The Five Hour Trip to Nowhere

Sometimes the best laid plans of mice and (wo)men can be detoured; and by detoured, I mean literally.  I was all packed up, ready for a visit to my family down in South Hell Bakersfield; knitting and camera bags were all ready.  I kissed the dogs good-bye, since everyone else had already left for their respective workplaces, and mentally prepared myself for a six hour drive down the valley after leaving the beauty of the mountains.  It was a Thursday morning, and I was actually running on schedule.  For those of you who know me, I’m never on time.  There’s always something else I have to attend to, and there you are – I’m late.  But not today.  The sun was shining, the weather was moderate and it was time to leave.

In the first hour I buzzed down to Sacramento in good form, listening to KKDO 94.7 and thinking of what would most likely be dinner that night.  When the family gets together, my sister likes to cook monstrous Mexican meals with equally

This is way calmer and neater than what I generally observe!
This is way calmer and neater than what I generally observe!

monstrous messes; the kids all run around even while eating, my mother stands in the middle of the hurricane, working that senior card with her hearing aids turned off, my sister yells at everyone to help, get out of the way or clean up, and I just sit like a lump at the dining room table observing everything, somewhat like an ethnographer out in the field.  And that’s generally every night I visit.  I can’t vouch for when I’m gone, but I imagine it’s the same.

While visions of family mayhem dance through my head in rhythm to the music on the radio, I start noticing brake lights coming on.  That’s never good when you’re doing 75 mph on a highway.  I follow suit and slow down, and hope the drivers behind me are paying attention.  I’ve been rear-ended several times, each while I was stopped in traffic.  Don’t want to repeat that.  Good.  Everyone’s paying attention.  The traffic is moving, but at a slower rate, and I notice a traffic marquis all lit up and pretty, telling all of us southbound travelers on Highway 99 must divert to I-5.  Ok.  That will add 30 minutes to my total travel time, but fine.  So I resolve myself to a little delay.  The traffic gradually slows to a crawl, then we’re stop and go.  I know, I know, you’re not supposed to text while driving, but believe me, this isn’t driving.  We’re stopped.  After I check my android to discover that there aren’t any alternate routes out of this snarl, I think, oh, well.  I’ll be an hour late.  sigh 

Two hours later and the traffic looks like this:

We're still trying to connect to I-5.
We’re still trying to connect to I-5.

The traffic jam has been rerouted, very slowly, onto a little back road to go around the incident, but its one lane is not intended for this volume of cars, and we’ve moved a tops of two miles.  I’m also texting my family to let them know what’s going on, when my mom tells me they’re in the middle of a flash flood warning.  Ok.  I think I’ve had enough signs for one day.

I pull off at the first turn out, text my regrets and get back on the road to Highway 99, which takes me all of five minutes.  I head north, back toward home.  I’m tense and just a little upset that after all that time I only got as far as Elk Grove.  It’s 12:10 pm and, according to my past drives, I would have been approaching Fresno, about halfway there.  Instead, I sat idling in the increasingly warm sun, burning up gas.

Feeling a bit blue, I realize that I’ll be driving past one of my favorite craft stores, Jo-Ann’s.  My mood starts to lighten and the trip out here seems not so fruitless.  Yea, yarn!  I get a little groovy to the music and look up ahead to see brake lights coming on…yet again.  I feel the frustration welling up.  I can’t go anywhere – !  I’m stuck!  I’m sure I hit my steering wheel I was so mad, and that brought me back.  I calmed down and after a few minutes, the traffic cleared up.  But it wasn’t to be the last gaggle of the day.  Just as I was approaching Jo-Ann’s, I ran into another


glitch that delayed my sojourn yet another few minutes.  At this point I am very glad I live in a small town where the traffic, though insanely crazy for the small population, never gives me more than a few moments wait.

The visit here was like a balm to my frazzled nerves.
The visit here was like a balm to my frazzled nerves.

So I popped into Jo-Ann’s, and by “popped”, I mean lingered for about an hour or so, purchased some yarn that I didn’t need and continued home, but on the back roads.  I was done with the ineffective highways and interstates for the day.  When I pulled into my driveway, it was close to 3:00 pm, the time I was originally expected in Bakersfield.

Have you ever had one of those days?