Friday, January 4
As I recounted earlier, snow and car accidents kept us from completing the final leg of our long journey home. We stayed overnight in Redding, CA, hoping that we would be able to make it home the next day.
I woke at 4:30 am for an early morning reconnaissance mission up Interstate 5. When I reached the exit where we had been forced to turn around the day before and found that the roadblock had been removed, I concluded that the road was open and turned around. When I got back to the hotel, we roused the boys and departed Redding with no breakfast.
We hit the first snow as we ascended near Mount Shasta. About this time we noticed that we had acquired a small crack in the windshield on the passenger side. At first it wasn’t visible from the inside, but as we climbed we watched the crack grow! While we watched over a thirty second span, it stretched at least two more inches towards the center of the windshield. I turned down the defrost and it seemed to stop for the moment. It would continue to grow in fits and starts throughout the day whenever there were major differences in the inside and outside temperatures.
We had not put on the chains but we wouldn’t need them yet. A snow plow was less than half a mile ahead of us and when we reached what appeared to be the summit, he exited and headed back down from whence we came. At the same time, a snow plow from the other direction turned around at the same exit and blazed a trail for us going down.
Once we got back down to where it was raining, we stopped at a gas station to get fuel for the Scion and snacks for us. Since the pumps were covered by a canopy, I decided that it would be a good time to put on the new chains since we were certain to hit snow again at the Siskiyou Summit which was about 10 miles away. Unfortunately, my clever plan did not work as well as I would have liked. Because I had pulled to the forward-most pump, the front of the car (where the chains go on a front-wheel drive car) was sticking out from under the canopy. I had on the new raincoat which Tina had given me for Christmas and it worked perfectly, but my sweat pants were soon soaked as I struggled to put the chains on. Putting on chains requires quite a bit of knee-to-pavement contact, especially when one doesn’t know what he’s doing.
Unbeknownst to me, not all tire chains work the same and these were very unlike the set that I had bought and mastered for the van. Parts of the directions seemed vague until I was nearly done. When the meaning of “hooks up” became obvious, I removed the chains and started over again. After struggling with them for at least 45 minutes, we were finally ready to roll. I remembered the extra pair of dry pants from the night before and changed into them before we left. Now things were starting to fall into place!
It wouldn’t be long, though, before we began doubting our decision to chain up early. Driving the car over 45 mph caused a horrendous sound to come from the tires and Thomas pointed out that the directions said you shouldn’t drive over 40 mph with the chains. So we bump-bumped along for ten miles before we started seeing signs of snow. Soon, though, we felt good about our decision as we passed people trying to chain up in the cold. There were even entrepreneurs who were charging a fee to chain up other people’s cars. We drove right by the whole mess and continued on up to the pass.
There were no snowplows in sight this time but we traversed the pass at full speed (i.e. 40 mph) nearly the whole time and it was only about 45 minutes before we crossed the state line and descended into Ashland. After a delicious breakfast in Ashland, Tina took over the driving for the rest of the day while I napped. When I woke up Portland loomed in the distance and we faced afternoon rush hour on a Friday afternoon. It was only fitting, though, as it had seemed that the last hour was always the longest of each day of our entire journey.