January 1st, 2007

Dragon b/w

Christmas Vacation

This year (from the very beginning of the year!), joansteward had decided we would wind up the year with the two of us going up to Oregon to visit my parents.

So, after a very busy year, filled with conventions and rumors of conventions, on December 22, we piled into the van and headed north. I had gotten a bit later of a start than I wanted, but I figured I'd better take care of a few last-minute things, leave instructions for the Adopted Nephew, and leave some emergency cash. (Some of which actually did get spent on emergencies!) I also stopped at the Truesdale Yard and iced down the contents of my ice chest from the ice machine there. (Working for LA DWP has its perks.)

I picked up Joan, and we headed out. I stopped at a Wendy's in Santa Clarita for breakfast. I decided one more sign of our compatibility was that when I ordered the item that I had settled on, it turned out Joan had been looking at the same thing.

On the drive north, we stopped at Harris Ranch for lunch, and at Marie Callendar's in Redding. We pushed on through to Medford, Oregon, and found a motel. The next day, it was three more hours to my parents' house. Probably the most trying part of the drive from Joan's perspective was the drive up Hill Road. Hill Road is a private road, owned and maintained by the people who live on it. It's a gravel road, and it rises at about a 30° angle at some points.

We got there, and after meeting my parents, we put our luggage into the guest house. The guest house is a pole barn, half of which is given over to my dad's workshop, and the other half of which is a studio apartment. (Well, no cooking facilities unless you bring them.)

We spent a lot of time sitting around and chatting, sitting around and watching TV, sitting around and petting the animals, and some time on the internet. The animals are a cat, Leroy, and two dogs. Maggie is a Jack Russel terrier who is somewhat hyper and jealous of Barney, and Barney is a beagle who is incredibly mellow.

On Tuesday, December 26, Joan and I went out to do some shopping, and also with the intention of finding the grave of one of her relatives who lived in Coos Bay. After Joan remembered the last name of the relative in question, she called her aunt and learned the city was Newport, not Coos Bay. OK, never mind....

I was already on Ocean Avenue, so I decided to drive on westward and we could look at some of the coast. About that time, we started feeling hungry, so I decided to look for a place to eat when we hit Charleston.

Charleston is a fishing town, and there are a lot of places that sell seafood. I wound up stopping at the Sea Basket. Once I'd stepped inside, I recognized the place. My parents had taken me there at least once before.

Joan asked what was fresh, we got a complete run-down of what was available. Joan got a fish plate, and I got the fish and oysters plate. Now, I'm not usually a consumer of oysters, but that's because so many people insist on serving them raw. These oysters, like the fish (red snapper), were lightly breaded and then fried.

To drink, we got beer – hefewiezen for Joan, and amber bock for myself. The fish and oysters were both excellent, as were the beer, fries, and cole slaw. The cocktail sauce and tartar sauce, both made at the restaurant, were also very good. The only thing that failed to live up to the standard was the garlic bread. Oh, well.

After lunch, we stopped at a seafood market and I bought some wild salmon to take home. Since my parents can get that sort of thing all the time, they had us take it back to California with us.

While shopping, I had bought a bit of electronics. This was a combination VCR/DVD recorder. It can play video casettes and DVDS, and it can record onto both media. And it can dub directly from each format to the other. I gave that to my parents, and now they can dub their videotape collection onto DVDs. That turned out to be an excellent choice of present, and thanks to Joan for suggesting it.

On Wednesday, we decided to head back, in order to be sure of making it in time for Joan to function as key-holder at the lasfs. We had breakfast around 9:00, and headed out around 10:00. The drive was uneventful, even across the passes out of Oregon and through the Mt. Shasta area. We were arriving after the weather had gone for the time being. We had lunch at the Costco in Medford where I gassed up, and dinner at the Flying J truck stop north of Stockton.

I had figured on pushing through to arrive in North Hollywood around 1:00 AM on Thursday. Unfortunately, the fates had other plans.
Dragon b/w

I survived Christmas Vacation

At the bottom of the section of Interstate 5 known as the Grapevine, I noticed a sign announcing "possible snow" at the summit. I briefly considered stopping and renting a motel room for the night, but decided it should be safe enough.

By the time I reached the top of the pass, it was snowing. I tried to keep the car in the ruts left by the cars in front of me, and was in the process of losing speed when IT happened. Cars in front of us had spun out and collided with each other, in some order. When I saw that, I tried to change course. The road had become a patch of ice, and so changing course wasn't going to work. Instead, I got to watch for three years while the stopped car got closer to me, and finally crunched against the front of my van.

The impact spun me around 180° and left me facing oncoming traffic. Thus, I had a nice view of the car that had been behind me as it skidded in to the front of my van.

Shit.

I was number three in a six-car pile-up.

Joan called the Highway Patrol, and I called the Auto Club. Because the freeway had been closed (just a little bit late?), the Auto Club would not be able to make it. The CHP called in the tow trucks on snow patrol and had us towed off the freeway.

The tow truck that got us towed us to the Flying J truck stop in Lebec. It turned out there was no room at the motel, so we'd be sitting in the trucker's lounge until things cleared up. And by the way, how did we intend to pay for the tow?

