*NOTE* This is part two of a three-part story from last week. Part one focuses on the background for my nightmare trip to Redding, part two focuses on the actual experience and part three looks at the deeper meaning and how it relates to my past.
Earlier in the day my mom had been worried that snow in Chicago might cancel my dad’s flight home from his annual business trip to the Windy City. As it turned out, snow could not prevent him from making it home safely that day. I was unable to say the same for myself.
I should probably at least acknowledge how amazing the performance was. I loved every minute of it, even as the Redding Civic Center didn’t quite have the feel (or acoustics) of a true Broadway theatre. I had to fight every urge in my body that wanted to sing along with each song, and I finally got to see a live performance of my favorite song from the musical, “If I Can’t Love Her.” It’s not in the movie, so I’d never seen it performed.
But the most memorable part of this story did not take place at the civic center.
No, as the play ended I rushed out of the building and to my car as quickly as possible, knowing the weather conditions were likely less than ideal. It had been pouring the entire drive down and was continuing to do so as I ran to my car.
I eventually called Frank to see if she could provide me any information on road closures or chain requirements, since I was driving and could not hear much on the AM Traffic Info station. Sure enough, she warned me that chains were required near Dunsmuir. I had no chains and would not trust my car in the snow even with them, so we knew alternative arrangements would need to be made.
This was where I should have just stopped, turned back to Redding and found a cheap motel room for the night. But I hoped to make it as far as I could to shorten the length of the drive to work the next day, and I had no idea just how little there is in the 15 miles south of Dunsmuir.
As the rain turned to snow I continued to pass exits with no sign of civilization, knowing that leaving the freeway in those moments would offer less assurance than just staying the course. The first full loss of control was the worst, as I slid to the side of the road and could not find any traction to avoid a potential accident.
Thankfully, as I prayed as fervently as I ever have, my car stopped right next to a guardrail. No contact had been made, but now my sad Boxster was stranded with its bright red derriere partially in the right lane of traffic. I tried to move but my tires just spun. Finally after several minutes and a line of cars passing by, I floored it straight in reverse to get back on the road and found my way into the traction of the tire tracks.
From there I followed my own convoy of hope for several miles, still passing exits that promised nothing more than darkness and unpaved roads. Finally, a couple miles south of Dunsmuir at exit 727, my car could make it no more. I maneuvered the slide over to the shoulder, between the lane and the exit, and waited.
When a Caltrans officer stopped by my car within 10 minutes of my stopping there was hope that I would be saved. I told him I had never been in this situation and was unsure what to do. Ever helpful, he told me he would call me a tow truck; it would be there in 20-30 minutes.
A little over an hour later, another Caltrans officer stopped and asked if he could help me. I told him I was waiting on a tow truck and he said he would stop again in a while if I was still there. Probably 40 minutes after that a highway patrol stopped and asked what I was doing. When I shared my story, he offered to check on the status of the tow truck. Five minutes later, he walked back to my car to inform me that no tow truck had been called, but one was now on its way – in about 90 minutes.
As the night turned into the wee hours of the morning I continued to wait for my salvation. Finally, the tow truck arrived, only to find that five trips by the snow plow had barricaded my car away from the road. Much digging and several spinouts later, my car was back on the road and in place for a tow. The story is actually much longer than that, but let’s just keep it as short as possible. By the time we pulled into the tow truck’s home of Weed, 20 miles north of my stranding, it was nearly 4:30 a.m.
A “night” in a small Weed motel, a breakfast at Weed’s Hi-Lo Café and a fortunate turn of weather fortunes later, I was back on the road for the last 60 miles home. When I finally arrived at 1 p.m. I was exhausted and needed a change of clothes and a nap. My car needed to be washed probably more than ever before.
Thankfully, the blizzard that never let up while I was sitting on the side of the road for nearly four hours came to an end during the night. I’d been informed by the tow truck driver that he’d heard the possibility of 18 inches, but that never came to fruition. For someone who has always loved snow, I could not have been more relieved to find clear roads and partially sunny skies the rest of the way home.
To be concluded…