A Story by Beavo

A slightly humorous travel story involving a bear attack in Yosemite USA



The Isle of Lewis is the northern part of Lewis and Harris, the largest Island of the Western Isles or Outer Hebrides of Scotland. Anybody paying a first visit to Lewis would soon find that it is a remarkable place, steeped in Gaelic Culture and ancient History with many medieval structures and sites such as the legendary Callanish stone circle, giving the place an almost fairy tale feel.

Outside of Stornoway, the Islands only town, and home to approximately one third of the 20,000 population, there are a number of villages and settlements concentrated on or near the coasts or sea lochs. The interior of the Island is a large area of moorland, from which peat was traditionally cut as fuel, although this practice has become less common.

Religion is important in Lewis, with much of the population belonging to one of five Presbyterian churches represented on the Island. The Sabbath is still generally observed with few shops and pubs open on that day. Until as recently as 2009 there was no Sunday ferry service between Stornoway and Ullapool, the Islands main travel link to the Scottish mainland.

In late 1996, after working in the offshore oil industry for a couple of long hard years, I landed an on-shore job in an engineering workshop in Aberdeen, Scotland. It was here that I met two of the Isle of Lewis’ finest sons, Roddy J. MacAlister and John Smith, predictably known as Smithy.

I remember talking to Roddy first and laughing at his introduction which he gave in his distinctive lilting Western Isles accent. He told me his full name, Roddy John MacAlister and informed me that, ‘we, (he and Smithy) are from the Isle of Lewis. In Lewis you’re either religious or you drink. We Drink!’ and smiled broadly. He was a very easy going lad, who was always ready to burst into laughter at the first opportunity, and always ready for a beer or three.

Roddy and Smithy were at that time in their mid twenties, a couple of years younger than myself, and, like myself had both come to the big smoke of Aberdeen following the draw of the big oil industry wages. Both lads were working for the off shore side of the company, but were often in the workshop for a few days at a time, between trips. I would catch up with them each time they were home, and soon found they were in fact a hilarious double act who made me laugh a lot with their unique brand of Island humour. They were constantly sniping at each other in a good natured way, mainly questioning each others level of intelligence and ability to speak good English, both having been raised with Gaelic as their first language. I always knew when a squabble between them was becoming slightly more heated when one or other of them would break into their mother tongue. I became quite familiar with one or two Gaelic insults over the time we worked together.

We soon became good friends, more than just work mates, and would hit the town together whenever they landed home at a weekend. I was fascinated by Roddys’ many tales of mainly misadventure while growing up in Barvas on Lewis’ north west coast. His struggles with the stark religious upbringing and the isolation induced boredom which were to be experienced by a Barvas teenager, led to many alcohol fuelled run ins with authority.

I would laugh whenever he was in a low mood, having been summoned home to Lewis by his Aunty, in order to help with the annual cutting of the peat. Back breaking work apparently, which Roddy would dread each year.

Lewis did indeed take on a kind of wild, fairy tale image in my mind, and I longed to try the fabled Stornoway black Pudding, a much lauded delicacy on which all Islanders are raised. The very king of puddings I was assured.

Smithy was a slightly more guarded character but he could make you laugh with just a slight shift of his eyes and a smirk whenever Roddy would mis-pronounce an English word or phrase. He would often disappear towards the end of a night out, only to re appear at the pub door with chips just as people were spilling out onto the streets at closing time. This was his cunning tactic for engaging single ladies who might be ravenously hungry after a night on the town, and happy to agree to almost anything for a handful of chips. He had big bushy eyebrows and a thinning head of fluffy black hair, which girls seemed to find cute and just loved to stroke.

The two lads working together on a night out, would often do very well with their romantic sounding accents and easy humour, but other times the night would end in hilarious disaster due to over indulgence. There were many instances where I would have to drag Roddy to a taxi and pour him into the back seats, semi conscious. I recall one such occasion, after a late night visit to the Chinese take away, Roddy come out with his favourite, honey Chilli chicken wings and proceeded to stumble past me, oblivious to my presence.

I caught up with him and propped him up against a wall, hoping that his eating of his take away would sober him up enough to make a decent attempt at walking to the taxi rank. He proceeded to push whole chicken wings into his mouth, leaving most of the sauce on his chin, and then after chewing away for a short while, the bare bone of his chicken wing would re appear out of the corner of his mouth, some how striped of meat, skin and whatever, without having even opened his mouth. I was amazed at this skill.

