On the 23rd of June I received word that my Aunt Winone died. She was very good to me as I was growing up. My tribute to my Aunt Winone will be my next post, but in this one I would like to recount the car trip going to her funeral.
I told my mother that I would take her. The funeral was in Sacramento, California. We are in Rexburg, Idaho. On Google Maps it states that you can make the trip in a little over 12 hours. I've never driven that far in one day, but I really felt like I needed to make the effort to do this. Our Ford Explorer is not exactly new, and it's got a lot of miles under it's tread. Mike was not confident in it's ability to make the trip so he volunteered to rent me a car. The funeral was set for Friday, July 1st. I figured we'd drive down on Thursday, do funeral/family stuff on Friday and drive back on Saturday. I borrowed Joni's GPS unit and plugged in the address for the church where the funeral, and felt confident that we'd have smooth sailing.
The first hint that this may not be a dream vacation was on Tuesday when Mike went to rent the car. They were all gone. He tried every rental place for a hundred miles. All were completely booked. The closest car to rent was in Twin Falls, Idaho. 187 miles away. I was not happy about this. Mike was trying to make the best of things, but I was kind of being grumpy about the whole thing. We went to bed Tuesday night not knowing what we were going to do about it. On Wednesday my mother had her car serviced and readied in case we needed to take it. Then I received a phone call from the car rental place. They had a cancellation. We would have a car for the trip.
I picked up the rental, which turned out to be a Jeep Wrangler. A cool sporty Jeep Wrangler. I took the Wrangler over to pick up my 80 year old mother. I'm sure we looked pretty odd. A mid-50 and 80 year old women tooling around in this sporty SUV. The Wrangler had a great AC, which was a must. We heard it was in the triple digits where we were headed. We also discovered that it did NOT have a cruise control. I thought it was not a big deal. They never used to have cruise control and people lived. I was sure it wouldn't be an issue.
We started on our way. Mom told me that Laurie always calls her GPS unit "Babs", so we listened to Babs' cool English accent as she guided us out on the Freeway. Our route would lead us through Twin Falls, Idaho, Elko, Winnemucca and Reno, Nevada, and finally Sacramento California.
As we were driving along we started telling each other stories about trips that had gone badly in the past. Mom was telling me about the trip she took with Catherine when the radiator went out and all the troubles they had, and another trip she took with Dad to pick up egg cartons. I was just cringing inside as she was telling me all the horrors they had to endure and I actually said......, I actually dangled bait and tempted fate, by saying, "I've never had a trip like that."
It wasn't 15 minutes after I made that statement that we were following Babs' directions through Twin Falls. She said, "turn left" and we discovered she wanted us to go through a road that was closed due to construction. There was no detour, just a closed road. This road would have led us over the canyon. There are only so many bridges over the canyon and so it wasn't just a matter of going over a block and then back on the trail. We backtracked a ways until we found a diner. I went in and asked the waitress how to get over the canyon. She told us the route and we were once again off.
Things seemed to be going smoothly. We turned on to a road and Babs seemed to pick up our trail and told us to "drive 75 miles". It was a pretty straight and flat road. We drove and drove and I noticed a strange sensation in my right cheek. Not the one on my face, either. Right dead center in that Gluteus Maximus a stinging pain began. It felt like someone was trying to shove a darning needle straight in. I tried shifting in my seat a bit and it seemed to subside. We drove through a town, the road turning neither right or left and Babs remaining silent. I didn't think anything of it. I drove another 40 miles and saw a T intersection coming up. As I got closer and closer I kept expecting to hear Babs spring to life and tell us which way to turn. Right or left, Babs, right or left. I drove right up to the end of the road. Ahead of me was a dirt trail. Stretching out to the right and left was the highway. Babs was silent. I grabbed the GPS and looked at it. It was dead. It was plugged in to the socket, but it was not on. I pulled the plug out and stuck it in the other outlet. It immediately turned on. Bab's tried to locate us, and recalculate our route, but was strangely silent. I decided to go left, drove about a half a mile, panicked, stopped and turned around and went back to the T. There was a man stopped beside his motor home. I drove up to him and asked him if he knew the way. He said he thought we should go back 40 miles to the town we'd driven through. I guess the look on our faces told him we didn't like that option, cause he said, "...or you could go left. You'll be on route 50, the loneliest road in America People go out there to watch for UFO's. As long as the sun is in your eyes you're going the right way."
