Over the river and through the woods - The drive from hell

The PNW coast has been hammered recently by cold weather and snow. I thought it would be over by Christmas, but it took one more shot. My ex-fiancée is still a very good friend, so I was going to drive down to the Central Oregon coast to spend Christmas with her. The first thing I noticed as I looked outside on Christmas morning was that there was nearly a foot of new show on the Jeep, which I had cleared of snow the previous day. (Without chains, the Prius was trapped in the driveway. Still is, actually.) And it was still coming down. le sigh I got out the push broom to clean it off. No worries, just a minor delay – until I got to the windshield.

Some totally greedy negative vibe merchant had stolen the driver’s-side windshield wiper arm overnight. Not just the blade; the whole arm. I called around, and no dealer in the State of Washington had one in stock. I finally found one at a wrecking yard in Snohomish, 90 miles away. I swapped the passenger-side wiper arm over and loaded up the Jeep. The roads hadn’t been plowed of course, so it was a bit slippery. Thank the gods for 4WD. It was a slow drive to the freeway, and freeway speeds were down to 50 instead of the normal 70. Fortunately it had stopped snowing, though there was a lot of spray being thrown up. You don’t realise how much you use the right side of your windshield until you can’t. One hopeful sign was that the temperature was above freezing.

It started snowing again when I got off the freeway. More and more snow on the secondary roads as I neared the wrecking yard. It was coming down a treat by the time I got there. I put on the ‘new’ wiper arm while a guy from the shop kindly replace the blade on the other one and I could see again! Freeway speeds improved as I got farther south.

I call Oregon ‘Driver’s Purgatory’. I hate driving there. People drive too slow and they won’t get out of your way. Speed wasn’t an issue this time. Too dangerous to drive fast. ODOT seems to have plowed the lanes, but for some reason left four or five inches of ice between them. What were they thinking? After more than 300 miles I thought it might be a good time to refuel. (The economy meter was reporting about 23 mpg. Not bad. I didn’t bother calculating actual usage though.) The sun is down and it’s dark, and I’m in the leftmost lane. Changing lanes at 50 mph might end in disaster. This is ridiculous! Who doesn’t clear the road between the lanes? After attempting a few times to slowly move over, I finally saw a thin spot in the ice. I yanked on the 4WD and bounded over the ice-berm more aggressively than I normally would shift lanes. It worked.

I hit sleet around Salem, and then it turned into snow. And then it really started to snow. Big fat flakes. I was down to 20 mph and I couldn’t see the lane. (Now I wished for unplowed snow between the lanes! But it had gone, this far south.) Heck, I could barely see anything in front of me! I was out of it in a half an hour, but I seriously thought about pulling over and waiting it out. I normally take the 38 from the 5 to the coast, but I was advised the 42 was flatter and probably a better bet. Turned out the 42 is a rather winding road with low speeds. Truck ruts filled with water and I was a bit concerned about going too fast on the straight bits because of the possibility of hydroplaning. My tires are good, but it had not been a good trip so far. Why chance it? Eighty miles on a winding two-lane blacktop. In wind and driving rain.

The 500-mile trip down took 11 hours. By comparison, the trip home yesterday took eight and a half – a half-hour longer than usual because of the rain. I’m still ticked that someone stole my wiper arm. I think I’m going to take them off and stamp my VIN on them. It might not keep them from being stolen, but if they’re stolen again and I see another Cherokee in the neighbourhood I can check to see if the owner is the culprit.

I hate thieves! I came out one day to find that someone had stolen the right rear light housing from my F-350. When I replaced it, I used tamper-resistant screws. Your idea of identifying parts is a good one - there are loads of Ford pickups in my neighborhood - I’m sure it was someone who lived nearby.

Glad that you made the trip safely.

Me too!

