Friday night brought me unexpected and not so comfortable adventure which threw me back to a similar experience, only much more scary 21 years ago. One was in the woods of Umeå, the other in the northern Californian forests.
It was May 1993, our premiere stay in Seattle, and we were driving down to San Fransisco to visit Swedish friends who stayed there for a year. We drove I5 to Albany Oregon, and then out to the coast for a three day scenic route along magnificent 101. We had no idea it would take that long, but it did…
Trouble & Trouble had just turned 5 and 7, not an optimal age for a long road trip. Certainly not on winding roads. Trouble 2 was constantly car sick and we had to stop and throw away plastic bags along the road, scared to be heavily fined for littering, but what do you do?
In Eureka 101 takes the inland route through Humboldt Redwoods State Park (yes we drove through the tree) on it’s way south before you finally can take a right out to the coast and even more scenic Highway 1 taking you along the California coast.
Now, at the junction to that right there was as I remember it a small general store with gas combined with a pizza place. We have been in the woods for a long time now and are heavily desiring to see the water again. The map looks like it wouldn’t be too far at all, but it might be a good thing to stop for a bathroom and even a pizza, yes, why not?
Here is where my heart makes a little stop while remembering the scene. We entered something more Twin Peaks than the Twin Peaks country back in Washington. Or, even more a dark gloomy scene of some film you wouldn’t like to watch because it gave you the creeps.
I remember it in black and white with a a dark grey base tone. The pick up trucks around the place where loaded with people who looked like they hadn’t seen a shower in weeks, and guns sticking out from the packed truck beds. I don’t remember the pizza (although I know we had one) but only that it was dead quiet inside. Nobody in there said a word.
I am looking for a name of this place at the map now, but can’t find one. It might have been a ghost town. All I know is that we put the kids in the car as fast as we could and headed west towards the Pacific, looking for the release from this dark and threatening place. What we didn’t know was this was just the prolog…
The distance to the coast on the map looked like around 10 miles, about 15 km. It was around dinner time when we started, gas and bellies full, everybody happy to be on the road again, Pacific Ocean, here we come!
What then followed was the longest and most scary 10 miles in my life. The road was narrow and extremely winding going through dense dark choking forest. Scattered with canyons at the roadside so deep you didn’t even want to look. After a while we had no compass sense at all, no sense of direction, we might as well have been driving in circles or back or…meanwhile the light faded and it became dark.
My husband and I pretty much stopped talking. Totally focused on the next curve. Meanwhile Trouble & Trouble listened to their favorite cassette tape in the back, singing loud, giggling, laughing, going nuts the way a 5 and 7-year old can do when it’s close to bed time. Heaving no idea their mom and dad were really scared and felt totally lost on foreign land with their little sons.
Of course it wasn’t 10 miles. I don’t know how many miles but that serpentine road added up, and I can’t tell you the relief, happiness and gratitude we felt when we after hours spotted a bleak light and the forest gave away for a dark blue heaven above a black sea, late a night. We could breath again.
Looking at the map now I am surprised at the twice the distance drive from where we found the cost, to Fort Bragg where we found a shelter for the night. I guess I was so happy to be out of the woods that the rest was just a walk in the park.
This horrifying memory came back to me Friday night when I was taking a cab from my friend Lena’s house in Umeå to my village, a 20 minute drive. Not this time. Now, in 1993 a paper map was the only tool to navigate, and your inner compass checking in with the sun. Today there is the almighty GPS.
I could tell the GPS was tricking the cab driver to take a longer and more inconvenient route than necessary, so I told him. In his intention to correct his wrong doings he obeyed his GPS leading him on roads I have never been before. As I didn’t want to be a besserwisser bitch I didn’t question his professionalism until he abandoned one dirt road for an even more narrow one, covered with grass and over grown by undergrowth.
When the marks for snowmobile, red crosses on poles on the road, showed up I asked him where we were. “Only two minutes from a main road. Says the GPS”. Okay. In one more minute there was a huge pile of dirt blocking the road, and there we were. Stop. I guess the GPS didn’t now about the dirt. Nor did it know about the tree blocks of stone that covered the road when he had managed to back the car in a different direction, directed by his friend on the screen.
I guess a normal person would have been a bit scared at this point. But I wasn’t. After all, my inner compass told me we were somewhere between E4 and my village. I mean, I was pretty much home, just a little geographically lost at the moment. And I was happy that I followed my instinct to visit the bath room before I left Lena’s.
At this point though, in front of the three blocks of stone I happened to look to the right at my window when the driver repeatedly stepped out of the car to check the rear as he was again backing. And I realized there was a huge sandpit right at the car on my side. A steep quarry. One tiny maneuver error at this point…
He finally managed to get us from the dangerous spot. But I tell you, we were inches from tipping over and down. And that would have been the end of Home is Away, Away is Home.
I have to say though, in the brushwood on the winding snowmobile trail I felt pretty much as geographically lost as in the northern Californian woods, only on a different scale. And I wasn’t scared until I was at the rim of the sand pit.What about the cab driver? Well, I think he did a good job hiding some panic. And out of the woods he had no problem letting me guide him back to my place where we ended after an hour, abandoning his wingman the GPS. And what’s the moral of this story? Well, never enter a journey on an empty stomach and a full bladder.