With a feeling of relief we turned left and started down the road. A few miles in Babs tried to redeem herself by offering us various suggestions. "Turn right" she once said, which, if we had done would have run us smack dab into a mountain. I turned the GPS unit off and then back on so that she could reboot and find her bearings.
As Wikipedia says, "The route crosses mostly desolate terrain in the journey across the state; US 50 passes through several large desert valleys and basins. The highway crosses 17 named mountain passes that break up the Nevada desert. To crest some of the passes along US 50 requires navigating steep 8% grades and hairpin turns through pine forests to reach altitudes of over 7,000 feet".
Or to put it in plainer terms, there were a lot of very very long straight stretches and a lot of very twisty steep mountain passes. It was during these long stretches that I noticed the needle in my buttock was getting pushed deeper and deeper. I would have to squirm and wiggle and sometime just push my back against the seat and raise my tush off for the pain to subside. It was about this time that my swift intellect reached the conclusion that not having cruise control was causing a muscle cramp due to continual pressure applied by my right foot to the gas pedal. Great! I'm 1/2 day into my 3 day driving marathon.
During one of the long lonely stretches my mother started looking around inside the Jeep. She reached up by her visor and touched a shiny metal piece. "What's this?" she asked. I glanced up and said, "Maybe its a mirror. Pull on it." Then I looked over at my side. Hmmm, I had the same thing. I looked at the ceiling and towards the back. Suddenly I realized what that shiny thing was. "Don't touch that! It's the latch to take the roof off." I could just see us cruising along at 80 mph and releasing the roof, which flys off dramatically, a scene straight out of a Chevy Chase movie.
We began to realize that by taking Route 50 we had added about 250 miles to our trip. Our arrival time, according to Babs, was much later than I knew I could safely drive. When we finally joined the road which we should have been on to begin with it was pushing close to 9:00 pm. Reno was just ahead and we thought we'd stop there for the night. I was watching the exits, waiting for a motel on the far side of Reno so that our trip the next morning would be just a bit shorter. Suddenly Reno was gone and we were on our way to the next town, Boca. I was determined to get a place for the night here. As we approached Boca we saw road construction signs. Through traffic was to keep left, the business loop was to exit. I exited. I found myself driving up a canyon, away from the town. Confused, I stopped, turned around and went back. Suddenly I realized I was inches away from entering the on ramp to the freeway heading back to Reno. I slammed on my brakes and turned around again. I trusted the business loop promise and followed the road as it went up the canyon a short distance and then looped around BEHIND the town. I was back on the freeway, never seeing so much as a store, let alone a motel.
The next town was Truckee. Mom suggested I stop the Jeep after exiting at Truckee and using the GPS to find a motel. I did so and saw a promising list. I wasn't going to be picky at this point since it was now after 10, and hit the first motel on the list. Babs led us around and around until she proudly announced us AT the destination. It was a half-built building. The windows were not even yet installed. I hit the second motel. Babs led us with her confident British accent proudly up to the entrance of a hospital. I joked with mom that maybe if we begged they would let us sleep in one of their beds. During this motel search both our cell phones kept beeping and ringing. All that noise added to Bab's constant commands kind of got on our last nerve, adding to the stress of the situation. I hit motel number 3. Babs led us up a canyon road that at first looked promising, with all the strip malls and gas stations, and then deteriorated rapidly. When Babs announced that we were at our destination my heart sank. The little row of cottages were shabby and dark, weeds in the yard, peeling paint, and no office sign. I reluctantly parked and mom and I started walking around looking for someplace to check in. Two scary looking guys in wife beater t-shirts walked past us and I found myself saying, "mommy, I'm scared". By mutual consent we went back to the Wrangler. Mom said she saw bikes leaned up against the buildings and that the place looked like a residence, not a motel. I was very glad to drive away from the place.
