Time is a precious thing. A minute or so either way can make a huge difference. I was reminded of that on Saturday as I prepared to venture over to Eugene to join an old friend at the Duck game. I lingered a bit in the office talking with my son, Casey before I left. I was going to drive to the game and then afterwards drive up to Vancouver to join up with Judy at our daughter, Trinity's place and then back home the next morning.
That small time made me leave around a half hour later than I had anticipated. I began up and over the Santiam only to be stopped just shy of the HooDoo turn off. I sat in the massive back up of traffic wondering what had happened up ahead. I watched as many people began to turn back and I wondered what they knew. Then, I realized that I had a smart phone and wondered if I could get service where I was. I pulled out my small hand held computer marveling at how much communication and information has changed in the last few years. I looked up the ODOT page and found that their was a large accident ahead. They recommended a different route. Now, I knew why others had turned back.
I too turned around and headed back down but now I began to fret at being stuck inside this huge traffic flow going over that small pass. I fought as to whether it was all worth it or if I should just turn north towards the girls and call it a day. But, I had not seen my friend in a while and the game was a big one so I figured that I would just play it by ear when I got back to Sisters. As I drove past Black Butte Ranch, I wondered if many would take the Cold Creek Campground cutoff road. It is a small but straight gravel road that cuts over to the McKenzie.
As I approached the road, I watched the mass of traffic in front of me and no one was taking the short cut so....I decided to give it a go. I turned and headed down the road and marveled that I was the only one on it. So, I took it a little faster than I normally would (40 or so) and shortly found myself on the other pass well ahead of the crowd with hardly anyone there. I reveled in my small victory and smiled at the fact that I was now ahead of all of them.
But, when I got to the top, a small light came on the dash. The tire monitor told me that their was a problem. I was driving Judy's new car that tells you all sorts of info including tire pressure and switched the monitor to see the problem. The back right tire only had 16 pounds in it. I pulled over and looked at it and you could not tell there was a problem so I kept on going thinking maybe the problem was the sensor. But, when I got to Proxy falls, the indicator now said 9 pounds. I pulled over again, still far ahead of the others and it looked low but not that bad. I figured that I could easily get to McKenzie bridge and find some air for it. I drove past a rather large flat area by the church camp with that vision in my mind. The tire would hold....but....it did not. Shortly before the bottom of the past, it gave up the ghost and I struggled to find a place to pull over.
The only place was rocky and a bit of a incline but now...I had no choice. Sweating and nervous, I was angry at myself for not just pulling over at that large flat area. I got the jack out and placed it in the only place available and began to raise the car. The rocks did not allow the jack good footing and the incline was not friendly and now I worried that it would slip off the jack. I quickly swapped the tires and tightened the studs on the small donut reserve. With the flat tire in the back, I started the rig back up. The huge line of traffic was now upon me and the traffic the other way was now in play also. It was like rush hour and I was left looking for the small gap to slip into the flow.
I saw my break and punched the gas trying to bring it up to the speed of the traffic so as to not anger the car that was allowing the break. The small substitute tire cried out as I asked it to keep up with the other three. At first, I thought that maybe I had not secured it tightly but then once up to speed, I smoothed out and all seemed good. I wondered just what speed it was meant for so I kept it down to 45 or so.....all the way to Springfield. I took every turn out and kept to the side as much as I could so as to not hinder anyone.
I was glad that I had my GPS with me and set it for the Les Schwab Center. It took me a bit as the first two on my list wanted me to go back the other way. I am still not sure where they were trying to take me but I found the Springfield store and took note that it was on the main drag. I arrived in Springfield at the store now 4 hours after leaving Bend. It was 1:30 and I was supposed to meet my friend, Ron, at 3. They assured me that they would get me out in an hour so I walked back up the road to a small burger joint not far away.
The sign said that Food Network had been there. I wondered if I actually had time thinking that they must be very busy but I walked into a small cafe with only two tables full. With hardly no one there, I walked up to the counter and asked how I ordered. They told me to take a seat and they would come to me. I ordered a burger and drink and waited....and watched. I am one to always check out the other places and the two things that I saw that stood out were a line of beer taps right out where anyone could get to them and a small room towards the back for playing lottery. Instead of a TV for entertainment, they had one with the numbers for lotto. The owner seemed to certainly be trying to maximize his profits. The draw for Food Network was obviously Man vs Food as they had signs for a 5 pound burger challenge. I wondered how one even cooks a 5 pound burger insuring that it is cooked through.
My lunch soon came and I wolfed it down wanting to get back to my car. As I paid at the counter the cashier told me that I was lucky that I had beaten the rush. As I left, I could not help wondering what rush? It was 2 in the afternoon. Was it a pregame rush?
I got back to the shop and noticed my car was up on the jacks. I watched a bit of the Alabama game noticing that they were certainly taking care of Texas A&M. I ended up walking outside and was there when the young man remounted my tire. He showed me the large plug that he had to put where the sharp rock on the cut off road had punctured. He told me that I was lucky...it was their largest plug. I asked if it would hold and he assured me that it would.
I arrived 15 minutes short of my friend at the mall where we were to meet not sure if I was ready to take on the crowd in my heightened state of mind. I wondered if it was just best for me to head north to Judy and Trin. I shared with him a bit of the struggle that I go through and told him that I did not want to ruin his game. He assured me that if I had a problem, we could come back out so...off we went.
We met up with our old coach from high school at his tailgate spot and chatted with him for a bit. His buddy was cooking up some fresh clam fritters. We ate some of the delicious fritters and as we talked, I began to relax. We left and walked into the stadium a half hour or so before kickoff and found our seats. We sat there sharing our lives and our families and soon the kickoff started and the game began. As I watched I relaxed even more and I enjoyed the atmosphere...of course winning does help.
Afterwards, as we left the stadium we found ourselves where the Huskies were leaving. A few idiots were harassing them but most clapped and wished them well. A rather tall player came over and engaged the crowd a bit, even signing autographs. I noticed his name on his jersey...Thompson. I later realized that it was Shaq Thompson, their best defensive player and certainly a future NFL star.
Arriving back at the car, I now began the next challenge...the drive up I-5. I turned up the music and let it help me deal with this different mass of people. I soon found myself at he place and pulled myself into a comfortable bed. Two hours later, I was up as usual and downstairs reading as my daughter left for work.
I noticed online that three people had lost their lives on that accident on the pass. They had left behind a 6 year old who had stayed back with friends. My heart went out to this small boy and what he was about to got through. His parents and younger sister were gone....and he would have to deal with that the rest of his life.
I found myself wondering where I would have been had I not sat in the office and talked with Casey. Would I have been there just before the mishap, or during it? One never knows. It makes me pause and remind myself to always tell the ones that I love that I do just that.