Friday, January 7, 2011

The Way Home...

After a great week in the Bay Area, it was time to head south to San Diego. Vacation was over, it was time to go back to work, and the "Semi-Annual Steve Gets His Ya-Yas Out Tour" was coming to a close. I decided to leave early in the morning, just as I did when I drove north. Honestly, 3:30am isn't a bad time to leave, especially when you rock three and a half hours sleep before the drive.

The weather of the previous week had followed me onto the road, and much of the drive; the early portion, anyway, was rainy. I really hate driving in the rain, but it was nothing but rain on both I-680 and I-580. When the rain had let up, I flipped on the cruise control to 80mph and pointed the car south on I-5. I was motorin', and wanted to break the eight hour mark (stops included, of course) for the drive back to San Diego.

Yep, eight hours. I could do it. I knew I could. I could feel it in my bones. I knew, with every fiber of my being, that I would be in San Diego by 11:00am.

So you can only imagine my dismay when, 2-1/2 hours into the drive, the cruise control light shut off, the check-engine light came on, and the car started slowing down.

I don't know what happened. I'm not a "car guy", so all I could consider was the fact that I was in the middle of nowhere.

It was a sobering thought. If I was forced to pull over, I'd have sat there, helpless, for who knows how long. Odds are, they would have found my body only after Avis reported their bitchin' red Mustang GT missing. I had to think of something, because I really didn't want my body to be found only after Avis reported their bitchin' red Mustang GT missing.

I tried to re-engage the cruise control, but that was a no-go. I stepped on the gas, and the car was still running, so I scored that in the win column. The odd thing was, though, that this car that would do 140mph on the way up to the Bay (um, well, I suspect it would've... yeah) would barely get above 80mph headed south. That was okay, though. At least it would still drive.

At some point, I decided I needed coffee. I didn't have any before leaving Chris' house, and I was three hours on the road. As if the "Your-Car-Is-Going-To-Explode-Soon-Gods" were answering some unspoken prayer, I see lights in the distance. I see that all too familiar sign, the "Golden Arches". Sure, there were probably better places to eat, but I was a breath away from panic, so I figured I'd stop here. I went in, got my breakfast, came back out to the car, rolled my eyes, and turned the key.

The engine roared.

And the check engine light didn't come on.

I ate my breakfast, put the car in Drive, and drove back out to the freeway. As I got to the on-ramp, I figured I'd better find out now if the car was going to die on me, so I stood on the gas. As worried as I was when the check-engine light came on, I was equally relieved when the car quickly climbed over 80mph. As I pulled onto the freeway, I can only imagine the size of the smile on my face as the cruise control decided to work.

I was on my way.

The drive south, aside from the earlier festivities, was pretty uneventful. I made it to the Grapevine at about 7:45am. Right on schedule. I found the left lane and found my way past the truckers and the wood-paneled station wagons filled with families on their way home from Tahoe. The altitude climbed pretty quickly and, if you're at all familiar with the Grapevine, you know that weather can wreak havoc there. When I got to the top; the Tejon Pass, the outside temperature was 31 degrees.

You gotta' love Southern California...

The weather here, aside from the temperature, could've been a little better. To go along with the cold was the fog. There wasn't a lot of it consistently, but there was plenty of it sporadically.

Before heading up the Grapevine, I took the time to stop off and get yet another cup of coffee. I honestly believe that for a drive like this, you can't have enough coffee. I could use a coffee I.V. Keep your "Mr. Coffee". Give me a needle and a "Mr. Drippy".

At 7:00 in the morning, nectar of the Gods...

I would find out the next morning, after I was safely back in San Diego, that the Grapevine would close less than 24 hours later due to snow, and it would remain closed for some time. I'm glad I didn't extend my vacation by one day like I'd considered doing.

After cruising over the Grapevine, it took almost no time at all to find my way into Los Angeles County. Once I could see the city, I knew it would only be a matter of a couple hours before I was home.

Downtown Los Angeles. Almost home...

Overall, the drive wasn't bad at all. Sure, there were the automotive histrionics to deal with early on in the trip, but my car's decision to play nice ensured that I was able to not only make it home, but to make it home inside, yes, of that eight hour window.

It was a great trip, and I'm already looking to my summer trip north. My buddy Chris is one Helluva' host and, while I know he knows I appreciate the hospitality, I feel compelled to say "Thanks, Chris. I had a blast!"

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