Monday March 3rd, 2014 began earlier than we thought. The weather in Pendleton Oregon was still a mystery to us, so we decided to get up extra early to make sure we had plenty of time to re-route if needed. We had to be at the apartment before six pm, but the bonus time zone change would give us a little more room for error. The only problem was that now the drive from Boise to Tigard was going to be a few hours longer than that of the original Pendleton to Tigard and we heard the weather was not so kind in the Pendleton area.
We woke up around 4am and prepared for the seven hour drive. Promising the cats this was the last time we would lock them in their plastic jail cells we loaded the car in the freshly washed with cold rain parking lot. By the time we got on the road it was around 6am, still very dark. I got on the two way radio and said “Let’s book it before rush hour hits in Boise”. Of course after driving 37 miles each way to work in Dallas, that statement seemed absurd but the words had already left my mouth. We were both good on gas for a little while, so I wanted to push out a little way before stopping. As soon as we got on the highway I noticed a huge blinking traffic notification sign (thank god), that said the highway we were on was closed westbound from “x”(don’t remember the town) to Pendleton. Fan-freaking-tastic. It seemed that Pendleton was cursed all along. We were warned numerous times of the weather system…and our luck had finally ran out. Time for plan B(even though I think we were up to F by this time).
We had become used to adjusting our travel over the last few days, and had become quite good at it so I wondered how we were going to get through this. The day before I had programmed the Pendleton police department’s phone number in to my phone just in case I needed it. So we stopped for gas and I called their dispatch center and told them the situation I was in and wanted to verify the roads were that bad. The woman who helped me was extremely nice and understanding. She confirmed the road was closed and it would be for a little while because of icy conditions. I graciously thanked her and proceeded to pull out my playbook, thumb to “h” for hail mary…and let her rip. We decided that rather than sit out and wait for the road to open we would go through Bend. Essentially this would add two hours to our trip, but we would still make it on time barring any major road closures or problems. The only problem was, could we make it to the exit before the highway was shut down? In fact the very exit they were forcing everyone off the highway was the one exit we needed. Back on the trail!
“Shit!” I heard Ginger exclaim that the one sign that she wanted a picture of the most….she missed. “Welcome to Oregon”. A combination of the dark and traffic prevented her from ignoring the most important thing (driving) long enough to take a picture. Both of us are guilty of wanting to document our trip while behind the wheel. But we both knew we didn’t need that picture…it would have been nice, but we were in the home stretch and did not need an accident to ruin the experience.
We were passing through rural Oregon farming towns when I thought to myself “this looks to me like the Oregon trail”. Right then, we passed a sign remarking we were nearing the end of the original Oregon trail. How cool was it that we were in the actual area where most of us “died from dysentery” on that monochrome screen decades ago. Back then it was just a game…but seeing the landscape, it was humbling to think of the real life people that had made it from places like Kansas all the way to Oregon in wagons. In the comfort, speed and protection of our vehicles we definitely felt like cheaters.
We stopped for a brief while to take a few shots of the landscape but we realized we didn’t have too long to spare…so we got back on the road right away. As we wound through the rocky and grass covered mountains, there was no doubt we made the right choice. It’s hard for me to describe the first leg of the journey because it was just so harsh. We’d get to the peak of a mountain and think “okay we’re going to start going down the other side now”…but that wasn’t the case. The mountain would plane off at the top then go on for miles….the wind and rain was violent at that elevation. We struggled to keep the cars centered. This leg of the journey was about 125 miles and brutal to say the least. There was nothing…rarely another car…no utility poles…after I realized that I also realized no cell service. It’s stupid that I was worried about it, after all I had packed quite a few tools for an emergency situation and I’m fairly good at “McGuyver’ing” my way out of situations. But (and this is going to sound dramatic) my life (or another’s) hasn’t depended on my ingenuity before. That stress was a little overwhelming and yet another character of the trip for which I didn’t plan. I also didn’t want to be a burden in case something happened and Ginger had to be the one to save me. Although every ounce of me knows she is fully capable of handling it.
Where the harsh landscape ends and the Whole Foods begin is Bend, Oregon. Bend is a nice affluent town with beautiful homes and gorgeous scenery. We topped off our tanks, stomachs and prepared for the final push in to Tigard. Just about three hours left in this marathon 33 hour trip.
We went through the Willamette pass mountain range and was it ever glorious! Some of the most beautiful scenery either of us had ever encountered. Snow covered mountains with waterfalls leading to rushing rivers and enormous trees. Ginger and I in awe of the beauty. At times both of us were white knuckling our steering wheels because of the road conditions (again)…but this time we were in populated areas. I got on the radio and told Ginger “do you realize this mountain is only an hour away from our apartment?”. Our excitement to both the proximity realization of natural beauty and the ending journey had us both giddy. Tired and worn the final few miles were typical city highway miles.
This time we recognized some of the landmarks from our trip in the fall. We had come so far to make this work. This time we were not leaving.
Note: this post was longer than I’d hoped and not as comical as planned…which I guess happens. Please stay tuned to the next post for some of the antics that occurred after our arrival. I assure you they were quite entertaining.