During the first months of 2009, I had major upkeep done on my fourteen year old Toyota Camry. New tires, new timing chain and A/C overhaul were the most expensive items. Now, at the beginning of February 2010, I bought tire chains and took the car to the shop for a quick check-up. Everything was OK for an auto trip. I packed every heavy sweater, jacket, wool socks and scarves, and parka I own. At the last minute, I tossed into the back seat a blanket, a warm afghan, extra sneakers, a case of water (with bottles which fit into the cup holders) and a good supply of fruit and trail rations.
Early on Wednesday February 3rd, I left the house. The first leg of the drive was beautiful. I just missed a snow storm over Mt. Lassen. The sun was out, the road was wet, and as I whizzed past, great lumps of snow fell from the trees.
At Salt Lake City, early on the 5th, it was cold – in the 20s – and my California window washing fluid froze from spray nozzles clear through the pump. I was unaware this had happened until driving became pretty exciting when at some 70 mph, my car was splattered with frozen mud. With no fluid, the wipers made driving even worse on that mountain road. For a brief while, I couldn’t see where I was going. Luckily, my guesses were spot on.
At Evanston, Wyoming, I found a truck repair shop where the owner’s son, after spending a good half-hour looking for an old hair dryer, was able to thaw the pump. For the time it took to find the tool and melt the ice (it seemed like an eternity), my car and I were an amusing diversion for both employees and truckers. They were sweet people. Treated me like I was their grandmother. And, didn’t charge me a cent for the rescue ice-melting. Ahhh, America. And Americans.
Late afternoon on Friday the 5th I made a right turn at Cheyenne, south toward Denver to pick up my sister, Sari, who would make the rest of the trip with me then fly home from Arcata.
After a day of rest, we packed Sari’s things into the car (thanks, Toyota, for the very large trunk) and started out again on Sunday February 7th. For the next two and a half days, we drove under mostly gray skies just ahead of a huge, slow-moving snow storm, arriving at Eva’s house near South Bend, Indiana, mid-morning on Tuesday February 9th. When we arrived, the sun began to shine.
We drove up to the house as Eva came from work to meet us, and after the dogs were let out for a potty break, I met Ellie. I picked her up and talked to her. As she tucked her head under my chin, she hugged my arm with her front legs and feet. My heart melted and I was hers. In less than two hours, we completed all the paperwork and paid adoption fees, squeezed Ellie’s crate, food, etc., into the already packed car and were homeward bound. Apprehensive about weather conditions to the west and taking advantage of the fair weather we were under, we drove westward into the early evening. Ellie would not eat, drink or potty the rest of that day.
It snowed during the night and the trip into Iowa became a nightmare. Before we were halfway across the state, we lost count of the numbers of cars and trucks of all sizes tossed any which way into ditches, medians, on and off ramps. Enough to keep a fleet of tow trucks busy for a month. Mishaps, some serious-looking, had occurred only seconds before we passed them. We slipped and slid with the rest of them, missing wrecks by minutes, emergency vehicles further complicated the traffic situation. Needless to say, we crept along, making wavery patterns of our own (me driving with white knuckles), and called it an early day when we approached Des Moines.
We ended the day with Sari feeling fine and my getting a runny nose. The dog did not eat, drink or potty the entire day and she was developing a worrisome cough.
Even though we thought we’d never get across Iowa, we finally reached Nebraska and cheered ourselves past Omaha. The weather improved from snow storms to clear, cold and very windy from north to south with snow blowing across the freeway which made driving very interesting just in case we were bored.
Ellie’s cough was worsening, and about 3:30 p.m. as we approached Kearney, I decided we’d better find a vet.
Not the first interstate traveler to need a vet, we spotted one near the freeway, took the next exit, and were admitted straight away. An examination showed Ellie had a severe case of kennel cough, even though she had been recently vaccinated. She was given three kinds of medicine and some special canned food to tempt her appetite. The doc said not to worry, the food had water in it and since what goes in comes out, she would potty when she had to. Back on the road again, we drove to Ogallala, short of our destination, but relieved Ellie would not expire before we got home. I definitely was getting a cold. Ellie ate a little, drank a little and peed. Together, we three travelers rejoiced.
Our trip west across Wyoming was much like Nebraska – sun, sometimes cloudy, windy all the time with blowing snow across the road. And, it was really cold – in the 20s with a wind chill factor of I-don’t-know-what. Ellie began to feel better and became more alert. By driving farther west than planned that day and also the next, we could shorten our trip by at least half a day. So we didn’t stop until we were near the Wyoming/Nevada border. All of Ellie’s systems were working well and the medicine did its job. Again, we travelers rejoiced.
Another very long day of driving on February 12th brought us to Sparks, Nevada. After skirting Mt. Lassen (by way of Red Bluff), we were at Eureka by 3:00 p.m. on Saturday February 13th. A trip to pet store and grocery store, then home at last to put our feet up. My cold had turned to bronchitis.
Never-the-less, we had no car trouble, no tire trouble, we didn’t have to use chains, my sister stayed for a visit, and I got a sweet little doggy. I’d call that a successful trip. Would I do it again? Nope. Well, I can’t promise not to.