I’m usually fairly fearless as a driver. I’ll admit to checking my six more often in heavy traffic after being rear-ended twice in one week, but I’ve no problem taking off for a 20-hour drive if i have time to. I’m game for driving in snow, wind, and rain. I know that 4WD isn’t a magic carpet, and I have experience using it offroad and on. This time there was the combination of a long drive, being tired, poor weather, ‘get-there-itis’, ODOT’s negligence in not clearing between lanes, having to drive the Jeep instead of the more comfortable Prius, and having to replace a stolen critical part the day of my trip, which happened to be Christmas Eve with poor weather and when many businesses were closed. I was quite happy when I parked at my destination.

My condolences - I hate driving in bad weather.

My girlfriend and I headed from Indianapolis to Kansas City last Tuesday. Thirty miles in, the traffic stopped. Not an exit in sight, and two dogs on board. The problem was the nice thick sheet of ice on the roads, plus what is apparently the only two hills in Indiana made I-70 impassable. We finally inches up to an exit, but it was blocked by two jack-knifed semis. SEVEN hours later, I gave up, jumped the median (which was perfectly level and narrow, thanks to the exit overpass) and headed back.

It was my first Christmas I didn’t get to spend at home.

Oh, that sucks! I hope you were able to make the best of it.

Your trip was worse than mine. Mine was tedious and tiring, and the weather was annoying. But the major patches of ice cleared up well before I left, and there were no wrecks to tie things up.

My wife and I enjoyed a snowpacked and icy NM Highway on Friday. That was a fun 20-35 MPH trip up and over the Sandias. We watched a DirectTV van flip over on its side presumably because he was looking at the police deal with an accident in the median. The back end just came around and he slid off the road and when he hit the dirt on the shoulder it just flipped over on its side. Sparks briefly flew and it made a hell of a racket sliding along. My wife said it was like a movie.

It wasn’t horrible - the GF and I made a really nice dinner and went shopping for some small gifts that turned out really sweet. But I did manage to come down with the flu the next day, so I guess it was a blessing in disguise that I didn’t have to drive home stopping every thirty minutes for a bathroom break.

My brothers will surely sympathize with your driving woes.

They left Boise at 1:00 a.m. Christmas morning for the usually 9 hour drive to our mother’s house in Montana, thinking they would make it there for a late breakfast, lunch at the latest.

At 4:00 a.m., they were busting through drifted snow (Chevy 2500) on the interstate with about 5 smaller cars in a convoy behind them following in their tracks. They got caught in a particularly heavy drift that pulled them off the road and into about 5 feet of snow in the ditch. They waited for first light to try and dig themselves out, but between the snow and the wind, weren’t having much luck.

A wrecker pulled up at about 9:00 am and offered to pull them out for $125.00. Finally, out of the ditch, they made their way to American Falls, which was only a couple of miles down the road, only to find out that the Interstate between there and Pocatello was closed. So they sat in a diner with some other holiday refugees and played some dice game until 2:00 in the afternoon when they open the roads back up.

The 10 hours they were delayed was long enough for the top of the storm to hit the lower part on Montana, so they spent the rest of the trip battling nasty weather, snowpacked and icy roads, and winds up to 60 mph.

Needless to say, it was a long day for them and those of us already at mom’s house. I swear we felt every painful mile they traveled that day and night. My worried mom, in tears, called them one last time to see where they were, and they were at the ‘halfway house’ which is the midway point as you’re traveling up the last 14 mile stretch to Absarokee.

At 1:15 a.m., 24 hours and 15 minutes after they had left Boise, they finally showed up.

My gift to them, bought the previous week, was new pillows. They were appreciated.

From Boise that night? Oh dear. I’m glad they made it, though! I’m in the mountains north of there and we got nearly two feet of snow out of that storm. I would not have wanted to be driving in that, especially in the wind further south.

Good God! I’m having flashbacks to driving through NZ winters. Kinda makes me glad that torrential rain and the odd dust-storm are the worst I have to endure here.

Still, glad to hear you’re in one piece! :slight_smile:

Thanks, Martini. Sometimes it rains hard enough up here that I can’t see, even with the wipers on high speed. I can probably count on the fingers of one hand how many times I’d been in a sand storm dense enough that I couldn’t see, when I lived in the Mojave.

Slight correction upon reviewing the OP: I looked out my window Christmas Eve morning. Not Christmas morning.