Monday, September 24, 2007

The Long Drive

I was up most of the night on Friday night. You see, Judy and Casey were trying to get back from their Alaska. They were flying standby and found themselves struggling to get on a plane since the season in Alaska was finishing up and many were leaving. At 2:30 AM, they finally managed to get a flight to Seattle. The called early Saturday and said that all of the flights to Central Oregon were either cancelled or booked. They finally got on a flight to Eugene. I looked at their options from there and found that they would have to wait all day long until 5PM to fly out to Redmond. They boarded the flight to Eugene and I sat their on the computer trying to figure out how to get them home sooner. They were both very tired after being up for the last 24 hours.

I was driving to Eugene later in the day to the game with my grandson, Jayden. I didn’t really want to take two trips over but the more I sat their, the more I knew that was the best thing to do. So, I quickly picked up Jayden and off we went. As I approached Sisters, I decided to take the short cut and go over the McKenzie. It is slower going but can cut off 30 minutes or so. As I started up the road, I noticed a small yellow sign on the side of the road that cautioned drivers to watch for bikers. I saw a few bikers ahead of me and thought that maybe there was some local event going on. As we passed the bikers, Jay begins to count them. The closer to the top we got, the more bikers we came across. At the top, there was a guard and a large van with Bike Oregon on the side. "Oh, No!” I thought. I had seen this event once before and there are usually thousands of bikes. As we started down the other side of the hill, we started coming in to more and more bikes. Even though they were on the other side of the road, they were constantly some of them giving me the slow down sign. I tried to obliged but got somewhat flustered myself when going down a straight stretch at 30 mph, being drafted by bikers and still getting the "slow down" sign. I later realized after talking to a friend who drove the same road that many bikes were giving all of the cars the same sign and were merely trying to alert all cars to what they are about to come across. As I started into the switch backs, I slowed way down to around 15mph. I was constantly watching for bikers who would come across the middle line into my path, especially after the turns. I approached a switchback and noticed many bikers yelling and waving. I then noticed a van going the other way, passing them right on the blind switchback. I stopped and pulled over as far as the road would allow. As the van approached, it rolled down it's window. I did the same and was waiting for a friendly, "Boy, did we pick the wrong day to go on this road." Instead, I was face to face with an angry man screaming, "Slow down! Can't you see there are bikes on the road?” Now, I am the one stopped and he is the one passing them on the blind corner.

I struggled to keep a good perspective on my drive. I was going slow. I was going the other way. They were the ones crossing the line. I had to watch for them. I wanted them to have a good time but I wanted my ability to motor also. I watched as bikers raised their hands in a fist and yelled as I went by. "What in the world! I thought. I lowered my window to respond when I realized what they were yelling. "Truck!” They were merely warning the bikers behind them that my mini van was coming along. No problem! I felt much better and continued on my way. I was even ok with it, when I approached a stopping point for them and had bikers in my lane working on their bikes. I merely weaved my way through it all and continued. It was 11AM when I arrived back on the Santiam over two hours after I had started over it.

I drove to Eugene, picked up Judy and Casey and then called my eldest daughter, Carrie to have her meet us somewhere along the way. It was evident that there was no way that I could make it back to Eugene in time for the game any other way. As I drove back to Bend, I ran across car after car sporting their Ducks gear going to the game. "This could be us." I thought since I had originally planned to spend the afternoon knocking around the stadium with Jay. We met Carrie at Black Butte Ranch and set back out for the game.

We arrived back in Eugene thirty minutes before kick off only to find that our usual parking place (Williams Bakery) was no more. We drove around and quickly decided on what I thought was a similar good spot close to one of the walking bridge. But, the stadium was much further past that bridge than I expected. Jogging part of the way, we finally reached the stadium just minutes before kick off. Our seats were in section 6 on the 6th row. I was looking forward to good seats but was soon to realize that they were great seats. Front row, right on the goal line and with only two other seats on the row. And it only gets better. The Ducks scored three times in the first quarter, all of them right in front of us. As the third quarter marked the shut out, Ahmad Rashad (Bobby Moore to those who remember) walked in front of us and waved at the crowd as he left the stadium.

Topping the birthday weekend off with a trip to Toys R Us, we headed back towards home. We stopped in Springfield at Albertsons for a snack along the way and as we walked back to the van, we heard someone yell, “Jake’s Diner, Bend, Oregon…..Go Ducks!” Jay answered them with a large “Quack” on his quacker and off we went. As we drove, I noticed a line of red lights in front of us and looking in the rear view mirror, a steady line of headlights. We felt good traveling back home with a group of Duck fans.

The next Monday afternoon, I picked up Jay from school. “Did you tell your buddies about our great seats on Saturday?”, I asked. “No, I forgot.”, he replied. “But I told them we went to Toys R Us!”. Ahh….the important things in life to a 9 yr old.

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