I Managed To NOT Crash The Family Truckster. This Time.

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I meant to write this yesterday, I really did. However, yesterday I was a walking zombie. I had about 45 minutes around 1230 where the caffeine kicked in and I was able to function, but in general, I was pretty useless.

Today I’m still in recovery mode, but I have high hopes for getting things done.

We got back late Saturday night from a 9 day trip to Northern California. Notice my use of the word “trip” and not the word “vacation.” Vacation is what I call what I will be doing next month when my hubby and I head to Vegas for 6 days of eating and lounging by the pool in the warm sun with a book in one hand and a cocktail in the other. THIS was a trip.

In the coming days I hope to get my thoughts together enough to recap the entirety of our trip, but for today I will tell the tale of the car rides; 30 plus hours of driving with three kids in the back. I know what you’re thinking: isn’t that supposed to be a 12 hour drive each way? You would be correct.

We took two days to drive down to California. Our initial plan was to leave Friday morning, get to Ashland, Oregon by the afternoon, and have a nice relaxing evening. Instead, we found out that Zoe’s crush’s last day of school was Friday, and Nathan had some sort of presentation due. (Honestly, what teacher schedules a presentation for the Friday before spring break?)

We decided to leave after the kids got out of school. Leaving at 130 on a Friday afternoon sounded reasonable. We envisioned missing Seattle traffic, perhaps dealing with a bit of Portland traffic, but still getting to Ashland by about 9 or 10.

Hah.

We hit traffic north of Seattle, and it didn’t let up until we got south of Olympia. What had taken me 75 minutes the weekend before to drive to Zoe’s soccer tournament, took over 3 hours. The rain was relentless. The drivers were skittish. We didn’t get to Portland until 7 PM.

Because Jeff has a team that works events in Portland, and it’s part of his market, he knows the area pretty well. He often stays just off the Jantzen Beach exit, which is right past the Columbia river (the river is the demarcation of the boundary between Washington and Oregon.)

The following is an excerpt from our conversation about where to stop and eat:

Me: Can you think of a place in Portland to eat?
Him: Hooters
Me: They don’t have good food do they? I mean if you ignore the boob factor is the food any good?
Him: I can’t ignore the boob factor.
Me: You have to. I need to know if the food is worth it if you take out the boobs.
Him: I tried to take out the boobs. They don’t like that.

I made an executive decision NOT to take the children to Hooters for dinner. We ended up at BJ’s instead.

You can only imagine the amount of innuendo in that conversation.

We didn’t get to Ashland until nearly 1 AM. We had waited 25 minutes for a table at BJ’s, and then had a leisurely meal. Halfway through, we both realized we had made a colossal mistake. My realization came when I googled how many miles it is between Portland (the northernmost city on the I5 corridor  in Oregon) and Ashland (the southernmost) and calculated the number of hours it would likely take to get there.

You might be asking, well, why didn’t you just stop earlier? That would be a reasonable question, however, I had already booked and paid for our stay at a hotel in Ashland the week before.

The next morning we had the complimentary breakfast, wandered the town a bit (It’s a very cute town, I recommend visiting) hit a Starbucks and hit the road. We got a late start again, but we weren’t in any hurry.

Saturday’s drive was pretty uneventful, until we got to the area where you get off of I5 and get onto HWY 20 headed to Clearlake. At first it was scenic. And then it was torturous. That was one of the most winding mountainous roads I have ever been on. There is no shoulder at all. There is either hillside or cliff edge. I had to roll my window down because I was starting to feel car sick. The next day when we were discussing sights to see, I made a firm stand that anything we went to do would not include going back on that road. We talked with friends who live in the area about the road, and they say they will usually take the longer more southern route to I5 to avoid traveling that road.

So when the day came to finally leave and head back home, I was thankful that I was taking Jeff to Sacramento, thus avoiding the road from hell. He was flying out of Sacramento to head to a conference in Vegas, and I was driving the rest of the way home with the kids.

We left the resort at about 930, and spent the next hour trying to find a Starbucks that wasn’t inside a Target or a grocery store. Preferably one with a drive thru and easy on/easy off access. In our area, that’s nearly every exit. Turns out the wine country isn’t that way. I was becoming desperate, knowing that my caffeine addiction has rendered me a slave to a morning cup of coffee. I know that if I don’t have caffeine by 11, I likely will develop a headache that will last all day. With a long drive ahead of me alone with the kids, I was starting to panic.

minion

We finally found one, and all was right with the world again.

