The long, long, long, long and winding road

Well, it did at least eventually lead to our door.

When last we met, our intrepid crew was holed up in the Redding Super 8, where one of the few comforts (almost making up for the nonfunctioning remote control, but not quite) was the presence of free Wi-Fi.

(Lots of pictures, so you’re going to have to jump.)

Since we no longer have cable/satellite, the TV exerted a hypnotic
pressure on us all, and we reveled in a four-hour marathon of "Modern
Marvels," "How It’s Made" (beaver pelts: repulsive and yet
fascinating!) and about thirty successive shows on the Travel Channel
about Niagara Falls.

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We were mostly just glad to be warm, dry and out of the situation that had thwarted our efforts to drive up I-5:

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See that spot? See that car? That’s where we sat, and exactly what we
got to stare at, for an HOUR AND A HALF. Then at last we were able to
inch forward… about five miles to a spot where the CHP was informing
drivers we needed chains to proceed. Fine. We got off the freeway, paid
$60 for chains for our stupid rental car (chains which we will have
absolutely no use for ever again) and $25 for a pair of local guys to
install them (because by this point Jim was so cold and wet and
irritated that I couldn’t bear to think of forcing him under the car
for twenty-some minutes), and headed up the road again.

Maybe fifteen miles later, we ran into another roadblock. A literal one
this time. The freeway was closed at Mount Shasta City. Of course this delightful town had no motel rooms left by this point, except for one
that was $157 for a single queen bed, and so we headed all the way back
down–61 miles in driving rain and howling wind–to Redding. I called
my mom and asked her to call around and find a
room for us so we wouldn’t spend all night trundling from one subpar
place to another… and thank goodness she did. (Thanks, Mom!) The
Super 8 may have had a certain creepy charmlessness all its own (don’t
sit on the bedspreads!), but we did manage to score the absolute last
room. Phew.

We had every intention of smuggling the kitties into the room, and
actually got Marvin inside–this a few hours after she’d done this to
Jim’s arm:
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(Moral of the story: When you’re shoving a frightened and reluctant cat
into the car and she tries to bolt, do not arrest her flight by
grabbing her by the tail.)

But then she pretty much immediately set up a-meowing, and we didn’t
want to get kicked out of the only room we had guaranteed to us, so we
stuck her back in the car, loaded the cranky feline trio up with food
water and fresh litter, came back inside and hoped for the best. (Note
that it was only forecast to get down to 48 degrees in Redding that
night… and that we went out several times to check on them. Which
only made them more annoyed.)

Anyway. The next morning, the weather forecast was no better–in fact,
it was rather worse–so we made the bold executive decision to drive
out along an unbeknownst-to-us windy road and connect to 101 and go up
the coast instead of braving the "storm of the decade" that was already
whipping up along I-5.

As we left Redding, the winds were gusting over 40 miles per hour. Jim
got drenched putting gas in the car, despite huddling under the pump
canopy. (Notice how much worse Jim is getting it than I am in this
story.) With not a little trepidation, we headed west on 299 to see
what fortune had in store.

Snow? No. Crazy winds? Not at all. Rain? Nothing we couldn’t deal with.
In fact, we spent the next many-many hours exclaiming to each other
over the general beautifulness of the scenery. We stopped several times
so Jim could take a picture, such as this one of a bridge that
apparently went nowhere.

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But there was a terrible cloud hanging over this cheery situation. We could not find Ella. My kitty. My beautiful Princess Pinknose von Silverfluff. She’d rooted herself under the front seat the day before, and I thought she was probably still there, since no one had seen her get out of the car, and when I started digging around for her I was quickly (and o, selfishly!) inclined to stop because it was raining freakin’ buckets and I was cold and miserable and the other cats were trying to get out of the car and I just wanted to go.

Cut to half an hour or so later. Ella had not yet re-emerged. I was starting to doubt myself, and Jim. "Are you sure she didn’t jump out of the car when you opened up the back hatch?" I asked. He was pretty sure, because he hadn’t seen her jump out, but he hadn’t seen her not jump out, either. "She’s got to be in here somewhere," I tried to reassure everyone.

