In this story I am the grandmother and it’s my house that’s in the woods. But that wasn’t where I headed for Thanksgiving. I drove away from my northern California redwood forest, as I often do, to spend Thanksgiving in the city with my daughter and granddaughter.
Los Angeles was warm, leaning toward hot, the whole time I was there. It’s 400 miles from here to there on Interstate 5, which runs the length of California and then some. On my drive south, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The sun was shining and everyone I encountered along the way was feeling festive.
During my visit, my granddaughter asked why I can’t live closer to her. I said I wish that was possible, but I like cooler weather. In fact I love my Marin County fog belt.
Two days after Thanksgiving it was time to come home and since it had been around 80 degrees the day before, it didn’t occur to me to check the weather before leaving. I don’t like to drive in the dark, but once in a while in the pre-dawn, when traffic is light, it’s nice to get an early start.
About 5 A.M. I headed north, leaving the lights of Los Angeles behind as I slowly climbed the mountain toward Fort Tejon. (For non-Californians, that’s where Christo installed his giant yellow umbrellas.) Rain began to fall almost immediately. The side window felt icy-cold. I left the Valley floor wearing a tee shirt and I didn’t want to steam up the windows with the heater and besides, I thought, teeth chattering will help me stay clear-headed.
The Grapevine – the part of I-5 that goes over the summit and then drops you down close to Bakersfield – is generally picturesque. This time I couldn’t see a thing because the rain quickly turned to snow.
It came on so fast, it was a shock. Gusts of wind made driving a struggle. The lack of traffic was a liability because there were few taillights to follow. The town of Gorman at the top is about 4100 feet and I don’t remember a Thanksgiving storm before that powdered the junction white in minutes.
Snow piled up so the lane markers were no longer visible. Everything was fuzzy. I drove as slowly as possible, trying to get behind some big trucks in the right lane so they’d make a path I could follow.
Stopping wasn’t an option. Had I pulled over at the top, I’d have been snowed in and without chains, it could have taken hours to get out. I said a prayer, fought the wind for control of my car, and drove on.
I sang loud to keep from getting dizzy and counted the minutes ’til the road begins the descent into the next Valley and there, at the truck stop where I like to refill my coffee, just minutes from the blinding storm, was the bright sunshine again.
The rest of the trip was uneventful and I looked forward to doing some Christmas decorating at home – stringing tiny lights that glow like a fairy tale in the northern fog. Except when I got home there was no fog. Only sunshine. And no fog this morning either. And today is warmer than normal with a prediction of sun all week long.
I want my seasonal weather back. I need to get in touch with Al Gore and see if he can do something about this.
Ó Anita Garner 2009