Heading for Mexico. Yahoo! With our trailer loaded, we left Vancouver Island on the ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles. The drive down the Olympic Peninsula was picturesque and we enjoyed new scenery while bypassing the busy city of Seattle.
Near the south end of the peninsula the weather suddenly turned colder and the drizzle froze onto the road surface. A minivan lying on its roof on the shoulder of the road had a sobering effect on our “yahoo-we’re-off-to-Mexico” attitude. As we reconnected with I-5 on the way to Portland, Oregon, we noticed that frozen raindrops clung to the whole length of our truck antenna and to the ropes that kept our aluminum boat tied to the roof. The edges of the windshield were glazed with ice, but we could see clearly enough the jack-knifed semi that had spun into the ditch.
Near Portland we took the 205 bypass to get away from the dampness of the coast and the ice problem. Wrong move! 205 goes inland (colder) and crosses the Columbia River (wetter). Now we had eight inches of freezing slush on the road with sheets of thick clear ice on the shoulders. And it was snowing. A recipe for disaster.
The radio warned of accidents on I-5; more than 40 emergency calls reported during the past hour. A transport truck screamed past us, the driver leaning on his horn as he ploughed through the slushy snow at tremendous speed.
“We’ve got to get off the highway,” I said.
“Yeah, but how?”
I searched our roadmap. “Exit 19 coming up.”
We slithered down the slippery curve of the exit ramp and nearly hit the retaining wall, but we were off 205. Now what? Where to go with a trailer in tow? I pointed at the bowling alley half a block up an icy hill. We had just enough momentum to take us up the incline and into the entrance of the lot. At the higher edge of the sloping lot, we parked and shut off the engine.
Letting out huge sighs, we stretched our fingers to get blood flowing into our white knuckles again. Then we took in our surroundings. The parking lot, though clear of snow, was completely covered in ice. A lost seagull tried landing and walking several times, but the wind was blowing so hard that it kept pushing the poor bird along as if it was skating. Finally, it gave up and sat down just to keep from being scooted across the parking lot.
We, also, hunkered down in our trailer, wondering if we’d get blown to the lower end of the lot. The place was nearly empty and so it must have looked inviting to the young goofs who arrived every 20 minutes or so, to drive daddy’s car onto the lot at full speed and then slam on the brakes and spin around and around just for a thrill. After a couple of hours, we thought we might be safer if we pulled the trailer forward about 30 feet towards the corner, to avoid being hit by the yahoos.
When we stepped out of the trailer to go warm up the truck, both the truck and trailer were completely covered in a layer of ice that had to be broken off in chunks just to get in and out of the vehicles. The trailer was turning into an igloo. After warming up the truck for about 20 minutes and thawing the ice on the windows we tried to pull ahead a bit. Nothing happened. I thought the wheels were frozen to the ground, but it was probably the emergency brake being stuck on. We decided it wasn’t a good idea to force anything, with all the slush having frozen to the undersides. We turned off the truck engine and slithered back into the trigloo to wait for spring.
Rather than risk running down the battery and our propane supply by using the furnace, we went to bed early, dressed in fleecy pants, shirts, and wool socks. We even wore toques to keep our heads warm.
The next day there was a break in the weather and we got out of there just before another ice cloud descended on Portland.
The warmth of Mexico couldn’t come soon enough.