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Christmas Road Trip

February 5, 2010

~December 19, 2009~

This year for Christmas (2009) we decided that we were going to all go home to Oregon.  However, the plane tickets were prohibitively expensive.  I was able to get a ticket to Michigan that wasn’t too bad because it was quite  a while before and after Christmas that I was traveling.  That way I would get to visit Michigan as well as Oregon.  But, since we couldn’t afford to fly from Michigan to Oregon, we decided to drive.  It all turned out all right, and we did get one really great piece of advice that I’ll pass on to you at the end.  So, here is our tale…

When I arrived in Michigan, Dave was supposed to pick me up from the airport.  He was running really late, though, so I got to wait a while at the baggage claim.  So, he calls and says he’s almost there, and I go out to meet him, but its Jennifer!  They’d been playing “telephone” with me so I wouldn’t know, and it was wonderful.  So, there I was in Michigan and it was a whirlwind couple of days of last-minute shopping, doing laundry, replacing network components and getting drugs for the kitty.  Now, while Jean Luc is a veteran traveler (he’s made the drive back and forth from LA to Oregon several times, the drive from Oregon to Philadelphia and the drive from Philadelphia to Michigan) he’s never really improved at it.  He whines and cries and yowls until he falls asleep, then wakes up to whine some more.  By the end of the trip he’s hoarse, so its not nearly as loud, but he’s still trying.  So this time we decided that we’d try drugs and the vet prescribed wee, tiny little generic valiums for him.  So about an hour before we left we shoved one of those down his throat and set off.

Poor, drooling, drugged kitty.

With all the luggage and the kitty and the three of us the car was a little bit cozy, but three drivers really made the trip go smoothly.  The kitty still yowled a bit, but he settled down fairly quickly, and even if he wasn’t happy, was much more calm.  He did get to get out and stumble/wander around the car sometimes at gas stations or rest stops.

He's usually a much more straight-forward kind of kitty, and not so S-shaped and off balance.

Speaking of gas stations, there’s some weird ones out there.  For instance, this one

Who thought of that name?

There was another one (apparently a nationwide chain) called Love’s that was all decorated in flowers and blocky 60’s colors.  And on the rest stop note, I recognized one of the rest stops that we stopped at in Utah.  When I was in the 6th (I think?) grade my parents drove me to Nebraska for a national track meet and we stopped and took pictures there.  So, I insisted that Dave, Jennifer and I also get a picture in front of the red rock cliffs at (I believe it was) Echo Canyon rest area.

Historical photo op.

We thought that since we were going to be driving across the country in the middle of winter, we should have some chains with us.  Michigan, however, doesn’t allow chains, so there were none to be had there.  We figured that we’d just stop somewhere when we started getting into mountainous areas and buy a set.  So, we kept an eye on the weather and the terrain, but the roads stayed completely clear the entire trip.  So about 35 hours after we set out, we made it all the way to Oregon without chains.  The worst  weather we ran into was the last 50 or so miles where it was extremely foggy.

Right before our drive back from Oregon, we bought a set of chains.  We figured that was probably the best insurance for clear roads on the way home, and with the amount of snowing it does in Michigan, we might end up in situations where we’d want to use them and just claim ignorance.  So, we loaded up the car, drugged the kitty again, and set back out.  The roads were great for the first half or two thirds of the trip, but then we started getting blowing snow.  I’d never really driven in the blowing snow before, and in some ways it didn’t seem too bad (on the cleared freeway, at least) but in others it did.  So the roads were fairly clear, and there was just a layer of powdery snow that was twisting its way across the freeway.

The sun rises and the first of the blowing snow starts.

The snow baffles beside the roads had drifts that were probably 10 feet high behind them, and occasionally drifts did start forming out into the roadway, but the traffic kept them pretty well cut off at the edge of the tire tracks.  On the other hand once the blowing snow started until we got home (10 or 15 hours) I’d say we averaged seeing a car in the ditch every 5 or 10 minutes.  It seemed pretty grim, but we only saw one car actually spin out, and it managed to stay on the roadway, so I think perhaps the conditions had been much worse earlier.  The last few hours the conditions changed from dry blowing snow to wet falling snow, but we made it all the way back to Michigan without needing our chains and without any problems.

So, since you’ve stuck it out all the way to the end of this rather length post, here it is, the moral of the story and the best piece of advice we received: if you’re driving all the way across the country in the middle of the winter, be careful and make sure you don’t drive across the Rockies. 😀

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