They wanted $340 for towing us a few miles at most. And they wanted to drop us off ASAP so they could go back on snow patrol. I'll tell you, I was very tempted to tell the operator, "I don't have that much left in my card. Put us back on the freeway, and you get to tell CHP why you're not removing us." Instead, I paid it. I'll submit the receipt to my insurance company, and possibly to AAA. They can fight over who gets to reimburse, and how much.

The trucker's lounge had been described as "warm". Compared to the outside, it was. But it was too cold for really comfortable sleep. Fortunately, I had brought a blanket which was warm enough to keep us warm while the van cooled off in the snow. I arranged some of the bench seats in the lounge so we could curl up on them, and I draped the blanket over them. We both slept in fits, and finally surrendered to the ambient noise and light around 7 AM.

We went into the cafe for breakfast. I wasn't hungry, and would stay non-hungry until mid afternoon. We ordered hot tea, and sat and drank that for a while.

I don't know if this is typical, or a lagniappe given to people who are stranded at the truck stop because snow has closed the freeway, but the waitress actually brought us refills on the tea bags. Refills on the hot water are quite normal, but nobody refills the tea bags! About that time, Joan decided she was hungry, and the breakfast buffet looked too good to ignore any further.

After breakfast, I went out to the van and brought in Joan's bag of pills. I added my pills, some advil for her headache, the copy of Eragon we had bought the day before, some cans of Diet Coke, and Joan's glasses, which had disappeared in the crash and weren't to be located in the dark.

We bundled back under the blanket and read. I periodically called the Cal Trans number to find out if the freeway was still closed. Finally, at 10 AM, the advisory changed to "traffic delays". I immediately called the Auto Club and told them I needed a tow. Within half an hour, the tow truck was on site. At 11:00, we were underway. We were going at tow truck speeds rather than minivan speeds, so we got to the car dealership in North Hollywood at 1:00. I dropped the van off, telling my regular service advisor, "It won't start."

Although one of Joan's housemates picked us up at the dealership, my insurance did cover car rental. They contacted Enterprise and gave them a reservation number, and I had them pick me up from Joan's house. I drove home, arriving only 16 hours later than I had told the Adopted Nephew I would. His brother had been spending the last few days at the house to keep him company, and when I got home, I found he had cleaned the kitchen and living room. ("OK, who are you, and what have you done with Spike?") We finished greeting, and I told them I was going to take a nap. I decided I wasn't up to attending the lasfs meeting that evening, but I told them to wake me at 9:00, and I'd take them with me to the aftermeeting at Coral's.

At Coral's, I reassured everyone that I was, in fact, still alive, and relatively unhurt from the accident.

Friday, I was recovered enough that I was willing to do my scheduled donation at the Red Cross. (Platelet donation – a double dose, usually every four weeks. This visit had been postponed once, because I'd had a horrible cold.) After the donation, I picked up Spike and we went to empty my van of its load of cargo. We headed home, stopping at In-N-Out. I gave the Nephews a ride to their home in Glendale, and gave Joan a ride to the LASFS clubhouse to act as keyholder.

On Saturday, I did a couple of errands, including picking up my mail and a library book for Fred Patten. Then I went to visit the car lots on Van Nuys Blvd. I looked at a couple of minivans, and settled on a silver Honda Odyssey, 2002 model year. It has lots of very nice features, and is roomy enough for the occasions when I need the room. It can hold 7 people, or reconfigured, lots of cargo. It also has electronic side doors. They open and close from a button on the dashboard. I may have jumped the gun on the purchase of a replacement vehicle, but I can't imagine the insurance company won't declare the van a total loss. (Indeed, with 303,000 miles on it, I think a flat tire is enough damage to call it a total loss.) So, I bought the new van before the adjustor had even looked at the old one. He won't be able to get to it before tomorrow, and I suspect by then the year-end sales at all the car dealers will have ended.

The only thing that remains is to get the car radio – the MP3 capable car radio – taken out of the old van and returned to me. It was a birthday present from Joan, and dammit, it still works just fine. (And the radio in the new van doesn't speak MP3.)

Physically, I'm OK. I have a nice collection of bruises, and there's a slight chance that I may have knocked a chip loose on the bone in my elbow. Joan has a very sore neck and back, and a concussive headache. She went in to Kaiser and was x-rayed, and nothing was broken. She was told she could have that headache for two weeks. After that, they have to charge her for it. I think her Christmas present from me is going to be some visits to the chiropractor.

All told, though, it was a very impressive end to the trip.

Oh, yes. One other thing worth noting: Everyone involved in the pile-up walked away from the accident, with the exception of one babe-in-arms who wasn't going to walk away from much of anything at that age. The accident was very impressive, and very nasty, but it could have been a hell of a lot worse than it was. And I had made some good decisions in the past few years, so I was able to walk in and buy a replacement car without waiting for the insurance company to pay me whatever it decides to pay.

But here's hoping next year is a lot less expensive, and a lot less boring, than 2006 was.

And I wish everyone reading this expenses low enough, and boredom high enough, to make them happy in the new year!