On Sunday afternoons I would often head over to one or other of the lads apartments to recount hazy details of the previous nights antics and whilst we would usually be suffering the effects of having had too much to drink, this was always hilarious fun.

It was on one such occasion that we first talked about the possibility of going on holiday together, with the USA being mentioned as a prefered destination. Over the next few weeks, an itinerary for a fly drive trip starting in Las Vegas, was hammered out in the back corner of O’Neils Bar, which in those days was known as Little Stornoway for the number of Island exiles who drank there. Two other lads from our social circle expressed an interest in joining us and soon we were booking up flights, rental cars, and accommodation for our arrival in Vegas later that summer.

Alan Bateman and Gus Henderson were two slightly older lads who had grown up together in Dumbarton and both somehow ended up in Aberdeen. Alan had briefly worked with myself and the Lewis boys in the oil industry and Gus worked in social work. Together we made up a like minded band of single lads with plenty cash in our pockets and game for good times and adventures in far flung lands. 

We flew into Las Vegas at the end of August 2000 for a 3 week trip taking in as many of the famous sights, national parks, cities and beaches of Western USA as we could cram in.

In the taxi from the airport the driver handed us a Menu for the Chicken Ranch which turned out to be a legal, licensed 17 bed brothel located about 60 miles west of Las Vegas. This caused great excitement among some of the lads who vowed to make it their first stop and possibly to blow their entire holiday budget there. We checked into the Rio Hotel, and went straight to the roof top bar for a first beer and a view over the Strip. Here the excitement built further, as we looked out at the bright lights of the city lighting up the night sky, this was going to be the holiday of a life time with so much to take in.

Next day we were out and about early, pancakes for breakfast then taking in all the sights and sounds of the famous Las Vegas Strip, Caesars Palace, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, New York New York, and so on. We were as amazed as anybody would be on a first trip to a neon lit metropolis in the middle of the Mojave Desert, where everything was larger than life. Total, over the top, full on American razzamataz, and sensory over load, met us at every turn. It was a long, long way from the dull greyness of our adopted home of Aberdeen, and even further from the barren lands of Lewis. It was in fact, a big colourful dream come true for working lads like us.

The two days we stayed in Vegas were a blur. We played the tables, we drank strong liquor for breakfast, we looked agog at the fast cars and fast women who frequented the Strip and we partied like it was 1999. I was worried that the lads were having such a blast that we might not make it out of the city for the whole trip, but we had two cars booked and paid for and so we headed off on our grand tour as planned. We never did make it to the Chicken Ranch, probably just as well!

Over the course of the next week or so, we visited many of the sights I had dreamed of seeing all my life, Hoover Dam, Death Valley, The Grand Canyon, and in particular, Monument Valley, which had long been on my bucket list.

Monument Valley is a region characterized by a cluster of vast sandstone stacks, the largest reaching 1,000 ft above the valley floor. It is located on the Arizona, Utah border, and lies within the territory of the Navajo Nation Reservation. You’ll know the kind of thing if you ever saw an old style Cowboy movie. I was in my element driving round the desert tracks and fully expected to see a line of blood thirsty Indians silhouetted on every horizon, or maybe a pseudo John Wayne on his horse to pull us over and wish us a nice day while checking our trunk for fire water.

However, our only encounter with the Indians was when we somehow managed to lock ourselves out of our car at a Gas station on the way back to our motel that night. It was a scary enough experience though, due to the intimidating stares we received from the locals as we waited to be rescued by the cavalry, which arrived in the form of a local cop. He managed to jemmy open our vehicle window and get us back on our way. 10 minutes later he pulled us over and booked us for speeding.

The grand Canyon was another jaw dropping experience and I'll never forget how awestruck we all were when we first looked over the rim to take in the vastness of the colourful and intricate valley before us. Nothing would do but to view this wonder from the skies, after all, helicopter flights were a regular part of everyday life back home, and so we booked on a luxury scenic flight to properly take in one of Americas greatest natural wonders. I was so happy we were managing to tick all the boxes on our itinerary, and I was having so many great experiences with my good and hilarious friends.

And then we arrived at Yosemite National Park in California. This was hilariously mispronounced Yos Mite by Smithy, much to Roddys’ delight. He had been slightly huffy since we had all laughed when he mistook a Golden Gate Bridge T shirt for a Forth Road Bridge T shirt and couldn’t understand why they were selling them in America. Now was his time for revenge, on Smithy at least, and he milked it for all it was worth.

