12.16.2012

261 - Road Trip, Day 2: Redding

Hat - Vintage, Jacket - UNIF c/o Nasty Gal, Skirt - c/o Lovelysally, Tank - Thrifted, Boots - Vintage

Have you ever seen the movie Groundhog Day? It's the one where Bill Murray gets stuck in a seemingly permanent time loop and is unable to escape the small town of Punxsutawney until he, like, learns how to appreciate life or something. I'm pretty sure my life tried to pull a Groundhog Day on me yesterday.

In theory, the drive from Fresno to Portland was supposed to be a straight shot. It's just under 12 hours, and while 12 hours is a lot to spend in a car, it's not particularly unbearable, especially if that car happens to be packed full of loved ones and dogs and vegan raw snackables. However, despite good company and good food, our late start leaving Fresno got the best of us, and at around 11 pm on the night before last, my exhaustion and anxiety converged, resulting in nightmarish not-quite-day dreams of weary eyes drifting shut as our car drifted into oncoming traffic. Hence, the Motel 6 room rented in haste (first stop off the freeway!) in the bustling metropolis of Redding, California.

Now, I am not a city snob. I quite like towns like Redding, California, in fact. I appreciate the strip mall sentiments of suburban pseudo-tranquility, seeing the "itch" in the eyes of the teenage rock-and-roll kids at their local Goodwill, reading their minds as they calculate their escape. It is that appreciation and interest -- just how different can these towns that all look the same be?! we should explore so that we can find out! -- that caused Yours Truly to spend yesterday morning in Redding leisurely perusing those very strip malls, ordering one of the three healthy smoothies on the otherwise saccharine-drenched menu at Jamba Juice, ducking into thrift stores to get a taste of local flavor and perhaps local secondhand gems, asking my dogs if they were under the impression that the Motel 6 in Redding, California was their new home, imagining what life might be like were the Motel 6 in Redding, California to be my new home (worse things have happened). By the time we finally found ourselves on the freeway, it was around 11 am. With six hours left of the drive, it would place us in Portland by 5 pm -- just enough time to drop off luggage, de-car-ify ourselves, and meet some friends for dinner then drinks then obligatory debauchery.

That old adage about the best laid plans popped into my head just one hour later, when a highway patrol officer appeared directly in front of my car, fishtailing across three lanes to slow down traffic. I've seen this before, usually when there is an accident ahead and they need time to clear the road, so dutifully, I slowed my roll to twenty miles and hour and followed...and followed...and followed...for forty minutes until we approached one lonely police officer manually placing cones across the I5-N, creating a barrier between us and Oregon. The highway patrol officer in front of us stopped his car and got out to inform us that the 5 was officially CLOSED. Clad in a makeshift trashbag rain poncho, he jogged alongside our car and directed us back onto the 5 south back to Redding.

Yes, weather had closed the I5-North down for the day, and due to my lingering about and Jamba Juice-ing and Goodwill-ing, I had missed the safe cutoff for mountain passing. We consulted our map and found two woodsy western passageways connecting Redding to the 101-N, a backup route that would take us through to Oregon. However, those routes would require snow chains. Now, we had tried to get snow chains -- we really had, but my boyfriend's car apparently has a manufacturer-made "sporty" tire scheme that makes it impossible to put snow chains on his car. We learned this when a man at the tire shop accused us of lowering the car, to which I replied, "Ha, yeah right, because that's totally something we would do...", to which the man replied, "Well, yeah...you did..." and to which my boyfriend replied by dutifully read the owner's manual of his car until able to prove that the "sporty" wheel set-up was in fact manufacturer's doing (which was satisfying in the "told-you-so" way that is always kind of satisfying, but still frustrating because it didn't matter much ultimately).

Determination getting the best of us, we drove on one such little passageway anyway, sans snow chains, asking each other, "How bad can it be?" We drove around a town called Round Mountain where the snow fell so lightly and beautifully that I thought for a moment perhaps there was goodness in the world and everything was beauty...but then one hour later, we found ourselves coming ultimately back the same way we came, rounding Round Mountain once again in opposite as the snow became so thick that my reaction was to let go of the steering wheel and cover my eyes and yell "LET GO AND LET GOD" while my boyfriend screamed "SPEAKING OF GOD, GOOD GOD WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING, DRIVE THE CAR" and my dog tried to lick my face to ease the tension.

Western woodsy passageways were definitely a no-go. Following that failed attempt, we sheepishly drove back into Redding, now clearly our new permanent home, to devise a more solid plan in the parking lot of an AM PM. It had begun to snow in Redding, as well. The snow seemed to mock me. I texted Isabel: "Snow is terrible." She texted back "Snow was around before driving." And then I went about flipping back and forth between the maps app on my iPhone and California highway traffic reports, constructing a plan.

The plan that was born of this endeavor was perfect and terrible all at once, avoiding all decidedly "wintery" terrain to drive instead up the coastline of California and through the Redwood Forest, cutting across to the I5 just across the border in Oregon, where the weather would surely be de-intensified. But we had to drive two hours south and three hours west and two hours north again just to get the 101 so that we could start from where we left off. That's seven hours of driving just to get one and a half hours due west of Redding. We filled up the gas tank, busted open the trail mix, proclaimed a "NO COMPLAINING OR I'LL PUNCH YOU" rule, and hit the road once again. Goodbye, Redding; hello, seven hours of exploring California.

And explore, we did! We discovered Clear Lake, a beautiful gigantic lake in Northern California whose shores were dotted with small hippie towns in which repurposed and tiled and collaged makeshift artists' compounds decorated the highways, health food stores built into old church steeples had light up peace signs in their windows, churches built into old homes had outside signs read "The best gift you can give your children is a good example", and people carried yoga mats on their back as they walked along rickety old wooden docks on the lakefront near trailer parks. We discovered the windiest roads that have ever existed, set deep, deep, deep into fair-weathered woods, their sharp turns showing up as perfect Vs in a jagged line on our GPS. v^v^v^ at 20 MPH, me clutching the "oh shit" handle on the roof above the passenger seat, trying to will myself out of being carsick. We got funny looks from the clerks of convenience stores in small mountain towns, who looked at my orange hair and asked, "Are you gonna BUY something?" when I requested the key for the restroom. We flashed our highbeams in the Redwood Forest to get a better glimpse of the looming monstrous trees in the pitch black night. We made plans we will not keep to stop by all of the tourist traps therein on the drive home -- the drive-thru tree! the one-log house! We saw taverns full of locals drinking and dancing and listening to music off of one-lane backroads in places we thought were unpopulated.

And eventually? We made it into Oregon, our eyes alit, our stomachs turned in knots as though we had just gotten away with something. We connected at the I5 there with not another car in sight. We had bypassed the snowstorm and the closed-off section of unusable highway and reconnected at the perfect point of smooth sailing northward. We had beaten the snow! I saw the first sign for Portland slightly thereafter, reading 315 miles to go. I turned Wreckless Eric up on the stereo and drove with renewed vigor, pulling into Portland at 4 am, neck and back straining from 16 hours of car seat immobility, voice raspy from singing along to our favorite songs ("I'd go the whole wide world!"), eyes barely open, and a smile on my face.