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A Drive to Remember

The radio said that Snoqualmie Pass was closed due to heavy snow, and Stevens Pass was requiring traction devices. Holiday travelers were told to expect delays. I was reminded of a Thanksgiving trip we took in 1979. Newlyweds, my husband and I were living in Central Oregon, while our family all lived in Portland. Thats a trip of 180 miles or so, usually about 3 hours, if obeying the horrendous 55 mph speed limit. It was Sunday. We had spent Thanksgiving Day with my in-laws, and Friday and Saturday visiting friends and family. That day, we had brunch with my mother before getting on the road back home. The forecast was calling for more snow in the mountains, with a travelers advisory for the Santiam Pass. Fretting as we prepared to leave, Mom fixed us a care package. This is way too much food for me, she said. You kids take this home. Before we reached the highway, we heard that the Pass was closed. Pat had to be at work the next day, so we wanted to get home, if we could. We turned around and headed toward Mt. Hood. Up and over the mountains, then Highway 97 all the way home. At the base of the mountain was a roadblock. Traction devices were required beyond that point. Fortunately, we had chains for our old, two-wheel-drive pick-up. Unfortunately, the sheer number of vehicles chaining up created a massive bottleneck. A single lane of traffic was open in each direction. We started the up-hill climb, amidst hundreds of holiday travelers. Creeping slowly, bumper to bumper in driving snow, progress was minimal. About halfway to the summit, the line of eastbound cars ground to a halt. Minutes passed. The occasional O.D.O.T. truck or county vehicle would pass going the other way. Every so often, we would move a car length or so. The snow continued to fall hard, the wind blowing. Time dragged on as we sat, trapped in an icy caravan. After four hours, we had yet to reach the summit. I was nine months pregnant with our first child, due any day. Cranky and uncomfortable, I was ready to be home. Pat was worried that I might go into labor, and I was trying not to think about it. He tried to keep the old Ford at a comfortable temperature, but it seemed we were always too cold, or too hot. A thermos of coffee helped, while it lasted. Brunch was a long time ago, and we were getting hungry when we remembered moms care package. Inside was a small block of ham, a brick of Swiss cheese, and several ripe tomatoes. We had excellent sandwich fixings, but no bread or utensils. Laughing, we cut chunks of ham with Pats pocketknife, broke bits off the cheese, and ate tomatoes like apples. Food never tasted so good. Inching along, we finally reached the summit of the pass, the marker barely visible through the snow. The downhill grade did nothing to speed things. As dusk fell, the snow and wind stopped simultaneously. We had been sitting in the truck for nearly seven hours. The line of vehicles stretched as far as we could see, both in front and behind. There seemed no logical explanation for the hold up. No emergency vehicles had gone by, in either direction. We realized that nothing at all had passed for hours. Three cars up ahead of us, a yellow International Scout suddenly put on his turn signal. He pulled into the available left lane, and started down the mountain, oncoming traffic be damned. Pat looked over at me, what do you think? Go for it. I was as sick of the mountain as he was. He pulled out, following the Scout. The chains bit easily into the new snow, and we progressed steadily. Passing literally hundreds of cars, we encountered no obstacles. Eventually, we reached the front of the line. At its head was a small white sedan, traveling at a snails pace. Everyone else had apparently fallen in behind, dutifully staying in line, until it caused an traffic jam. Soon we were off the mountain. The snow behind, the road clear, Pat pulled over and removed the tire chains. Finally, we were able to make some time. The desert shimmered under a layer of frost as we drove through the moonlight. The road spun out before us, long and straight. A far-off flashing red light announced the turn to Warm Springs. Up ahead, we could see taillights. Probably Mr. Scout, we hadnt seen any other cars. He reached the stoplightand didnt even slow down. Look at that crazy bastard! Pat exclaimed. He just ran right through that red light! A moment later, we came to the lightand right through it. The entire surface of Hwy. 97 was coated in black ice. We continued, slower and wiser. Finally reaching Bend, we pulled into Denneys at the edge of town to thaw out, and eat. The place was packed. We got a small booth, and ordered soup and coffee. As we waited, we gazed idly out the window. There was plenty of snow here, the road plowed and hard-packed. Just then, a huge Buick station wagon approached the diner. Trying to slow, the wagon slid, turning sideways across the four-lane road. We could clearly see the faces in the car. Dad was white-knuckled on the wheel and mom looked terrified, while the kids in the backseat laughed, waving at people in the restaurant. We waved back as Dad corrected the skid and continued down the street, completely unscathed. Hed had the entire block to himself By the time we got home, we had been on the road for over ten hours. We were exhausted, and caught colds, but were otherwise fineand it was another two weeks before our daughter was born. eleven mile slid

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True story of a trip over the mountains


12/1/2009 9:39 PM
OMG..THIS is a BEAUTIFULLY Inspirational Christmas (TRUE) story!!! I FAMED it!!! :) GREAT JOB!!!



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Votes: 8
Views: 2,337
Date: 11/28/09
Other: Writing