By the time we hit Sacramento, we were ahead of schedule, and I was still contemplating ambushing the kids with a trip to Sutter’s mill.

Jeff had entered the info for the airport into my Nav, and we saw the signs to the airport. We were close. And then the directions told us to get off at J street, which I thought was a bit strange, because that was the exit I had taken to go to downtown Sacramento for a conference several years ago.

“Don’t you think it’s strange that it’s taking us into this residential area?”

“Yeah, sort of. But I put it in, so it has to be right.”

I looked at the destination that was entered. It said, “Sacramento air… Quality management.”

He had started typing Sacramento airport, and the only thing that came up was this place. He didn’t look closely. It was taking us to a building in the middle of downtown.

We pulled over and he looked at his phone map. He about flipped his lid.

“It says we are an hour away.”

“That’s not possible. It’s the Sacramento airport. How can the Sacramento airport be an hour away from Sacramento?”

Turned out his phone still thought we were in Napa.

After we got back onto the freeway heading north, I remembered that I used to see the airport all the time when I would drive from Southern Cal to Washington every year. He didn’t think that information was helpful at that point.

We dropped him off with plenty of time for his flight, but as I looked at the directions to Sutter’s Mill (south on 5 for 9 miles and then east for another 30) I decided to scrap the gold mine and see how far north we could get.

Within about an hour, we passed through the spot where I rolled my car 5 years ago on our move back to Washington. I had been driving, as Jeff had already gone ahead of us to Seattle, and I had all 4 kids with me. We walked away with barely a scratch. This was the first time I had driven through since it happened and I felt my anxiety level rise in my chest.

caraccidentJan 2009

The accident had happened at night, and we were driving on a beautiful sunny day. It was difficult to exactly pinpoint where it had happened, because during the day it looked so very different.

The weather on Saturday was so nice, the first really nice day of the trip. It was perfect driving weather, and I had my music going, singing at the top of my lungs all the old classics.

We made a couple quick stops, but we were making great time. At our second stop, I calculated how long to get to Portland and the idea started formulating in my mind that we could make it the whole way. I brought it up to the kids, and they were all for it, particularly Parker, who was thrilled at the prospect of having a whole day at home before having to go to school on Monday.

We stopped off for dinner in Salem, Oregon at about 730. I could have made it to Portland (barely) with the gas in my tank, but Zoe had to use the bathroom, and it seemed like an easy place to stop. After getting food, I drove across the street to the gas station. Nathan got out to get something from the mini mart. I hopped out, swiped my card, and suddenly heard a voice behind me saying, “How are you doing tonight?”

My first thought was, “I’m being approached by some creepy guy begging for money or preying on women.”

Then I turned around and saw that it was the gas station attendant.

“Oh my gosh! I forgot I’m in Oregon!” I yelled. He looked quite startled. “I forgot. I forgot I’m not supposed to do my own gas. I’m sorry!”

He said, “It’s ok, you can do that part.”

I looked at the screen and said, “I don’t know what to do now.”

He stared at me like he was unsure if he was dealing with a lunatic.

“How much gas do you want?”

“I need it filled up.”

“Ok.”

I got back in my car. The attendant walked over to another car.

Zoe said, “He looks like Chris Brown. And he just checked you out.”

“He doesn’t look like Chris Brown. And he did not.”

“Yes he did. You were looking down at your phone and he looked over here at you.”

“He was probably afraid I was going to jump out again and start messing with the nozzle.”

After the gas was done pumping I drove over to pick Nathan up in front of the store.

I said, “I forgot we are in Oregon. You’re not allowed to pump your own gas in Oregon. I think I freaked the attendant out.”

Zoe said, “And he LIKED it!”

I laughed, “He did not.”

Zoe said, “He did too, And he looked like Chris Brown.”

“He did not. I think he might have even been Hispanic.”

Parker chimed in, “He’s Chris Brown because his name is Chris and his skin is BROWN!” And then burst into a fit of giggles.

Nathan said, “That’s racist. What’s wrong with you people?”

Parker whispered loudly, “You have a date with Chris Brown at 7! Don’t be late!” Everyone started laughing.

I chuckled, “God help me if I was single and you people were trying to help me find a date.”

