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.