It was a perfect idea for the road trip back to San Francisco from San Diego. We would start as early as possible, visit the old town in San Diego, stop at Los Angeles for lunch, and drive the rest of the way to reach by evening. This way I would ensure I drove on I-5 as long as there was sunshine, and then snooze in the navigator’s seat while my friend drove.
Things went as planned, only somewhat. Old town in San Diego was great. The sunny drive till Los Angeles was fine too. Lunch was not that great though. It was past 3 pm, and we still had six and a half hours of driving. This meant we could still make it back to a favorite chaat place for dinner on time.
Little did we know that the trip was planned differently.
At a few miles north of Los Angeles, ironically called Santa Clarita (where things should be clear), it started snowing. We saw the signs of a certain detour on I-5 a few miles away, but happily driving at 85 mph, I did not take it seriously. I thought I would be smart and drive on I-5 as much as I could. We started on a warm, sunny morning, admiring the blueness of the water and the reflection of the sun shimmering on the Pacific Ocean. It seemed so out of place when it started snowing.
The 90 mile stretch of road that was closed had a 170 mile detour. It was Sunday, and people returning home from their new year’s vacation were all on the road driving. It was the worst time of the year to snow. It was beginning to snow more, traffic was getting worse, and moving at a snail’s pace, it took us six hours to cover the stretch of the detour alone. For hours, we drove in the snow slower than the pace of a walking person. Slow traffic is bad. Slow traffic due to snow is worse. Slow traffic due to snow at the end of a holiday is worst. There were times when we just wanted to take an exit and spend the night at a nearby hotel. There were times when we were afraid we would run out of gas by the sheer act of braking, waiting, and driving at 5 mph. Chaat for dinner was long forgotten. Instead of reaching at 9 pm, we reached at 3 am. However, there was more to come.
We had to return the rental car at the airport. So my friend (who lives about 10 miles away) decided to reach home, drive his car while I drove the rental car, wait until I returned the rental car, and drive back together in his car. It made perfect sense. We both entered into the parking garage of the rental car company at the airport. I locked the rental car, bid it goodbye, and dropped the keys in the box. My friend started to drive his car, looking for an exit. Only this time, there was no exit.
A car had been stolen from the airport rental company a few days ago. So while they were closed, they blocked the entrance with a huge, fat SUV. We were trapped until the rental company opened at 6 am. Which was almost two and a half hours more.
I had never missed the comforts of home more. The simple comfort of dropping dead asleep on the bed, snuggling into the comforter, seemed like a heavenly thought. If a 6 hour detour and driving in bad weather wasn’t bad enough, the exit to the garage was closed and we were trapped in the parking lot for a couple of hours. I reclined the car seat and eventually fell into a somewhat interrupted sleep. My friend went out to see if there were more souls trapped like us.
That is how we spent the second day of the new year. While I saw no logic behind this unnecessary harassment caused by mother nature and Mr. Car Stealer, the delay and the wait caused some profound enlightenment for my friend. He had that thoughtful expression on his face while he told me that a memorable and good trip should be such that at the end of it, one longs to come back home and promises not to travel or plan the next trip for the next few months. If this was a workable logic, surely this was a memorable and good trip. For after all that I went through, driving half-asleep in the snow and bad weather, waiting for hours in traffic, and missing the comforts of home, I don’t think I am planning another trip soon. Let us say I am just glad to be back home.
Anything interesting happened to you this new year?