After the recent series of rain and windstorms that ravaged the Pacific Northwest from Canada down to Oregon, I was reminded of the raw power of Mother Nature.
The following is the 16th time I’ve posted this journal entry. It’s my first-hand experience surviving a sudden ice storm that paralyzed the Seattle area for one night in 2006 …
This is my almost 20 hour (19hrs 56mins) odyssey from Costco Travel (Issaquah) to my Home, Sweet, Home (Bothell) and the 26 miles that separate it…
“Home, Sweet, Home”
November 27th 2006
[The car radio clock: 430p]
Left work to start my commute home. Since it had rained/snowed earlier, I knew that traffic would be delayed. I just didn’t realize what the Gods of Lunacy had in store for me…
[The car radio clock: 630p]
Two hours into my usual 1.5 hour commute, and I was only near 160th St SW on I-405 North. I sat there for 15 minutes with no movement. I made the fateful call to bail off the freeway and brave the surface streets to home.
Now to fully appreciate the situation, you must know that accessing Bothell from the Woodinville is like connecting via Hong Kong on a Seattle-Los Angeles flight. It was dark, cold and starting to freeze the water on the roadway. I started to make my way east up the 160th hill. With tires spinning, the rear end of the SS at a 45 degree angle and 20,000 miles less on my tires, I summited.
I turned left to go down the hilly street. The nose of the car came over the crest and started sliding because it’s nothing but a sheet o’ ice.
I tried to stop.
I manage to plow into a small snow bank on the right with the tires.
Whew, I breathe out a sigh of relief. I think, Screw this. I manage to turn this tank around on a inclined skating rink. Don’t ask me how I did it!
New plan. Go back to the damn freeway.
As I’m 6th car in line, I might just make it… hold da door. DOT & WSP closed the ramp – They are yelling it’s too dangerous. Now they are turning around the cars to get them off the ramp.
LOVELY. Never mind. New route. I can travel west along 160th to 100th street to Lake City Way to Highway 527 to home! I arrived to Lake City Way easy enough.
[The car radio clock: 805p]
My wife, Charlene, calls on my mobile phone and asks where am I? I answer with mere car lengths to joining the pile of cars turning left onto Highway 527.
She presses, “Do you see the Highway 523 sign to head into Woodinville?”
“Yep,” I answer. I’m almost 4 hours into this situation, so I’m damn near delirious.
“Go there,” she directs me. “Circumvent this mess and hop on 405. You should be north enough.”
I motor along the prescribed route. WSP closed off both directions of the 405 ramps at the interchange.
WTF?! NO choice. I’ll travel into Woodinville. I’ll cut over to Highway 527 on the Beardslee Blvd entrance. YES!
[The car radio clock: 933p]
Charlene calls again to inform me while I’m waiting at the nearest entrance that Interstate 405 North has been closed at Highway 527.
OMG! *insert a Denis Leary tirade here*
Luckily, I’m literally adjacent to the driveway of a Residence Inn. I think, they should have rooms. I park and exit. By the time I open the entrance door, the counter person, bellows, “NO vacancy! Don’t try Springhill Suites either, full.”
I mutter under my breathe, you’re full of…
I return to my car. I’ll heroically navigate the narrow, dark, icy roads to 228th and get to Highway 527 and finally home. Since I’m 5 hours into this worst case scenario, now this is a personal damn vendetta as I’m getting home tonight!
[The car radio clock: 945p]
My dear friend, Sidney, who’s contacted me several times and my wife, Charlene, are genuinely concerned about my safety.
It should have been my sanity in hindsight. I’m on the threshold of Hell. I’m beyond tired, hungry and frustrated. The reports of closed highways is longer than the ones open. I get out of my car to survey the situation.
Charlene calls my mobile while I’m outside my vehicle to inform me that she reserved that last room at the Willows Lodge in Woodinville for tonight.
She almost pleads with me to return to the car. I think, I can walk this. I can abandoned the car like several others have done. However, cooler heads prevail as she coaxes me back into the Sapphire Sled.
[The car radio clock: 1015p]
I claw my way BACK the way I came from Woodinville (haven’t I seen this hill before?)
By the grace of God, my Mom’s heavenly help, Charlene’s sweet voice on the end of my mobile (thank Christ I bought a car charger as the battery expired) guiding me in, and some mad skills behind the wheel I get to the open Highway 202.
[The car radio clock: 1045p]
I arrive at Willows Lodge. The front desk employees, Colton and Antoinette, have my room keys ready.
They ask, “Are you hungry, sir?”
“Yes, I am,” I acknowledge. “Is there somewhere I can eat?”
“No, but we have these Chicken Margarita sandwiches that you can have since we’ll donate them in the morning,” Colton offers. Antoinette adds, “Here’s a free bottle of 2004 Cab-Sauvignon, and a bottle opener.”
With my arms full, I drag myself to the room. I call Charlene to inform her that I’m safe, but far from sound.
Quick note: at the end of Die Hard and Die Hard 2, “Let It Snow” plays during the credits. As I place my dinner items on the room desk, and finish my phone call, I hear in that Isn’t-It-Ironic type of way… “Oh, the weather outside is frightful…” Of course it is!
[The room alarm clock: 1010a]
Now I’m on the verge of heading out, and getting HOME!! H-O-M-E, should be me. I blaze outta there with a wing and a prayer. I’m hungry, again. The roads are great: bare and wet.
I pop through Woodinville (again) to travel along my regular route home. I drive through McDonald’s to buy brunch for Charlene and I.
[The car radio clock: 1100a]
Chains! I’m buying some damn chains. Les Schwab should have oodles of them! I step inside to discover only 1 set left for my tire size: P205 / 55R16.
I struggle mightily to test fit my chains. Are you kidding me? Ron, the tech, politely and compassionately demonstrates me how to put them on. Apparently the last step wasn’t necessary and I could have easily been home by now.
[The car radio clock: 1226p]
I park in my driveway with the chains on still. I am triumphant! Alive, not injured, with the car (no damage) after 20 hours but home at last.
Home, sweet, home. As I enter the house, I look up from the foyer, Charlene smiles from the top of the stairs. “You’re home!”
I smile, and thought: YES. Yes, indeed.