We arrived in the Park about mid morning and took off for a hike through the woods on route to climb Half Dome, a famous 4,737 ft high granite dome at the eastern end of Yosemite Valley. After a pretty strenuous climb we came to a lofty view point, and looked out over the majestic natural beauty of the park. It was big country on a grand scale and we loved it.

We returned to the Valley floor and were now keen to see more of this amazing National Park and made the decision to take an unplanned over night stay within the park grounds.

We were directed by a friendly warden, to a group of wooden cabins which had some vacancies for the night, and we joined the queue to check in. I was immediately drawn to the big screen in the foyer, where a park information film was playing on loop. The main message coming at me seemed to be, Beware of the Bears! There were words flashing on the screen in large red letters, warning me not to keep food inside the cabins, not to leave food in cars and very definitely avoid all encounters with bears. I was totally shocked at the scenes of a massive Grizzly, pawing in a car window to get to the source of a food smell, on this occasion, a mere stick of chewing gum.

After we checked in and had keys to two wooden cabins for the night, I tried to relay to the others the warnings I had seen in the film and to get them to put all food, soap, toothpaste, etc into the designated lockers near the park reception. My warnings pretty much fell on deaf ears however, and no matter how much I protested, the lads were more interested in cracking open a few beers and chilling after a long day.

After a while I relented and cracked open a much needed beer too and relaxed into holiday mode again. It was hard to be serious around those guys, and we ended the night in good humour.

When the time came to turn in for the night, it was decided that myself and Roddy would have one cabin and Gus, Alan and Smithy would have the other. I crashed out first, ear plugs in as usual, a habit I had gotten into while sharing cabins out on the oil rigs with bears of the North Sea variety, who could snore like run away freight trains. I guess I was pretty tired because I was soon in a deep, deep sleep and doubtless dreaming of grizzlies.

Imagine my surprise then, when all of a sudden there was an almighty BANG! and I went from being sound and round to being wide awake in a flash.

I found myself standing on my bed staring in the darkness towards the open cabin door, where a big black shape was moving in the moonlight. Involuntary screams leapt from my mouth. BEAAAR! BEAAAR! I was gripped by total fear, like I had never experienced in my life before and reacted on instinct. Remembering the brain washing information film instructions to make as much noise as possible in such circumstance, I screamed the place down. After what seemed to me like forever, the big black shape seemed to back off and eventually it disappeared back through the doorway and off into the night. I leapt from my bed, ran across the cabin floor to slam the door behind it and proceeded then to hammer loudly with my fists on the closed cabin door, determined to put the fear of god into our assailant.

As I Banged away I eventually became aware of Roddys voice telling me to calm down, ‘Its not a bear’ I heard him say to which I gave the exasperated reply, ‘I know a bear when I see one!’ and continued with my banging.

I wouldn’t say that I eventually calmed down, but at some point I remember Roddy getting through to me to some extent and I stopped hammering the door and sat on my bed, shattered. I refused to put the cabin light out for the rest of the night and because I was too scared to go outside to pee, I got very little sleep. Instead I spent the night periodically looking out the cabin window to see if Hercules was still around.

Next morning, still traumatised, I was first to dress and sat in the cabin for a while staring into space. Eventually Roddy woke up and joined me, but I noticed that he was avoiding any eye contact or conversation, I think he was shocked at my reaction the night before. Something wasn’t right I thought, but I wasn’t in any fit state to work out exactly what. Soon there was a knock on the cabin door and in bounded Gus, Alan and Smithy grinning from ear to ear. ‘Morning Goldielocks’ came the greeting from Smithy, to which I whipped my face round to look at him, as the room erupted in laughter. I was horrified, stunned, angry and confused, anything but amused. I looked at the open cabin door where I noticed a key sticking out the keyhole and was even more confused, how had those three lads come to have a key to our cabin? Why were they laughing so much? And why was I Goldielocks?

I guess at this point I started to realise that what had happened the night before was something other than a straight forward bear attack, and possibly had more to do with the three little pigs standing in front of me. 

Had I been less effected by the terror of this experience, I would no doubt have seen straight through the mystery to the fact that I had been hoodwinked by two likely lads, with a black wooly hat on, and a hairy black blanket pulled over themselves.

Had I not been in a deep, alcohol induced sleep when the two had used a spare key to bust the cabin door open, I may have realised there wasn’t a bear in sight.

Had I not wedged ear plugs in my ears, I might have heard the comedy bear noises the two had apparently been making, and heard their stifled laughs as they swayed in the doorway.

As the reality of what had actually happened that night finally dawned on me, I felt my face redden with embarrassment, I was mortified!

