the guestbook pages, I assume the majority of visitors had a head full of acid on their visit to Bjorklund Ranch.”
We both laughed as our heads hung off our necks like rag dolls.