Happy New Year!

First: Happy New Year, everyone! Also: Remind you of anyone?

Vacation has been… interesting. The trip down sucked. A LOT. It rained for the first leg of the trip, something that doesn’t really bother me at all, and was in fact rather expected, considering this is winter in the Pacific Northwest. We stayed with a friend in Portland for the night, and continued our trip down I-5 the next morning. Of course, we hadn’t bothered really checking the weather report for the drive, which was a stupid, stupid blunder on our part. As we neared the Oregon/California border, we ended up stopped in traffic for about 45 minutes before we decided to take the exit we had just passed and detour down to the next exit (the joy of road atlases that live in the car).

It started to snow as we made our way to the next exit, which was significantly higher in elevation. In fact, by the time we got to said exit (a mere 10 miles down the road), there was 3 inches of snow on the ground, and it was continuing to snow heavily. We tested our traction, and decided to press on. This worked out rather well, actually: the traffic jam (an accident, most likely) STILL hadn’t cleared by that point, so there was very little other traffic (merely the other people who’d chosen to detour like we had). We put the car into 2nd, and slowly made our way down the other side of the pass.

That’s when the wind picked up. We were getting knocked all over the place by this wind, but still doing alright (far more nerve-racking, though, because it reduced visiblity by blowing snow around). We again tested the roads, and decided to continue on.

Shortly after Weed, California, you enter yet another fairly significant mountain pass, which takes you through the foothills around Mt Shasta (and in fact directly through the middle of the Shasta National Recreation Area). The wind thankfully died down again crossing this pass, but the snow also got heavier (and wetter), which made the drive significantly more sketchy. As we were crossing this pass, we hit a patch of slushy ice while rounding a corner, and started to fishtail. I counter-steered as well as I could, but there was really just no traction to be had, and we ended up sliding across the road into the embankment (far, FAR better than sliding into the jersey wall). Before the hecklers say “you must have been going too fast!” I was going 30, in a low gear. By the time we impacted, we were going closer to 15 (hence why no airbag deployment). Mickey and I are none the worse for wear (well, other than our nerves), and the car itself is structurally and mechanically fine (I did as good a check as I can with a flashlight, checking the exterior and the underside). We slid over a mileage marker post, which dented the driver’s side front panel, a few inches in front of the door. We hit the embankment fairly directly, and the bumper took the entirety of the impact, gaining the scratches, and getting a chunk ripped out probably by a rock in the dirt. We even recovered the license plate, which had been ripped off in the impact.

After inspecting the car, we continued on our way (we didn’t really have a choice… we were in the middle of nowhere, and needed to get out of the mountains before the storm got much worse). About 20-30 minutes later, we ended up at the back of another traffic jam, a line which was pulling double-duty: an accident had happened there, so the authorities also took it as an opportunity to set up a checkpoint for chains on cars. If you didn’t have either 4WD or chains, you were directed off the road at that exit. (This is in the last 10 miles of the mountains, mind you.)

We sat for a while, and were told that it was chains-only, which we didn’t have, so we turned around and went up an exit (no services), and took a nap in the hopes that the storm would die down a little, or that a plow would come through. After an hour and a half or so, we tried again, and got back in the line, which had in fact started moving. We waited for a while, and I saw some cars nearby pull out and drive along the median until they were out of sight, so I decided to follow them on foot and see what exactly was happening. I dogtrotted about 3/4 of a mile down the road, until I finally came to where a lady was checking cars for tires.

I hung out there for a while and asked her a few questions about what exactly was allowed through, and then headed back to the car. This wasn’t nearly as long a walk (10 minutes or so?), as the line was in fact moving (Mickey took over driving duty while I walked). After making it through the checkpoint, we continued through the mountains, staying right around 20mph (that’s the speed Mickey felt comfortable at, and she was driving… seemed about right).

Once finally out of the mountains and in Redding, CA, we stopped for gas and a quick breather. The weather was still pretty bad, but was mostly snowing giant globs of flakes, and in fact cleared out after another mile or so (into literally nothing but normal rain, if that). We drove another hour or so, and stopped in Corning for the night, around 2:30am.

Got up in the morning and continued on our way. We were thankfully past the snow, but it was still raining heavily, and the wind had picked back up again. The leg between Corning and Sacramento was variable enough that it kept things a bit more interesting than I would have preferred, with wind gusts that were literally knocking people all over the roads. Just outside of Sacramento, we got stuck in traffic because a tractor trailor truck had been blown over onto its side. (Waiting in traffic, the wind was strong enough to shake the car even when standing still.)

The wind calmed down a LITTLE for the leg between Sacramento and San Jose, though the rain picked back up again instead. We finally made it down to Bill and Peri’s house, and even in time to see my cousin Jeff before he had to go catch a flight back to Colorado. We were fed yummy soup and homemade bread, got a chance to chat and catch up a bit, and then finally headed down to Ethan and Cortney’s, where we’ve been staying ever since.

So, for all that the drive down sucked ass, being down here has actually been pretty good. There is the minor muttering on my part because I’ll be leaving a few days before MacWorld San Fransisco opens, but hey, I can always FLY down next year, with a bit more preparation, and really get a lot more out of it. Mostly, we’ve been lounging about our cousin’s house, having pleasant conversation, good food, sleeping in, and reading a lot (Mickey has finally had a chance to just sit around and read, and has been taking good advantage of it… I’ve been using it as a chance to read my school books). Most of all, we’ve been playing with their puppy, Harp, who is an absolute sweetheart. She’s about a year old (maybe a little over), and is extremely intelligent (she’s also kind of stubborn). She’s a black and tan english shepherd, and seems to be very happy with my cousins (they rescued her from a kill shelter when she was six months old). She’s really reinforced to both Mickey and myself just how much we want a dog of our own… unfortunately, it’s going to have to wait until our income is a bit more stable, along with everything else we’ve been waiting on until we have more money.

We spent New Year’s Eve at an 80’s club in downtown San Fransisco (we drove past the Sega offices, I was very excited), and danced for about 45 minutes before and 45 minutes after the new year… we all had a good time. Despite my being younger than everyone else by a fair amount (which they delighted in poking fun at me about), I recognized as much music as anyone else, and it was a good time. We probably would have stayed longer, but it was BLOODY HOT in there, and we were all soaked with sweat by the time we stopped dancing. (Yes, that’s right, I dance. I’m not going to say I dance WELL, but I dance.) We ended up heading home and snuggling up with some hot chocolate and our respective sweeties (Ethan and Cortney, Mickey and I), which was in my humble opinion, a great way to inaugurate the new year.

We slept in til around 12, and then got up and went to a New Years party at some of Ethan’s cousins (the easiest way to describe the connection is that I am Ethan’s second cousin through his father. The family who was holding the party were Ethan’s cousins and extended family through his mother). There was lots of good food and pleasant conversation, and tomorrow we’re all going over to Bill and Peri’s for a leg of lamb (MMMmmmm).

That has pretty much been our week. Yes, long post.