About 15 minutes later, it started to rain. Up until this point it had rained maybe a total of 5 minutes all day. Within seconds it went from nothing to a complete and total downpour. I was driving in the far left lane, and suddenly I had zero visibility. Zero. That is not an exaggeration. I had my windshield wipers on the highest setting, and still I could see nothing. I began to panic, because, well, I couldn’t see the road ahead of me, and there were cars behind me. I slowly made my way over to the far right lane. There was a huge amount of water already pooling on the roadway. I figured anyone who wanted to go fast in this was welcome to, but I was not that girl.

I started to notice that part of the problem was that my windshield wipers were smearing. While the rain was heavy enough to require the highest setting, I actually had more visibility at the second highest setting because it wasn’t smearing the whole time. That was not my favorite time to figure out that I need new windshield wipers.

After about 10 minutes of white knuckle driving,

whiteknuckle

the rain eased up and I could start to breathe again.

As we traveled through Portland, however, we had another very close call when a car, going way too fast, tried to cut over without enough room, nearly hitting a car and the FedEx truck in front of us. Zoe, Nathan and I all shouted at the same time. “WHOA!”

That could have been very bad for all of us, especially considering that part of the freeway is a very high overpass.

I held my breath as we crossed the bridge back into Washington. I hate crossing bridges. Once we were on the other side, I felt like I was going to cry. I had made it through that scary rain squall, survived a near catastrophic collision and I was tired, but at least I was in the same state as my bed.

Unfortunately, that was not the last of the rain. That part of I5 is two lanes on each side with a median in between. As the rain picked up again, coming down in heavy sheets, I found myself in the spray zone of a giant oil tanker. Between the water coming down from the sky, the water coming up from the road and the spray coming off the rear wheels of this giant rig, my less than useless windshield wipers could not do a thing to help me. If I stayed behind the truck I was getting sprayed. If I stayed to the left of the truck, I was getting sprayed.

I attempted to move past him, and instead of helping me out and letting me pass, he sped up, so that I was completely getting covered in water. I tried again, same thing happened. I was terrified and frustrated and pissed off. I didn’t know what to do. Finally, on my third attempt to pass, I got through. The whole time I was praying “Jesus help me!”

I flipped the guy off as I went past. I know, Jesus isn’t happy about that part. But Jesus had a handle on the whole “making water do what he wanted it to do” thing.

Soon I was upon another truck, this time a two-trailer semi. Nightmare.

how I feel when passing a semi

I made several attempts to get past, and once again, the truck would speed up as I tried to get through. There were moments when I thought, “I’m not going to survive this.” I’m not exaggerating.

I’d like to take a moment and say, I appreciate truck drivers. They move stuff around so that I can have it. They drive in dangerous conditions, long hours, with little sleep. I get that. I do. But for the love of God, could you guys please remember that you are giant compared to our cars. Just because you drive in these conditions all the time, doesn’t mean we do. Driving fast through the snow and/or rain, kicking up water onto our windshields, and then not letting us pass, well, those are just dick moves. You don’t own the road. Since you’re the experienced drivers, perhaps you could make it safer on the road for the rest of us instead of more dangerous. Thanks.

Eventually another lane appeared, and I moved over. Having that lane separation made it possible to pass. I began to mutter, “I hate this f’ing rain. I hate it. I’m moving. I can’t live here anymore. I am so done. Done. D O N E. Done with the rain. Stupid state with your stupid rain.”

The rain began to ease around Tacoma, and then the rest of the drive was dry. By the time I got near my house, I had decided I deserved a treat for making it through that harrowing drive without dying or killing anyone. I stopped off at McDonald’s just after midnight and ordered a hot fudge sundae with nuts. When I got up to the window to pay, the kid working said, “Hey, so, we’re out of nuts.”

I stared at him, blinking, attempting to keep my eyes from tearing up.

“Of course you are. Fine. I’m sure I have nuts at my house I can use.”

I must have looked as much the disaster as I felt, because the look he gave me was similar to the gas station attendant, only a little more frightened.

So, 4 near-death experiences (5 if you include the almost-scuffle over the gas nozzle with the (not really) Chris Brown lookalike) in one day. Luckily, the sun is shining today. It’s pretty much the only thing preventing me from putting my house on the market and running away to anyplace where it is sunny most of the time. Rain is only romantic in the movies.

I guess I’m staying. For now. But I think I’m pretty close to hitting my limit. Pretty darn close.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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