Spent all of Monday on a LONG road trip, down to Salem, Ore., to meet my Girlfriend's Father. That all went fine -- I was MUCH more worried about whether The New Car (bought back around Christmas) would break down somewhere along the road than I was about meeting the GF's Dad.
The trip down was four hours on busy I-5. It was around 90 degrees at our destination outside of Salem. Just south of Portland, with the temperature outside the car hovering around 89, the GF FINALLY convinced me to give the air conditioner a try, & it worked wonderfully -- & I drove the rest of the way there in a dreamy haze. Ain't technology wonderful?
Got there, met her Dad & some of the rest of her family -- nice people. Talked a lot, had some good food, tried to stay cool. Around 7 or so, we figured it was time to head back home, & it was still around 85 outside.
So I had one of my BRILLIANT IDEAS & suggested we head for the Oregon Coast, where it would be at least 20 degrees cooler than the Willamette Valley. The car had been running fine all day, I didn't want to fight the I-5 traffic again, & I hadn't seen the ocean in 10 years. It would be a nice relaxed drive home for us, so...? She said if I was up for it, she was.
Four hours down, EIGHT hours back home.
I was an idiot. I couldn't guess distances right. I was familiar with the roads north of Tillamook, Ore., so I had some idea of how far the drive back home would be. & I knew it was only about 50 miles to the ocean. What I didn't know was some of the stuff we'd encounter along the way. Not that we didn't have a fun, interesting time....
Driving into the sun as we headed west from Salem. Winding climbs into the low Coast Ranges. We saw the Marine Layer of low overcast clouds coming in from a distance, then curved off to the north to head for Tillamook. Climbed up what I thought was the last range of hills between us and the coast....
And drove right into a huge fog bank. The temperature dropped from the low 80s to the low 50s in a matter of minutes. We'd gone from summer heat to winter cool in less than 50 miles.
In the middle of the thick, shrouding fog was a road construction project -- a 15-minute wait before a pilot car led a long line of us drivers through the five-mile-long pavement-resurfacing project.
But when we dropped back down out of that and came out of the fog, we drove through the rolling green farms and leaping forest-topped hills of Tillamook Cheese country. To see all this gorgeous greenery with lakes and inlets sprinkled all through it in the evening twilight was like seeing paintings of The Shire in Middle Earth. It was all quite pretty, seemingly deserted, & very quiet around 8:30 or so.
By the time we hit the coast at Tillamook, it was pitch-dark. & apparently on Oregon's North Coast the sidewalks all roll up by 9 p.m. We finally found a gas station to fill-up the car, & bought a couple mocha frappes for some caffeine to keep us going. And we kept heading north.
Put on some music to -- I hoped -- keep me focused and motivated: Journey, Pete Townshend, Todd Rundgren, Keane. When that started to get boring, I turned on the radio and found a few "modern country" stations to keep the GF happy. Heard some pretty good stuff, too -- done mostly by women. For me, country songs seem to have more depth of feeling when women sing them.
Drove through some beautiful coastal fishing villages, gorgeous lights sparkling on the water -- almost all of them closed down tight. Could see & hear the ocean but couldn't get close to it. At one point when the caffeine got to me, we pulled over & I downed some aspirin ... and I could hear the ocean waves roaring off below us. But I couldn't see a thing.
Drove through my old stomping grounds of Raymond and South Bend, Wash., both looking very quiet in the 1 a.m. darkness. Amazing how much stupid, petty crime happened in two such small, quiet towns while I was a reporter there.
Stopped for more strong coffee at Montesano, topped-off the car and dashed for home. Finally got back to the house around 3. Was a little shaky in places -- between Tillamook and Astoria it seemed at times as if the shadows on the road in front of me were sinking into the pavement in slow motion as the bright lights from the car made them vanish. More than once or twice I thought I was seeing things. I didn't mention any of this to the GF. I KNEW I'd been driving for WAY too long.
It made for an 18-hour day, most of it on the road. I will certainly try to NEVER do THAT again. My vacation's coming up in another two weeks, and I still hope to make it over to the ocean.
During the DAYTIME, next time....