Well, it did at least eventually lead to our door.
When last we met, our intrepid crew was holed up in the Redding Super 8, where one of the few comforts (almost making up for the nonfunctioning remote control, but not quite) was the presence of free Wi-Fi.
(Lots of pictures, so you're going to have to jump.)
Since we no longer have cable/satellite, the TV exerted a hypnotic pressure on us all, and we reveled in a four-hour marathon of "Modern Marvels," "How It's Made" (beaver pelts: repulsive and yet fascinating!) and about thirty successive shows on the Travel Channel about Niagara Falls.
We were mostly just glad to be warm, dry and out of the situation that had thwarted our efforts to drive up I-5:
See that spot? See that car? That's where we sat, and exactly what we got to stare at, for an HOUR AND A HALF. Then at last we were able to inch forward... about five miles to a spot where the CHP was informing drivers we needed chains to proceed. Fine. We got off the freeway, paid $60 for chains for our stupid rental car (chains which we will have absolutely no use for ever again) and $25 for a pair of local guys to install them (because by this point Jim was so cold and wet and irritated that I couldn't bear to think of forcing him under the car for twenty-some minutes), and headed up the road again.
Maybe fifteen miles later, we ran into another roadblock. A literal one this time. The freeway was closed at Mount Shasta City. Of course this delightful town had no motel rooms left by this point, except for one that was $157 for a single queen bed, and so we headed all the way back down--61 miles in driving rain and howling wind--to Redding. I called my mom and asked her to call around and find a room for us so we wouldn't spend all night trundling from one subpar place to another... and thank goodness she did. (Thanks, Mom!) The Super 8 may have had a certain creepy charmlessness all its own (don't sit on the bedspreads!), but we did manage to score the absolute last room. Phew.
We had every intention of smuggling the kitties into the room, and
actually got Marvin inside--this a few hours after she'd done this to
(Moral of the story: When you're shoving a frightened and reluctant cat into the car and she tries to bolt, do not arrest her flight by grabbing her by the tail.)
But then she pretty much immediately set up a-meowing, and we didn't want to get kicked out of the only room we had guaranteed to us, so we stuck her back in the car, loaded the cranky feline trio up with food water and fresh litter, came back inside and hoped for the best. (Note that it was only forecast to get down to 48 degrees in Redding that night... and that we went out several times to check on them. Which only made them more annoyed.)
Anyway. The next morning, the weather forecast was no better--in fact, it was rather worse--so we made the bold executive decision to drive out along an unbeknownst-to-us windy road and connect to 101 and go up the coast instead of braving the "storm of the decade" that was already whipping up along I-5.
As we left Redding, the winds were gusting over 40 miles per hour. Jim got drenched putting gas in the car, despite huddling under the pump canopy. (Notice how much worse Jim is getting it than I am in this story.) With not a little trepidation, we headed west on 299 to see what fortune had in store.
Snow? No. Crazy winds? Not at all. Rain? Nothing we couldn't deal with. In fact, we spent the next many-many hours exclaiming to each other over the general beautifulness of the scenery. We stopped several times so Jim could take a picture, such as this one of a bridge that apparently went nowhere.
But there was a terrible cloud hanging over this cheery situation. We could not find Ella. My kitty. My beautiful Princess Pinknose von Silverfluff. She'd rooted herself under the front seat the day before, and I thought she was probably still there, since no one had seen her get out of the car, and when I started digging around for her I was quickly (and o, selfishly!) inclined to stop because it was raining freakin' buckets and I was cold and miserable and the other cats were trying to get out of the car and I just wanted to go.
Cut to half an hour or so later. Ella had not yet re-emerged. I was starting to doubt myself, and Jim. "Are you sure she didn't jump out of the car when you opened up the back hatch?" I asked. He was pretty sure, because he hadn't seen her jump out, but he hadn't seen her not jump out, either. "She's got to be in here somewhere," I tried to reassure everyone.
Time passed. Ella did not appear. She did not meow. I contorted myself horribly to feel for her first under my seat, then under Jim's. She was not there. I asked Jim to pull over so I could look in the (extremely incredibly crammed-full) back end. She was not there.
We rode on in silence. I started to cry, but very quietly so that the boys wouldn't hear me and get upset. Then finally, I started calling her name. (She does not generally respond to her name.) Marvin answered me with an ill-tempered yowl, and suddenly we all heard it--Ella's tiny, sweet squeak of a mew, coming from somewhere.
We pulled over again. Jim began ransacking the back of the car, while I called Ella and tried to get her to keep meowing back to me. Jim traced the sound and finally, finally, discovered that she'd somehow managed to crawl in and wedge herself in an impossibly tiny spot underneath the back seat, and that she appeared to be stuck. He needed to perform a daring extraction procedure. But Ella didn't mind--in fact, she immediately crawled up onto my lap and buried her nose in the crook of my elbow and stayed there a long time--and we were reunited, and all was well.
The boys, despite the soon-to-be depleted batteries of their new DSes (see, Amy, you're not the only mom with compromised principles this season!), were cheery and non-bickery. The kitties settled in and sat contentedly on our various laps. Except when we stopped, and then Jean invariably tried to clamber up onto the dashboard.
We reached Arcata, where 299 meets 101, and we went to the beach.
We stopped in Trinidad and had an absolutely scrumptious clam-chowder lunch at the Trinidad Bay Eatery.
We drove and drove, and we reached Grants Pass and were not-so-happily reunited with I-5, and we drove and drove some more and finally got home about 7:45 and were safe and just thrilled pantsless to be home. And there's probably a moral in all this about salvaging moments of pure joy from what looked to be, on the surface, a thoroughly horrible situation. And there might even be some greater application of philosophy in there somewhere about Sticking Together and Family Support and Meeting Challenges with a Positive Attitude or some such happy crappy, but honestly just thinking about the whole thing makes me so tired I kind of need to stop talking about it now.
Phew. Happy freakin' 2008, y'all. It's got to beat the pants off 2007.