Living in Northern California allows for some well received rain storms to pass overhead. A large system was moving through on the day we decided to head north. I-5 has a couple of passes that can see winter driving conditions at various times of the festive season, but compared to driving in Colorado and even I-80 over the Sierra Nevada passes, adverse conditions are short and usually sweet. The morning before we left I was checking the weather reports, and snow was definitely falling around Mt. Shasta, and chains were required on trucks and towing vehicles -- no big deal, especially for a seasoned Colorado alpine driver armed with an AWD Subaru wagon. After we hit the road, headed north, we drive for nearly 3 hours before we start seeing road signs warning us that I-5 is closed 10 miles north of Redding. Further investigation reveals that the interstate is also closed at the pass south of Ashland as well. There is no timetable provided for potential re-opening of the freeway.
Options at this point include turning around, and spending Christmas with beloved friends and family near home; we also thought about waiting out the closure either at a Starbucks, rest-stop or at a hotel; or, we could take a small, winding state highway due west to highway 101, which we could take north and eventually make our way back to I-5. Complicating matters is the third member of our traveling party: our 100lb Akita, who is a wonderful dog, but has a weakness for eating kitty-cats. My parents have a cat, and so far has shown a sharp distaste for being eaten. We have a kennel in Oregon we know and trust and as such we were going to keep her there during our stay -- the key being that if we didn't get her there prior to 3pm on Saturday before Christmas, we wouldn't be able to board her at all, which would have been a major problem. In light of all this, but perhaps most importantly, I like the feeling of going somewhere over waiting things out, we decide to take State Route 36 from Redbluff to Humboldt County. I'm sure that driving this road on a sunny afternoon in the summer, with the top down, provides for a stunning, world-class drive, not only for the scenery, but also because of the (seemingly) never-ending switchbacks and hairpin turns while hugging the side of a mountain while hanging over a deep ravine -- I'm sure the lack of guardrails provide for an unimpeded view for the river that I imagine courses through the valley floor, far below the highway. That said, driving this route in a winter storm, with snow and ice packed roads, near white-out conditions and not a town, service or cell-phone reception within hours behind or in front of us made for a challenging drive. Falling asleep was not an issue, nor was it an issue on Highway 199, which connects Crescent City to Grant's Pass, and was also significantly treacherous for an hour or so.
All in all, an 8 hour drive was pushed to nearly 17 hours. But we made it safe and sound, with hours to spare for getting Petra to the kennel before they closed for the holiday.
Despite the stressful aspects of the drive to Portland, I am still thankful for the opportunity to have such a wonderful family to visit. I got to spend time with people that I haven't been able to for many years, and even meet younger members (I'm looking at you, baby Jenna!) that I hadn't ever seen before. Seeing cousins grow up and start their own families is satisfying and enjoyable. For those that weren't able to be in Portland (I'm looking at you, Phil, Bobby, Rob & Bella (and Sabo Kiddos)) know that we were thinking about you and that you were missed.
Here is to the last remaining days of freedom (for medical students, and, convicted and soon to be sentenced criminals, I guess) and happy new year everyone.