Friday, December 11, 2015

I come from the land of the ice and snow, or in this case, rain and landslides

So here's the saga of my day yesterday, pulling together all the disparate threads I started on Facebook.

First, a little background: We've had a genuine fuck-ton of rain this week. Roads are washing out, sinkholes forming, land- and mudslides sliding. Roads are out all over the place.

Wednesday afternoon, a landslide covered the northbound lanes of I-5 near Woodland, WA, which is the town I see across the Columbia River out my back windows. No traffic was getting through.

The only viable alternate route is Highway 30 in Oregon, which is my main route between home and Portland. Highway 30 is a 4 lane road, with a suicide lane in the middle for most of it, especially north of the St. Johns Bridge.

So here goes the story:
I have a massage every Thursday in St. Johns, which is a neighborhood in North Portland. This week was going to be a special one: a 90-minute massage as a gift to myself for my birthday. I was really looking forward to it, and that enthusiasm led me way the hell astray, as you will soon see.

I left way ahead of schedule Thursday morning, not knowing what the road conditions were going to be as I traveled south. By the time I got to Scappoose, I noticed that the lanes traveling north had heavy traffic, a lot of it tractor-trailers, neither of which is usual for the time of day or for the road.

But I didn't put the pieces together until I got to St. Johns, where I realized that there was a line of solid traffic on the route from I-5 to the St. Johns Bridge.

If I'd had any sense, I would have turned around right then and gone home. But I really didn't want to miss this massage, and I also really had no clue how bad things would get.

Also keep in mind I grew up on the east coast, where there are always many multiple alternate routes to get anywhere. I haven't really come to grips with the reality that this isn't true here.

The massage was wonderful, and afterward I walked over to the McMenamin's for lunch, figuring I didn't want to hit the road without eating. That turned out to be smarter than I knew, as was my bathroom visit before I did hit the road.

I fiddled around trying to make my way into the solid line of traffic inching its way to the St. Johns Bridge, and having no luck getting in, I finally decided to head for I-5 south, with the idea that I would stop and get my mail (my PO box is in that southbound direction), and then figure out what to do  from there.  The traffic on I-5 south was slow enough that I changed my mind quickly, and bailed out onto the Fremont Bridge, which would take me back to Highway 30 and home.

I hit the road at 12:30.

At 4:15, I had just barely made it to Scappoose, which is usually about a half hour drive.

At 6:30, I finally made it to St. Helens, where I stopped for dinner. It's usually about a 20-minute drive from Scappoose to St. Helens.

At 8:30, I finally made it home, a full 8 hours after I left St. Johns, a drive that usually takes about 30 minutes, depending on traffic.

There were times during the drive where we would sit utterly still for anywhere from 2 minutes to 40 minutes. Then we would roll, usually at idling speed, until coming again to a dead stop. The times when we went far enough and fast enough to actually shift into 2nd were exciting beyond belief.

I called Roy at one point during this drive because I was going crazy and trying to decide whether it made sense to bail and drive south again and find a hotel room, even though at that point, I was nominally about 15 minutes from home.

The last time I did a drive like this it was in a blizzard in Maryland. At least this wasn't white-knuckle driving.

And I've learned my lesson: bail!!


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