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Saturday, December 20, 2008

once upon a ... 14 hour drive to ashland

How do I tell this story in the most minimal way as possible? Ahh, it's a story, that's for sure.

Thursday, 12/18: cara drives with mr. darcy to ashland, OR to spend the night with old roommate/travel companion, Lola. That which is supposed to be a 6 hour drive ends up taking a little bit longer...

8.15: leave san mateo

8.20: stop by starbucks, of course

8.35: on the road again!

11ish: stop in Vacaville to find windshield wiper fluid that won't freeze under 32 degrees (courtesy of advice from smart Mr. Whitney) and to hopefully find a nice person or two who will help me install my driver's side headlight.

11.20ish: Target is of no windshield wiper fluid avail, and neither is Chevron. I take a chance on Big O Tires and make 7 new best friends whom I treat to Starbucks in exchange for help with all of the above. Main quote here: "how many men does it take to change a headlight?" it. I SWEAR I didn't bat my eyelashes too much.

12ish: on the road again, though hitting Redding a bit later than expected.

2:45: forego lunch in Redding as to hit the pass more timely

3: we're less than 5 miles north of Redding and carrying chains is (already!) required. that is EARLY. I pass by showing them my sweet new chains sitting in the backseat next to MD.

3.15: it's time to put on chains! I take a deep breath, decide I probably know what I'm doing (I've had some conversations about it), and pull over to the side of the road. I disassemble my chains and attempt to put them on my front tires. I am mostly finished when the guy in the car behind me comes up and asks if I a) know what I'm doing and b) need help. He takes a look at my handy work and calls me a pro, and proceeds to help me with the tighteners. I give him a chocolate bar in return. Hey, tis the season!

3.30: mixed CDs courtesy of friends Jamelyn and Raymond are playing off and on in the background on full blast in an attempt to drown out the constant clicking of the annoying chains. Traffic is not going more than 30-35 MPH.

...still in chains...

4.45: I look ahead of me and realize that I am about to run over what looks like a semi's set of chains. I run over the chains. Immediately I hear a crazy additional clicking on my driver's side chains. I pull over to the side of the road and see that one of the links has come undone. Well, what to do but continue driving? So I do.

4.55ish: all of the sudden: KSDFOUISDGHLEKRJL@K$*@$KJDFLKSDF. My driver's side chains fly off. Dang Gina. I call Dad and ask for his advice: "well, driving with only one tire chained up defeats the purpose. You'd better get another set of chains!" I decide to go to the next chain-place I can find and remedy the problem.

5.15ish: I think I am getting close to new chains because we are, afterall, in the middle of a crazy snowstorm in the middle of nowhere. Nope. ASKFLJ@#(*ASJDFLKASJ@#$@#$!!! Chains on the passenger's side of the car fly off, as a result of hitting the semi's chains too?

5.16: I pull over to the side of the road. What the HELL am I supposed to do right now when my chains are splayed all over the road? I am chainless. I will call Emergency Roadside and have them either tow me into town or bring me new chains. I pick up my phone to call. Nope. The phone is beeping that it's dying a fast cell phone death. If I call now on the phone it'll die in the middle of it. Must find a new cell phone (and a charger, for that matter).

5.17: with my beanie, gloves and uggs on, I put the flashers on and step outside of the car. The wind is crazy. Snow is flurrying madly. And I am on the side of the road trying to see with my arms waving in the air. A moving truck comes up upon me, and like they do in the movies, I am waving, waving, waving him down. He doesn't stop. Whatever happened to the goodness in society? Oh wait, now he is stopping, though a football field ahead of me.

5.18: I start running towards the moving truck while he starts backing up towards me. Hope I don't get run over.

5.19: Mr. Moving Truck man and I meet. I explain the situation and ask if I can borrow his cell phone. "Sure, hop in." I hesitate for a second...Mama said not to get into cars of strangers. What if he takes me to Mexico? Too late. I'm in and we're backing up torwards Raul the Jetta.

5.20: I get out to find the number, sitting in my own car (safety first!) dialing. Thus begins the conversation with ER Roadside:

"Are you okay? Do you need immediate assistance or medical help?"

"Well, mean, I'm on the side of I-5 in a snowstorm, by myself and my chains popped off. I mean, what do you think?"

"Ma'am, where are you?"

"I'm on the side of I-5 heading northbound."

"Ma'am, where are you, more specifically?"

"I'm on the side of I-5 heading northbound between Redding and Yreka."

"Ma'am, I'm going to need a bit more information than that. Do you see any signs or signposts indicating where you are?"

"Ma'am," (now I'm inserting the 'ma'am'), "I'm in the middle of a snowstorm. I can't see anything. There is nothing but snow in front of me." (Cara is getting frustrated and wants to cry now)

"Okay, we want to help you, but I need to know where you're at."

"Don't you think I'd tell you where I was at if I knew where I was at?"


Cara remembers: GPS device. I look at my GPS and see that I'm exactly 47 miles from Ashland; Ashland is exit 14 over Oregon, so it's 14 miles into the state. 47 - 14 is 33.

"Ma'am, I'm exactly 33 miles from the California/Oregon border. Does that help you?"

