Monday, December 28, 2009 By: Suzanne

Repost: Road trip to Seatle

I am reposting a couple of stories that I wrote for my myspace blog that I don't want to lose. I don't ever use myspace anymore and want to be able to find these easily. This one is from January 31, 2008. I am using the same pictures from the original post along with some I posted a few days later to remain true to the original story.

So, Tammi and I took a trip right after Christmas from Ft Worth, TX to Lacy, Washington (near Seatle). What were two Southern girls doing driving over mountains and through snow and ice in the middle of December, you may ask? The answer is: we were stupid!

Seriously, for those that don't know, Tammi left her Pathfinder (which has REAR-wheel drive, btw) at her parent's house in east Texas while she was in Iraq. She didn't want to drive it all the way back to Washington by herself so she asked me to come along. We decided to make an adventure of it. The plan was to stop the second day in Denver to visit a friend of hers and then drive two more days and go snowboarding. We figured we'd have one more day to shop and then go the Symphony to hear Beethoven's 9th and Mendolssohn's Midsummer Night's Dream on New Year's. As the saying goes, the best laid plans...

Here's what really happened. The first night we got as far as the Texas-New Mexico border and at just about 8:30 or so while going through some rinky-dink town (that the hotel clerk claimed was the "hub" for skiing) we spun out in the middle of the road and ALMOST hit a street sign. We were sufficiently freaked and tired enough to stop for the night. The next day, after driving for only an hour, we discovered that to cross the border from New Mexico into Colorado we had to go through a mountain pass (the Raton Pass) that sometimes is closed in bad weather. We were lucky, kind of, that the pass was open. So we zipped on through at 40 mph (on the interstate now). We were feeling very proud of ourselves for surviving the pass and even felt confident enough to take some pictures.

(She looks so happy)

About an hour from Denver, again doing 40 because the roads were getting bad again, the trip went horribly wrong. We hit an icy patch and spun first to the west, then back to the east and smacked head first into a light pole (totalling Tammi's Pathfinder, damn rear-wheel drive). We then turned back to the west and slid with the pole (yes, it was on the car) about 100 feet or so. This all took place in the span of a few seconds. I saw that pole coming toward us and knew without a doubt it was going to be bad. Thankfully, we were not hurt. Three more cars slid behind us and one stopped, after getting control, to call 911 for us. The fire station is apparently so close to the interstate that they were there before we even had a chance to find out how bad the damage was. Tammi has those pictures, I'll put them up when she sends them to me. After the firemen came and checked the car, a police officer came and let us stay in his car until the tow truck came. Just to pass the time, he gives Tammi a speeding ticket because "Do you see all these other cars out here? None of them are sliding off the road." SERIOUSLY??!!!! Where were you when 3 of them did right behind us? He was nice enough to drive us around until we found a place that would allows us to wait for Tammi's friend, Russ, though. We had her dog Rhapsodi with us so that was a little challenging. A very nice truck stop manager allowed her to come inside.

Once in there I noticed a couple sitting at a booth next to us with all their stuff. Turns out, they were one of the cars that spun out right after us. The girl freaked when she saw us hit the lightpole and slammed on her breaks, then spun into the wall. They got all their stuff out when the tow truck came and took it in to wait for the rental car agency to pick them up. While we were waiting, Tammi called the tow truck people to find out where they were so we could get our stuff out when Russ got there. As she's talking to him, he drives to get gas. We run out, drag ALL our stuff inside, taking over two booths. The nice couple we caused the accident of watched Rhapsodi while we did this and she fell in love with them.

Finally Russ came and we went back to his house. These are from his backdoor.

Russ was so awesome. He told us to stay as long as we wanted until we figured out what we were going to do. The whole next day we tried to figure out if we should drive, fly, take a train. Train was a no go because they don't take dogs. Flying was Tammi's first choice. She wanted to fly home, leave Rhapsodi with Russ and come back to get her a couple weeks later on her three day weekend. That sounded like a really bad idea to me. She wouldn't know what kind of conditions the roads would be in and it could be worse, then she'd be driving by herself. I argued that if we rented a car, she'd have me along and wouldn't have to this all again so very soon. She finally agreed. That night we rented a SAFE car (i.e. front wheel drive) to make the way back to Washington. Tammi was still very upset by the crash so I drove all the way into Portland.

After leaving Colorado and entering Wyoming, I realized why my ancestors did not settle up north. Wyoming is the most deserted, forsaken land on earth. The sky was completely clear but since there so much snow on the fields and the people of Wyoming do not believe in trees, the wind was blowing snow all over the road. So much so, that at some points, I could not see 10 feet in front of me. It was 8 degrees as we traveled this miserable place. When we stopped to use the bathroom at the dirtiest gas station on earth, the clerk mentioned, "Oh, yeah, it was minus 10 yesterday." Great, so today it's down right balmy.

(This shows the desolation of Wyoming but I wish you could see better the blowing snow. It was miserable)

We stopped in Utah for the night and I got the best surprise when I woke up the next morning. There was a mountain right outside our hotel.

I've never seen mountains like this before, and even though the mountains in Colorado were impressive, this was so close I could almost touch it. Beautiful.

The next day, we traveled through the Blue Mountains and stopped just before the Cascades. And yes, I was STILL driving.

On the drive I noticed something in the rental car (a Hyundai sonata) called ESC and asked Tammi to look up what it was in the book. Apparently it's for exactly the kind of thing that caused our accident. It's called electronic stability control and helps get you under control in bad conditions. As we were getting ready the following morning we had the Weather channel on and they did a story about this very thing. I have to say I was sold that this was the best rental car we could have gotten. (There's my advertisement, think I'll get paid?) After making it over the Cascades the following morning, I was very happy to give the driver's seat over to Tammi. I hope never to drive in those conditions again. She brought us in nice and safe. We had just a few hours before the Symphony (because, yes, it is already New Year's Eve by this time).

The Symphony was amazing. We were so close to the stage, the baritone was practically spitting on us. He was a very impressive man, actually. Commanding presence and gorgeous voice. The only hitch was the flute player during the Mendolssohn. We had been so excited and were very disappointed by his sloppy interpretation (we were both flute majors in college).

And the next day......I went snowboarding for the first time. Here's the scene on the way up Crystal Mountain:

I'm pretty much terrible at it and hated it completely the first time down the run. I was so frustrated that I took the damn board off and walked the last half. I almost cried. I forced myself back up with the class and did amazingly better the second time, until I fell wrong on my arm and over extended my elbow. Not fun. Needless to say, that was the end of my snowboarding experience for the day.

So, I made it home safe and already miss Tammi. Everyone needs to write her and tell her to move back to Texas when she gets out of the military. For those that haven't heard, she gets out at the end of March. She decided to buy a Hyundai Santa Fe with the money she got from totaling her car!

Here are some of the pics I posted a few days later. It's Tammi's truck after the accident. Oh yeah, the air bag never deployed. Think about that while you look at them.

Real Time Update: Tammi now lives in Virginia. She lives in a part of the state that sees very little snow but she got dumped on last week when the blizzard went through! Poor girl!


Alyce said...

Wow! That is an amazing story! I was happy to see that no one got hurt, which is really impressive considering the amount of damage done to the car (and I can't BELIEVE that the officer gave you guys a speeding ticket)!

I was only going 40 mph on the highway when I started to slide too. I'm pretty sure that the ESC is what I have in our RAV4 also (or something similar). It is strange to feel the car taking over, but nice that it seemed to do it's job.

I'm a fellow flute player (although I am more of a hobbyist and was only in the concert band in college). I'm in a community band now, and I love it because it's really low key, but we have a lot of talented players in our group.