PART I: The Drive:
I mentally started this post on my uncle Eric's porch, and my mind was absolutely brimming with brilliant observations, witticisms, and anecdotes for you all to devour. Somehow, on the harrowing journey home, I not only lost half my brain cells, I also can't find my memory, flare, nor sense of humour. So bear with me, and tell me it's genius even if you're secretly embarrassed for me.
You may recall from my previous post that I was none-too-thrilled to embark upon this exhausting expedition, and I prayed to break my leg. Alas, I awoke Friday morning with all limbs fully operational, so we picked up my mom and set about to spend the next decade on the road, for better or worse.
A 15-hour drive is no small feat, even with rockstar kids who travel like pros. My focus from the start was making good time. I'm obsessed. We don't stop unless a majority of my passengers has to pee so bad their kidneys are failing, we eat twice, no stopping to stretch legs, no arguing about me driving 90mph, and it's my music or you can hitchhike. The one concession I made, and this is no trivial sacrifice, was not to text while driving. My mom is vehement in her objection, as well she should be, so I refrained, save for the few times she dozed off, or I convinced her I was "checking something" on my phone. I am wholeheartedly opposed to texting while driving, and fully support the upcoming ban, but I do believe I should be exempt, I'm just sayin'. Obviously no road trip can commence without a trip to Starbucks, so we got our caffeine and were on the freeway by 8:00am (much later than I'd planned, but I figured I could make up the time driving 100mph around Corning, Orland, and all those barren olive fields leading up to the big, scary turn onto the 505 South (shudder). We were at the border in no time, ate at Ma's favourite restaurant in Ashland, and excitedly sped past that much-anticipated sign, "Welcome to California." I admit to choking up whenever I see it. I'm an Oregonian, through and through, but I'm a native Californian first, not because of geography but because my family is there. So I sped up 10mph. We hoped to make it there for dinner, but Mt. Shasta had a trick up her sleeve. That bitch. As we approached the pass, we found ourselves in the worst blizzard I have ever witnessed. Highway Patrol was turning people away based on the adequacy, or lack thereof, of their tires. I was, of course, waved right through, which would have been cause for celebration except that conditions, visibility, ferocity of the snow, were so dangerous, I was forced to drive 2 (yes 2) mph for two motherfucking hours. No hyperbole. Just to be clear, the traveling portion of this voyage was so utterly beyond reason I won't have to exaggerate at all. So we're creeping along, and I'm totally fixated on how we're going to miss the entire weekend and how I'm going to get some C4 and go back to Shasta, and, and... Eventually my passengers fell asleep, and before long, the tranquil beauty of the snow, which was ruining my trip, the quiet, and whatever music I had on, infused me with a fatigue previously unknown. My head started dropping, and then I'd startle awake. I couldn't drive faster, nor roll down the windows, and there was no signal to call anyone, so I shouted that everyone must wake up and sing with me, at the tops of their lungs. This is where Adam saved our lives without even knowing it. Adam is the DJ of my life, and were it not for his unparalleled compilations, my life would be a black hole. I brought approximately 6,695 discs he's made me, and found ones that had music my kids, my mom, and I would all know and we sang ourselves hoarse to get over that GODDAMNED pass.
Finally, after being trapped in that snowy purgatory, we started seeing green trees, and I accelerated to 15mph, and as soon as possible, 105mph, which Ma failed to notice thanks to Adam's convenient penchant for Van Morrison.
Okay so from Dunsmuir to Williams, on I-5, is so indescribably boring, there is nothing to say.
Typically, after eight hours, we turn left at Williams, and drive one more hour to my brother Sky's house, but in this case, it had already been over ten hours (thanks Mt. Shasta!), and we had to pull out the Mapquest and prepare for eight-lane highways, exits on the left, followed by unmarked exits on the right .2 miles later (no hyperbole remember), with pits in the road, no discernible lanes (Cal-Tran can't afford paint, apparently, but feel fine setting the speed limit at 80.), pitch black sky, sleet so heavy even we Oregonians were in disbelief, people driving 200mph, and seriously, we were on eight of the ten highways for less than a mile. No sooner would I risk lives and limbs to skid in front of some Audi driving so fast it was merely a streak, to make an exit on the left, and it would be time to veeeeer across another eight lanes to exit right. The last sketchy exit, before the harrowing, often deadly, widely feared, but familiar, Highway 17 through San Jose, was exit 12. No big deal right? How harmful could a little old exit 12 be? Funny you should ask. My hands were numb from clutching the wheel, and Mom was trying to ascertain the colour and shape of the upcoming exit sign, when suddenly, we saw ourselves, in slow motion, passing exit 12. The off ramps are very long, like a quarter mile, so the exit itself was right next to us, and we passed the tiny blue sign. This was when I suddenly became an outlaw, a Mission Impossible Agent perhaps. I jerked us up onto the two-foot ledge separating the dumb shits who missed the exit, and the purpose-driven bats out of hell headed to take their chances on highway 17. Mom urged me to drive to the next exit, and turn around. My brain rejected that like a trio of Mormons on my porch. The only thing standing in the way of me getting us onto exit 12, was an even higher barrier, four feet high, in fact. Mom could see my mental gears churning, and repeated her preference for merging back onto the autobahn, but I refused to lose more time. I pretended to look over my left shoulder, as though to merge, but was secretly looking at traffic coming hella fast from the right, toward the exit. I waited for a clearing, and I jumped the four foot ledge and sped down exit 12 before the law could descend. There was a collective gasp, but ultimately, praise and relief that we were finally on the last leg of our journey.
I just have to say, I wish every man I know could have seen me do that. Those of you who know me know that I don't let suggested retail prices stop me, and now I don't let dangerous ledges or traffic laws stop me either. Finally, the infamous highway 17.
With adrenaline pumping, I naturally sped up to 90 on this frighteningly narrow, twisty bullshit highway, with a ten foot divider in the middle, so you can't breathe.
Two relatives called to caution us about 17, but I was so impressed with myself I was deaf to their warnings. I was Mario Andretti, and we were almost there.
I thought it would never come: "Santa Cruz City Limit."