Sunday, December 30, 2012

Christmas Break, Part I: The Best Laid Plans

My company is nice enough to give me Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Years Eve, AND New Years Day off as holidays, plus a generous quantity of PTO in recognition of my 10+ years of service, so I took the three working days between holidays off, and got myself a nine day break.

My plan was to pack on the Saturday before Christmas (and get the kiddo from his dad's house), drive to my dad's house on Sunday, allowing plenty of time, go skiing with the family at Crystal Mountain, where we grew up skiing, spend Christmas Day at my dad's house, because his girlfriend cares the most about celebrating it ON the proper day, moreso than the rest of the family, including my mom, who I figured I could celebrate Christmas with a few days later.

In the meantime, things with my dad and his girlfriend weren't going so well, so in the end, we might have had more flexibility with when to see who, though of course that just means more decisions, so it's probably better to have it set fairly early on in the planning process.  But anyway, my sister bought a one-way ticket from the east side of WA, where she lives, to Seattle, and then I would drop her off at home on the way to my mom's house.  Sounded like a plan.

However, when I picked the kiddo up at his dad's midday on Saturday, he was hacking up a lung and felt warm to the touch.  A quick detour to urgent care (and a $35 copay!) showed that it was likely just a virus that was going around, and we'd have to wait it out.  I let the relatives know that our departure was likely to be delayed a bit, and that whenever we arrived, he wasn't going to be up to skiing, so they should just go without us.  Sure enough, on Sunday when we originally would have been leaving, his fever was 102.8.  Luckily, it went down throughout the day, and was exactly 98.6 on Monday morning, so we loaded up and left.

Our plans were now delayed by a day, but of course Christmas Day itself was still the same day as always, and unfortunately, my sister needed to be transported as originally planned so she could go to work, so it meant the time with my dad, brother, and sister was shortened a day.  Nothing could be done about that, now, though, so off we went, a day later than originally planned.

The passes all looked mighty crappy (chains required), so I went the long(er) way, straight north to The Dalles, then along the Columbia River to 205 and finally up I-5.  At the split where highway 97 (which veers a little further east than I otherwise needed to go) and 197 (which is what I was taking up to the river) part ways, 197 was packed snow, whereas 97 had been clear.  I debated turning back to 97, which isn't THAT much further out of my way, but stuck it out, and the roads cleared JUST in time for the winding downhill section.  Yay!

Odd setup just past the junction of 197 and 97
Luckily the road only looked like this for a few miles,
but at least the view was great, when I could steal a glimpse of it.
The rest of the trip was uneventful, weather-wise.  In fact, with only a little misty rain, it might be the driest trip up or down I-5 I've made in a LONG time.  However, around Longview, I saw a sight no driver ever wants to see, let alone at 3:30 on Christmas Eve:

Yes, that is my check engine light.  My mechanic had warned me that my engine was starting to burn about a quart of oil every 5,000 miles, but I'd only gone about 2,000 miles since the last oil change at this point, and the oil light itself wasn't on.  But of course that was the first thing I thought of, so I got off at the next exit, stopped at a gas station, and checked the oil.  It was fine.  The temperature gauge was also fine, and there was no discernible noise or smell that didn't belong.  Thus endeth my diagnostic capabilities.  I whipped out my trusty iPhone, looked for the nearest Toyota dealership, and called them.  They were closing in 30 minutes, but the woman who answered went and found a technician for me to talk to anyway.  He asked if it was steady or blinking.  It's steady.  We chatted about the symptoms (or lack thereof), and he said in his best estimation, it would make it at least to my dad's house, if not the rest of my journey, because it's often something really simple.  But if it started blinking, I would need to pull over immediately (i.e. not even at the next exit, but on the shoulder) and call my roadside service.  I gingerly headed out on the road.  I didn't run the A/C or cruise control or accelerate very hard, and kept it to exactly the speed limit (in the slow lane) as best I could.

I did, in fact, make it to my dad's house safely.  However, the rest of the family chose not to go skiing without me and the kiddo, so I felt really bad about that.

We did have more adventures (in a different car, and no engine trouble!) later the same night, but I'll save that for a different post...

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