I hit lucky hotel number 4. We were led by our trusty? navigator to the opposite side of town. About 10 minutes later we pulled up to a very nice large motel complex. I went inside to inquire about a room and $150 dollars later found ourselves in a very comfortable place. The beds were excellent, and so was the breakfast the next morning. On a side note, when I checked in I noticed a jar of dog biscuits on the counter. I asked the clerk about them and she said that some guests think they're cookies and will pop off the lid and chow down on one before she has a chance to tell them. She said she'd rather tell someone their credit card was declined than to tell them they just ate a dog biscuit. ha ha
We drove to the church where the funeral was held arriving at 9:50 am, 10 minutes before the viewing started. It was great for me to see cousins I haven't seen in 30 years. The funeral was small, Winone had only lived there for 9 months and didn't know a lot of people, but was a great tribute to her. My brother Ron and his wife, Vallerie had arrived right before we did, coming from Provo, Utah, so we sat with and rode out to the cemetery with them. When it was over we went back to the church for a luncheon put on by the Relief Society. We were able to visit with more family and met some that I'd never known before.
At 1:30 we left. Our goal was to drive to Winnemucca Nevada, arriving early enough to relax and enjoy the evening.
Before we'd gone more than a few miles we found ourselves creeping along at 0-5 miles per hour. The darning needle pain in my cheek was throbbing. I couldn't seem to relieve it. I tried to use my left foot a bit, to give my right one a break, but was too nervous that I'd mess up and hit the gas instead of the brake in this unfamiliar vehicle. Over 90 minutes later we finally passed all the construction that had halted our progress and we were at least a good 10 miles down the road. Things were not boding well for a day of smooth sailing. Our early evening was much later than we'd planned and we pulled into Winnemucca at about 8 pm. Two days of driving had worn us out, and I pulled into the first motel I saw. $150 later we found ourselved in another very comfortable room, shocked at the cost, but determined not to look back and just enjoy it. The excellent bed and breakfast the next morning made it not quite so painful.
In my morning prayer I asked that we might be able to travel without delays or detours. I guess the good Lord thought I needed to learn a lesson in patience more. Mom and I are in good spirits as we start out on our drive. We find ourselves starting to talk about car troubles we've had in the past. We looked at each other with buggy eyes and decided to stop that train of thought immediately. Thank goodness we dodged THAT bullet. We were driving along, making good time and a couple of hours into our trip I saw one of those electronic signs over the freeway. "Severe Accident Ahead. Expect 4 Hour Delays".
"Did you see that?" I screeched at Mom, hoping I had imagined it. I hadn't, cause she had. We pulled into the town. I was anxious to get inside the gas station store to see if they had any news. I walked ahead of Mom and entered the store. Suddenly everyone around me started gasping and rushing passed me out the door. I turned around in time to see many people around Mom, looking very concerned. Feeling like a very bad daughter I rushed back outside and helped her extricate herself from all the concerned good citizens. She had not seen a one inch rise in the sidewalk and had tripped over it, very nearly falling. She managed to stay on her feet and instead sort of crashed into the door of the store. She felt foolish, but really she did remarkably well considering she stayed on her feet. I know I would have gone down like a sack of potatoes. (Which I did on Wednesday night, but that's another story.) Inside the store everyone was buzzing. People were pouring over maps, trying to find an alternative route. There was talk of watching a movie in town, and someone heard that it had already been 3 hours since the accident. One of the store clerks called the DOT and announced to the store that one lane of traffic had been reopened. Not really having a choice, we gassed up and headed out. Pretty soone we were stuck in a line of creeping cars and trucks. We once again, for the second day in a row, travelled about 10 miles at 0-5 mph. About 90 minutes later we passed the scene of the accident. Two semi trucks were twisted and demolished, their cargo strewn for a half a mile. There was also a cargo van with the front end smashed. It was a sobering site. I hoped there weren't any tragedies, but I never heard.
There was relief and pleasure when we were finally driving down Main Street in Rexburg. The trimmed green lawns, flower baskets, and quaint storefronts were a welcoming sight. We'd made it home safe and sound.