Starting our West Coast road trip
16.04.2012 - 17.04.2012
With a fully packed Petunia 4 Aussies and myself, the American adventure started, we had a send off group waving goodbye in the distance and the good music playing, it genuinely felt movie-esq.
Aside from the occasional trip to Vancouver, this was the first time that all 5 of us were venturing out of the bubble that was Whistler and eventually out of Canada completely, and I think that was the most exciting part. The Sun was bright and Monday afternoon gave us some beautiful sights on the way down the sea to sky highway. I was driving, with everyone crammed in with bags, spare tyre and food all for good measure. We continued in and through Vancouver, and it didn’t seem like long before we approached the U.S border.
We reached the queues getting our passports ready to cross over onto American soil, there were two lanes of traffic, and a third sectioned off by cones, every so often a car would venture down that lane and disappear. With me at the wheel I decided the best thing to do was to be my own man and instead of waiting roll on down this lane as well. In my defence none of the lanes were signposted, as we reached the gates to cross over we realised that the reason it wasn’t a busy lane was because it was designated to quick ‘card’ access, for frequent crosser I guess!
We were stuck, couldn’t turn around and couldn’t go through the quick access. Cars in the other lanes were having mixed reactions at our misfortunes, some laughing, some annoyed. I joined the laughing camp, I think others in the car joined the annoyed camp. I manoeuvred through the cones with the intention of pushing through the two lanes to the exit area, as a car let me through I saw my opportunity and sneaked into the queue, I’m generally not a rude person but I think people judging me on that one situation would definitely think so. We kept our heads down avoiding the evil eyes staring on from cars behind and to the side. All in all we had saved ourselves about half an hour of waiting. Job well done I’d say.
Before we carry on the journey, let me tell you quickly about the guys I travelled down with. Jai and Bryce, two friends I met at the hostel, both from Perth, both incredibly funny. Jai I will add is one of the most sociable guys ive ever met, he finds a conversation from every circumstance, Bryce is a smiler! I’ve never caught him looking sad. Although he is a repeat farter! They both are always looking for a good time as well as a chance to take the mick out of situations; the border incident was certainly one of them! For the winter they lived with Vanessa, the only girl at this part of the trip. She and I met at the hostel and from then on we have become extremely great friends, also from Perth, she enjoys a questioning approach to conversations and has a fantastic memory for facts about everyone. Vanessa and I along with Dan made up a trio over the Winter, I was thrown together with Dan in the same room at the hostel and through him I’ve met so many other people. He is from Sydney and is such an easy going character. It’s very easy to get along with him and he knows a lot more about skiing than I so it was a great aid to have him on the slopes. In our three we seem to gel very well. A great group of Aussies to accompany Petunia and me.
Crossing the border was a nervous affair, we had no reason to be, but its like going through airport security, we had to tell them the nature of our adventure, for how long, who with etc.. When we announced we were heading all the way to California, the security person questioned whether Petunia would make it! How rude. We ventured inside to sign our visas, Vanessa is part Canadian, meaning she didn’t have to do anything. Again we were questioned on the nature of our visit, it all checked out and we were away in the state of Washington!
The distances and speed markers changed into miles per hour which gave us something to think about. (it wasn’t until half way through our road trip that I realised the speedometer had a miles counter alongside the kilometres, up to that point I always did the maths myself. Prices of gas decreased and the speed we were allowed to go increased.
We made it through and past Seattle in the early evening and the bright lights of that big city passed us by very quickly, in our plan The Emerald City would be our final stop before heading back to Canada. A quick McDonald’s stop found us stunned at the prices of America, $5 for a 20 pack of nuggets was unheard of back in Whistler. Dan then took charge and we started off in the dark U.S evening. We continued on the I5 highway with a plan make to stop just outside Portland, giving us a big drive for Tuesday but manageable if we set off early. Our first research into a motel proved too pricey so we settled for what could be described as a dodgy motel. We managed to get a cheaper price by declaring we only had four and it was time to sleep.
I woke up nice and refreshed, unfortunately to hear that everyone else had had to endure my snoring all night! This explained the numerous random objects around me when I woke; they had all obviously attempted to disrupt my snore to no avail. I felt rather bad, but there was no time for sad moods as we grabbed an early Burger King breakfast and headed off, Jai at the wheel we made great time through the state of Oregon. Petunia had given us no problems as the border patrol had predicted and with only one day of travelling till we saw L.A everyone was happy. Even if they were all a bit sleep deprived!
After a quick stop in an outlet area for some food and other goodies, Bryce stepped up to the role of driver, out of the four guys Bryce had the least time in whistler driving the car so it took a second to adjust to North American driving but he was soon on his way to becoming a pro. The miles sped by but slowly we all noticed a change in how the car was changing gear and driving in general, something seemed wrong and it wasn’t Brycey’s bad driving. We past Ashland (unknown to us the last place before crossing the border onto California) the road started to incline and the change downs were getting really rough and loud. We were all a bit nervous, but we plowed on hoping the hill would peak and start to descend. It didn’t. After much discussion we pulled off and checked the levels, (the oil light had been flickering on and off.) we topped up both oil and transmission fluid but it did nothing to the clunking that followed every gear change.
The choice we made, out of several that all didn’t feel would end well, was to roll back down to Ashland and see what could be done, we hadn’t seen a gas station but we hoped our luck could change. We bought more oil and topped Petunia up to the point that it seemed she was overfilled. It was more serious than just oil and our anxiety began to grow, in first gear we trundled to a car repair shop, small but had potential, where we finally found the route of our problem. The mount of the engine had snapped in two and if it weren’t for the side mount, the engine would’ve been scraping on the floor, severe damage. When the mechanic had a look we immediately knew it wasn’t good news. The part we needed wasn’t available anywhere in the store or close by! Panic set in.
After talking about the possibility of a bus around the area or even a rent a car, in this small town both didn’t seem likely, our hopes were flickering out very quickly. Finally after pondering our dilemma, some hope was restored when another mechanic suggested going to see the town’s welder, claiming he was the best at his craft for miles around. Once again in 1st gear we snail paced to the welder! Who looked busy but had time for us eventually. He took one look and agreed weren’t in any position to drive any further and that he could help us. Still nervous we thought the costs could mount up but after lifting Petunia up high, Cory decided that 65 dollars would be enough. Within minutes he’d took of the mount and had had his way with it and another 5 saw it back on and Petunia’s wheels back on safe ground.
We paid Cory a little extra and the fear and nervousness was replaced with happiness and elation, we celebrated with victory Taco Bell which was cheap and pretty tasty, accompanied by the good fortune we’d fallen upon in Ashland, spirits were high and that motivated us to drive hard to get to our final destination, I started off just to make sure Petu was feeling good (which she was) I crossed the Oregon – California Border which showed us that pushing on with the problem would have landed us in even more trouble as there wasn’t a village let alone a town or gas station for miles afterwards (more good luck!)
Dan took the wheel as the miles drained away and we pushed on to make it to LA before the night fell, We stopped at yet another Fast food joint (Carls Jr) which turned out to be a total let down, slow service and overpriced appalling food! We were all jealous of Vanessa’s choice to find a healthier option! Finally it was my turn to finish the long day of driving with about 5 hours to go, over some terrible stretches of highway I might add.
We arrived late in the evening and to save tired eyes I took one for the team and slept in the car, Petunia wouldn’t mind if I snored!