Summer parking in the city, beach... and forest
For me, the summer parking crunch starts during the final two weeks of the school year, when my children’s class parties, park days, family picnics and the last day of school itself find me and a few hundred other parents circling the neighborhood looking for a spot.
I don’t think I’m the only one counting how many days my kids spend learning absolutely nothing, but that’s another subject altogether.
The rest of the summer I have spent happily driving from one beautiful place to the next, enjoying the sights and sounds of nature, my family at play, and the freedom of a wide-open schedule. Along the way, I’ve noticed how the summer months affect parking in all the places I visit – it’s a pretty dramatic difference from the rest of the year.
What the local street festival does to parking
I went to the beach for a walk one Saturday morning, anticipating not actual solitude, but at least the opportunity to hear myself think. My outing had a time limit, and I was prepared to make the most of it, but I forgot about our city’s annual summer street festival. As I approached the beach, I noticed some of the roads were blocked, the sidewalks were teeming with people, bikes and dogs, and the parking was minimal. It took me about 15 minutes to park.
I’m not going to complain about the time it took me to find a spot, because I eventually did and enjoyed my walk immensely, but I did note the kind of parking transformation a summer event can create.
What the Fourth of July does to parking, part one
Wherever you live, the parades and the block parties and the fireworks all cause parking chaos. We visited a friend’s block party and found the fire department on-site and objecting to the cars parked at the barricades at the end of the street. Naturally, they want to be able to get on the street in an emergency, and they made it clear a bouncer and five parked cars should not be in their path for any amount of time. Fair enough.
There was also the matter of the “share car” left on the street, on the worst day possible, with no one to claim or move it. Fortunately, it was one of those tiny smartcars and not big enough to affect the festivities. Still, that’s something to think about when you deposit your share car on a street that’s not your own.
What the Fourth of July does to parking, part two
After the face-painting, barbecue, cake walk and sunburn, we headed to the coast for the fireworks. There was pandemonium in the streets. We didn’t even try to park nearby, but took a spot four or five blocks inland and made our way to the beach on foot. We dodged firecrackers and sparklers, hundreds of cars and thousands of people.
Along the strand was a wave of bodies and a line of double-parked vehicles a mile long. I think the authorities were too busy addressing illegal firework usage to deal with the double-parkers, and I completely support that kind of prioritization.
It’s a crazy scene, and one I love for the way it draws everyone together for one fun moment. There are always the individuals who participate in the moment in a negative way, but in general, there’s a sense of community that comes around only once a year.
What happens to parking when tourists swarm the sequoias
My husband has a thing for national parks that comes from growing up near Yellowstone. So, we’ve taken every opportunity to visit California’s national parks with our children.
This year, it was Sequoia and Kings Canyon. We stood under the General Sherman Tree and marveled at its immensity. We drove through the Giant Forest and gasped at the magic of the landscape around us.
We also parked. We parked with people from many different countries around the world. In the parking lot, we were all made to understand that the bears were very interested in our cars and whatever food our bags and trunks might contain.
We were all informed that the shuttle would take us to the many wonderful sites in the surrounding area, so we needed to park only once. We took note of that information and acted accordingly.
What happens to parking in national parks when wildlife appears by the side of the road
When you see a bear in a meadow along the road in Sequoia, you stop and you park wherever you can. You might park in the middle of the road or on the edge of a cliff. If you’re lucky, there’s a turnout, and if you’re not, you make it up as you go.
My husband’s long history of national park parking imposes upon us a strict standard of etiquette for observing wildlife that we strive to meet at all costs. Rule No. 1: It’s OK to pull over wherever you are and park, but don’t endanger yourself or anyone else. Rule No. 2: It’s OK to get out of the car and take pictures, but not OK to approach or try to touch the animals or get run over by people breaking Rule No. 1. Rule No. 3: If you see a bear in the wild, you get to brag about it for the rest of your life.
Not everybody understands these rules, and we suffered from the inexperience of the recreational vehicle driver who broke Rule No. 1 and almost crashed into us in his eagerness to park. As for Rule No. 2, that one seems obvious, but people often mistake natural settings like Sequoia for Disneyland – don’t do it. Rule No. 3 is well in progress.
We’ve got a few more adventures planned for the last days of the season and will no doubt encounter many more parking challenges. But I don’t care how tough it is to park during the summer. It’s the best season of them all, and I’d make it last forever if I could.
Melissa Bean Sterzick is Parking Today’s proofreader, occasional writer and amateur parker. She can be reached at Melissa@parkingtoday.com.