Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Long Road Home: Part 2

After an hour of no movement in our line of cars on HWY 58, and the only cars coming back our way were either giving up or willing to chance a back road, we too turned and headed back to Oakridge.  Siennalee and I needed to visit a ladies' room, Jason was making calls to family with knowledge of Oakridge back roads, and I wanted ice cream for me.  In short, we had become those willing to chance the back roads.  We had also called our sister-in-law Anne who had checked tripchex.gov and saw HWY 58's status had gone from "Expect a 20 minute to 2 hour delay" to "CLOSED."

Anne then put us in touch with her aunt and uncle who have a cabin up around Oakridge.  They told us of a back road that would lead us back down into the valley.  We were losing daylight and decided to chance it.  After a brief visit to the DQ restrooms and a fresh Goodnight pull-up on Siennalee (no way was I putting my kiddo in a way to have to sit in a urine soaked carseat for the next several hours - and we have yet to master the "pee-on-the-side-of-the-road" skill), we drove off to locate the road.

Turns out, that back road?  It's a local secret.  After searching turned to doubting, we turned around to head back to the city when an older gentleman - okay, he was a typical 50-something Oregonian male with a long white beard, an old Subaru AWD wagon (that had most definitely seen some action) and all the assuredness of guy who's lived and driven through those mountains his whole life. 

"Ya lookin' fer the road t' head back t' Eugene?"  he hollered at us.  At our assent that yes, we were indeed looking for that road, he grinned, gave us a funny look and yelled, "Follow me!" 

And we did.  I realize that usually at this point in the movie the audience is up out of their seats screaming, "Don't follow him!  DON'T FOLLOW HIM!"

The aging neighborhood road gradually diminished into a tightly winding, uneven little lane heading up into the pine forest.  At first we were uneasy at following a stranger into unknown woods.  We are informed movie watchers, and we well know the perils that can follow along story lines such as these.  We grew chagrined at how often our leader pulled over to the side of the road to let oncoming cars (and there were plenty - either word about the secret road had gotten out, or people were desperate enough to follow anybody not sitting in a line of cars lit up with brake lights). 

"Be patient," I encouraged Jason, soothingly. 

"Jessica, I don't like heading up into the woods with some guy who for-all-we-know could be a serial killer," He replied, edging our car up closer behind our leader who was once again pulled half off the road so another line of cars could pass.

"Or," he conceded once the serial killer's car started moving again, "he could be our guardian angel."

It was like that for some time: the road grew narrower, the stops more frequent, cars with lights on kept coming.  And daylight faded into the shadows of the trees. 

But then we began to recognize that our serial killer/guardian angel was actually just biding his time - once the line of oncoming cars had passed, he'd hit the gas and take off to gain as much distance as possible before the next line of cars snaked up to us.  The road disintegrated into some of the deepest potholes I've ever seen.  Our over-packed car groaned and shook and muttered motorized-curses. 

We squeezed by a tow truck and then his quarry: a commercial van which had slid off the road and was resting with two wheels on the sloping river bank and the other two wheels in the air, pointing back at the road as if to will themselves back down.

The road narrowed to barely a lane's width.  We stuck close behind Mr. Serial-Killer-Slash-Guardian-Angel and followed him to hidden turnouts and unseen shoulders.  Potholes haunted us and struck at unguarded moments.  Siennalee rode happily through the whole thing, contentedly watching a princess video on our portable DVD player (BTW, the portable DVD player: a must-have for traveling with small children.  They should make them a mandatory purchase for anyone having kids).

And so we continued for a white-knuckled, stomach-dropping, stop-and-go hour along the road which was at most times little more than a muddy, graveled, hugely potholed, one laner twisting and turning through back-wood hills and along a river ravine and then reservoir.  Mr. Serial-Killer-Slash-Guardian-Angel actually eluded us for a time, going so fast we could hardly catch him until he had pulled off once again to let another car or two pass.

The evening got darker and the road grew worse.  Then suddenly, asphalt!  Ahh, asphalt.  You could almost hear our car go, "Ahhhhh, that's the stuff."  More twisties and turnies, and then we began to see signs of civilization again.  Then we were in the town of Lowell. 

We pulled up beside Mr. Serial-Killer-Now-Guardian-Angel and rolled down our window.  "Wuddn't thata ride?" He crowed out to us.

Indeed it was, Mr. Guardian Angel, indeed it was.


Staci said...

I have a feeling it was a ride that not many of us would want to join you on!!

Sarah and the Gentlemen said...

That sounds awesome! I've got some stories about off-roading in Haiti... only it was really a "road" and the bridge across the river was invisible...

Here's to adventures! *clink*

Momae' said...