As I sit here in the dark, illegally parked beside the Oregon coast highway, I finally have the time and brain power to recount these hectic last two days over a sip of cabernet from a plastic mini-bottle. There are classical jazz tunes wafting from my faithful little Jose Bose and, having decided that this will be where I lay my head this evening, I am formulating what I hope will be an effective argument for highway patrol in the event they raise the issue of the “NO PARKING BETWEEN 10PM AND 6AM” sign posted 3 feet from my passenger door.
I took a different route than ever before to get here, south of Astoria OR; a grand and (as it turns out) somewhat daring route…through the Osoyoos crossing and down through Wenatchee and Yakima, across White Pass and down into Kelso and along the great Columbia river to Astoria (see pictures). How was the scenery, you ask? I haven’t the damndest clue as for 75% of the time I had my eyes glued to the dimly visible road while dodging accident scene after fresh accident scene. The whole of the pacific northwest is currently behaving like the city of Calgary in an October flurry, except these people have an excuse: they are used to tons of rain but a foot of slushy snow is, to them, almost totally foreign.
To be fair I had no idea what I was in for either, having glimpsed route 12 on the map and thought, “Gee that looks like it would be scenic with all the twists and turns! Let’s try that out!”, not noting that during a time of unusually winterrific conditions it went through a place called WHITE PASS. The next thing I know I was surrounded by a wall of snow the likes of which even I haven’t seen in ages, and it was only through the legendary prowess of the unstoppable Señor Carlito that we made it through.
It was when we descended from this land of the Yeti that the real fun began. While most of the vehicles on that pass knew (more or less) what they were in for and came prepared, on the stretch between there and Kelso (and particularly between Kelso and Astoria) it was complete white-knuckled mayhem. I saw one fellow do an inexplicable overcorrection on an uphill section which resulted in his car pirouetting gracefully into the opposite ditch, and a multiple vehicle dance in the oncoming lane which no doubt brought a few smiles from the local autobody mechanics. There were others--none serious; but for these two I had a front row seat (no pun intended) in witnessing them unfold.
And no, no I didn’t stop! Don’t look at me like that…first of all I had no phone with which to call for help--unlike all of them--and besides, I had a responsibility to the line of vehicles behind me! I can’t prove of course, but I got the distinct feeling that in the chaos, my license plate was noticed and I developed a faithful contingent of followers who assumed, rightly, that I had been through this type of shit before. I feel I taught them at least one thing about navigating such conditions—the absolute importance of not tailgating. The lead vehicle was hugging my bumper for dear sweet life and the rest forming a train, so I put my hand up and flashed the hazards until they backed off. After a while they all seemed to pick up on it and soon we had a well organized group. Alas, I think the slippery snow wolf picked off a couple of the stragglers along the way, but we the herd had no choice but to keep moving. I am hoping I also imparted the wisdom of pumping the brakes slowly and not slamming them in panic when the slide begins, but I was paying too much attention to the saving of my own arse to watch them that closely.
We finally made it to Astoria in one piece and seeing that the streets were a mess even there, I elected to drive farther down the coast until I could convince Carlito that we were actually headed to Mexico. I had been telling him this over the past couple days but never got a response, and this time my theory is that he didn’t really believe me. We are now sitting in the rain rather than snow and he will, soon enough. I am now going to crawl into my handmade Car-Bunk (good but not patent-good) and hope to avoid the highway patrol. Wish me luck! So far, I have settled on removing the keys from the ignition and telling them I’m a snow refugee who has been through a hell called White Pass and is now happily too drunk to drive…sorry sorry sir I am a Canadian, sorry. Cheers and good night!