Time passed. Ella did not appear. She did not meow. I contorted myself horribly to feel for her first under my seat, then under Jim’s. She was not there. I asked Jim to pull over so I could look in the (extremely incredibly crammed-full) back end. She was not there.

We rode on in silence. I started to cry, but very quietly so that the boys wouldn’t hear me and get upset. Then finally, I started calling her name. (She does not generally respond to her name.) Marvin answered me with an ill-tempered yowl, and suddenly we all heard it–Ella’s tiny, sweet squeak of a mew, coming from somewhere.

We pulled over again. Jim began ransacking the back of the car, while I called Ella and tried to get her to keep meowing back to me. Jim traced the sound and finally, finally, discovered that she’d somehow managed to crawl in and wedge herself in an impossibly tiny spot underneath the back seat, and that she appeared to be stuck. He needed to perform a daring extraction procedure. But Ella didn’t mind–in fact, she immediately crawled up onto my lap and buried her nose in the crook of my elbow and stayed there a long time–and we were reunited, and all was well.

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The boys, despite the soon-to-be depleted batteries of their new DSes (see, Amy,
you’re not the only mom with compromised principles this season!), were
cheery and non-bickery. The kitties settled in and sat
contentedly on our various laps. Except when we stopped, and then Jean
invariably tried to clamber up onto the dashboard.

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We reached Arcata, where 299 meets 101, and we went to the beach.

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We stopped in Trinidad and had an absolutely scrumptious clam-chowder lunch at the Trinidad Bay Eatery.

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We drove and drove, and we reached Grants Pass and were not-so-happily reunited with I-5, and we drove and drove some more and finally got home about 7:45 and were safe and just thrilled pantsless to be home. And there’s probably a moral in all this about salvaging moments of pure joy from what looked to be, on the surface, a thoroughly horrible situation. And there might even be some greater application of philosophy in there somewhere about Sticking Together and Family Support and Meeting Challenges with a Positive Attitude or some such happy crappy, but honestly just thinking about the whole thing makes me so tired I kind of need to stop talking about it now.

Phew. Happy freakin’ 2008, y’all. It’s got to beat the pants off 2007.

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About Molly Newman

Writer, cook and trivia/spelling bee hostess, living it up in North Portland.
This entry was posted in Gratuitous Catblogging, Things That Happened, Travel. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The long, long, long, long and winding road

  1. Amy Sorensen says:

    OK…I quite literally laughed OUT LOUD at your boys w/ their DSs. So glad to no longer be lonely with my compromised principles! SO glad you didn’t lose your little Ella and that everyone made it home safely. Now that it’s all over…in about ten years, you’ll remember it fondly. (We once got stuck on some mountain pass into California—don’t have a clue where, as I was 14 and thinking about boys instead of freeways—and spent the night in a DINER. Sleeping on those plastic, humped seats you find in booths. A miserable night indeed, but it makes me giggle now. It did take me a LONG time to find the humor in it, though!)

  2. Helena says:

    That bridge photo is gorgeous! Wow. I’m so glad Ella was okay. Awww.

  3. Lori V. says:

    I’m in with the Compromised Principles Club! A PS3 and Guitar Hero 3 (I take NO responsibility for Call of Duty 4… that was TOTALLY hubby, against ALL my protests) here. 😮
    I’m SO happy you found Ella!
    Hugs, Pal o’ Mine!

  4. Stephanie T. says:

    Poor ya’ll! Next time you get stuck DO NOT hesitate to call me!!! We’d have let you camp out here…kitties, demonic DSs and all!!
    We took the plunge into PS2 land and Guitar Hero this Christmas too…OMG!! If I’d known how much freakin’ fun that thing was I’d have said’ screw the principles’ LONG ago!! One drawback: I now listen to rock with ‘blue, blue blue…red…yellowwwww whammybar’ stuck in my brain.
    THAT was a vacation to remember!! Glad you’re back safe…

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