Calculating, calculating...

"Oh, you're outside of ______________" (can't remember).


"Okay, we'll send a tow truck to you as soon as we can."

"Thank you."

I give the guy back his cell phone, he departs.

Roadside calls my near-dead cell phone and the automated voice picks up: "Emergency Roadside Assistance ... will be to you ... in approximately ... 1 hour." 1 hour?! I could get eaten alive in 1 hour!

With the engine running, a book on tape playing (which I now need to listen to over again), a near-dead cell phone, a dog who hates me and doesn't understand why we can't play in the snow, I sit in my car. And sit. And sit.

6 pm...

6.30: emergency roadside calls: "If your emergency roadside assistance has arrived, please press 1...if your emergency roadside assistance has not arrived, please press 2." 2!!! "If you need to be connected with your emergency roadside provider, please press 1." 1!!!

Tow truck company answers:

"Hello!!!! I'm on the side of the road. Where are you?" (Distress, distress, phone beeping "death" in my ear)

"We just got onto I-5 and our chains popped off! We're trying to fix our truck, but we'll be to you as soon as we-"

Phone dies.

this is it. I really am dead now. I guess I can eat Mr. Darcy's dog food and stay alive for a little bit. Ewww. I really don't want to eat puppy chow.


6.45: bright lights are behind me. Jesus? Sirens come on. I've never been this happy to see a police officer in my life. I jump out of the car in glee.


Oh yeah. Forgot about that part. Hwy patrol man comes up to me:

"Are you okay? I see you've been here for awhile."

Wait a minute...I look at him quizzically. He KNOWS I've been here for the past who-knows-how-long and hasn't come over to assist me?

Officer reads the look on the face of she who can't hide her emotions.

"No, I saw you from the other side of the freeway, but I couldn't get over to you because of all the snow in the median. I had to go down to the next exit and turn around. Are you okay?"

I explain that my chains have popped off and I'm waiting for roadside to come and rescue me, but I don't know if they'll ever make it and my cell phone's dead...

"Ma'am, you do know that you're on a 10-mile stretch of the freeway in which chains are not required?"


So, because of the lack of hills on that minor stretch, chains aren't required. He directs me to Chevron, 7 miles north in Yreka, to get a second set of chains, as they will be required at that point.

"Will you be okay?" I nod my head yes.

7.05: Chevron gas station in Yreka. I buy chains and the tighteners. I charge my cell phone in the bathroom and call dad to let him know that I haven't died, contrary to popular belief. I call Lola, apologizing for being 3 hours late. Chevron treats me to hot chocolate. I appreciate them. I install chains a second time and the Chevron guy nods his head in approval. These chains look much more manly and stable. I cross my fingers and leave that joint.

7:30: I-5 corridor.

"Sorry ma'am. I-5 northbound is closed right now. Check back in half an hour."


This is crazy.

I drive on over to Super 8, thinking, maybe we can get out of the car for a bit. Me and Mr. Darcy, with my cell and charger walk into the lobby. I stand in line and raggedly smile pretty for the receptionist.

"Hi there! I-5 is closed right now. Do you think my dog and I could wait in your lobby for a few minutes and charge-"

"Ma'am, this is a commercial food zone. Dogs are not allowed. Please leave."

"Uh....could I still charge my cell phone?" She looks at me like I'm holding a Sprint PCS bomb. She has pity on me.

I sit in the car and steal internet from the Super 8.

8:15: Get cell with minor juice now, and drive over to the freeway entrance. Still closed. I wait in line with the other cars and steal internet from another hotel.

9:15: I-5 is open!!! Drive the remaining 40 miles to Ashland, with Hwy patrol leading the way at an even 32 miles an hour.

10:30: arrive at Lola's. Home sweet home.


So, merry christmas...happy safe...and live, love, laugh about the little and big things this holiday season. god bless.


Sally K. said...

oh Cara, that sounds like a nightmare. I would have had major tears at multiple points throughout your adventure. Congrats on finally making it to your destination! I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and safe travels.

jenbaum said...

I almost just peed my pants.... and I am soooooooooo incredibly sorry that it was at your expense, but I can't help but believe that you are probably laughing, or will be laughing, at this story, sometime in the very near future! :) That is INSANITY! I am quite impressed, however, that there was no crying... I would have been crying hysterically at a very early point in this story!!!! :)

Dan said...

I read this whole post....

Isabel said...

Doooood, that is hilarious, and also sad because it's a true story. I would have lost it multiple times. You are a solid cookie in a crisis!

carina said...

Oh man, that made my morning. Thanks for a good read :)

Gibbytron said...


Brenda Joy said...

holy smokes caramac! glad you made it safely!

jenbaum said...

OK - I loved it so much that I just read the whole thing as a read-aloud to my family! We were crackin' up! I am so glad you are completely OK!

Emily said...

So Sorry!!! Sounds like an absolutely nightmare of the worst proportion. I think we're staying in Bend for Christmas. I don't know if it's the smartest thing to come over the mountains right now. After your story, I wouldn't doubt that you want to stay in a nice, stable place:) What is your New Year looking like?