The truth was finally revealed in detail by Gus and I learned that the two lads who had made up the bear, Smithy and Alan, had bolted from the scene after my extreme reaction. They had burst back into their own cabin in hysterics and were actually rather shocked themselves, worried that we may all have been thrown off the site for frightening the entire camp. However, they still could not sleep for laughing.

'Never thought it would work that good’ said Alan, to which they all burst out laughing again.

Eventually we all went off for breakfast, I was silent, shocked that I had been so terrified by a prank which had been so obvious to the rest of the gang. They were laughing and joking and I was just numb.

As we sat at the breakfast table there was a loud American voice behind us, ‘jee, did you hear that Scottish guy getting attacked by a bear last night?’ I heard him say. Quick as a flash a response came from Roddy, ‘Aye, he had his own f*****g key!’

That day we drove to San Francisco. There were a couple of beers in the back of the car which I drank straight down, and promptly fell asleep. I woke periodically to hear Roddy and Smithy laughing raucously, no doubt at some bear related fun which I wasn’t party too. It was a long drive and all I remember is their Gaelic chatter and the laughter.

The rest of the holiday was fun of course, San Fran was very cool, driving down the California coast was awesome and we had another little adventure when we reached San Diego.

 An impromptu knife fight broke out on the street in front of us one night and we dived into a passing taxi to escape. We ended up over the Mexican border for a 12 hour drinking session in Tijuana, which was quite possibly more scary than the knife fight. Roddy had left his immigration green card back in our San Diego hotel that evening, and so we had a very nervous border crossing as we headed back, rather dishevelled, at 8 am the next day. However, the border guards waved us through, probably mistaking us for Americans coming home from a cheap night of Mexican debauchery.

We returned to Las Vegas a couple of days later and we were all rather frazzled after a pretty full on holiday. There was no big bang to finish off the trip in style, for me at least things were not really quite the same after Yosemite, I had had the time of my life with my friends but I just couldn’t get over the indignity of earning the nickname Goldilocks!

© 2020 Beavo

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Chose this story cos from Ullapool to Lewis is a mere swim away" Wild nights with liquid assets is THE Scottish way and seems you showed those peeps in and around Las Vegas how to eat, drink and be merry!

Some wicked areas, almost choked on my cuppa:

' In Lewis you’re either religious or you drink.'

' We were as amazed as anybody would be on a first trip to a neon lit metropolis in the middle of the Mojave Desert, where everything was larger than life. Total, over the top, full on American razzamataz, and sensory over load, met us at every turn. It was a long, long way from the dull greyness of our adopted home of Aberdeen, and even further from the barren lands of Lewis. It was in fact, a big colourful dream come true for working lads like us.'

'I guess at this point I started to realise that what had happened the night before was something other than a straight forward bear attack, and possibly had more to do with the three little pigs standing in front of me. '

Right, tone set.. make a break for it and - from there to the end there was absolute male insanity truly wonderfully written. You displayed the trips start to finish, every experience, - sans character references for your mates - evil but fun all round. Loved it! I know this is a man-write but wanted to read something different, something from out of viral viciousness this ayem and - have just done so. Fully recommended as travel trip, fun and games.. fine writing.

Great fun, great descriptions, mate-dom to the nth degree, great adventures - especially re. the bears. And you're here to tell the tale!.

Posted 6 Days Ago


5 Days Ago

Ha Ha, thank you emmajoy for taking the time to read and review, and im glad you enjoyed it!
.. read more

5 Days Ago

' I struggle with limited vocadbulary, attrocious spelling and clueless punctuation so... ' that is.. read more

5 Days Ago

Thanks emmajoy!
Hi Beavo. I'm not far away in Fife. I enjoyed your story and you've done A good job of describing your pals and bringing them to life and describing your antics. I've been writing mainly fictional stories but recently realised I've a lot of travel adventures to share. We had a family trip to the same part of the states a while ago which was great.I had to laugh when I started this as my latest story is set in the Hebrides (journey)
I'm retired so lockdown is ok apart from not seeing family ( a new grandson a week old)

Posted 3 Months Ago


3 Months Ago

Alan, thank you very much for your great comments, I only really posted this so my facebook friends .. read more

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2 Reviews
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Added on April 17, 2020
Last Updated on July 22, 2020
Tags: Travel, humor, yosemite, usa, bears, wild life, Scottish, adventure, adventure travel, travel writing, travel stories



Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Until recently I hadn't written a story since, 'what I did on my holidays' but I've travelled far and picked up a few good tales to tell so thought I'd try and put them down. I enjoyed doing this but .. more..


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