New Year in Sacramento then stuck on the Grapevine!

I hope everyone had very blessed past few weeks! It has definitely been a roller coaster of emotions, expectations, and events on this side! We stayed at home for Christmas. We went to the movies to watch True Grit and Gulliver’s Travels. True Grit by the way was as good as it was going to get without John Wayne in it. Anthony and I liked it and it was pretty close to the original one.
We decided on a whim to head to Sacramento to see family for the New Year. Overall the trip was fun and we had a great time! The weather didn’t cooperate and it rained almost the entire time but it was a lot of fun catching up with everyone nonetheless. Sometimes California can be wetter in some months than others and also I hear (now that we are home) that we are in an El Nina climate so it will be an interesting next few months.
This was my first drive up the West Coast so I didn’t quite know what to expect.  We left rainy and windy Oceanside at 0430 on the Thursday before New Year’s to head up the I-5 North; we stopped only 3-4 times and made record time by getting there around 1130! It was a quick trip, I was psyched about the drive and I couldn’t believe it was so fast! It was almost identical to traveling to Texas except the gas stations are a lot higher priced and there are less cow farm smells. I found out along the way that there is this one huge mountain (the Grapevine) that goes on and on and weaving in and out of these huge inclines. As I continued up this massive thing the thermometer on the rental car continues to decline. The kids were oohing and pointing because there was snow just a few hundred yards away from them. I noticed I was about at a half of a tank and so I decided that we should stop since I didn’t know when I’d be able to stop again. At this point I didn’t know if we’d ever get out of this mountain! It seemed like forever but I saw a sign for a city called Gorman and stopped at a Shell station. On the dash it said it was 27* outside and I am wondering whether we should get out to use the restroom or should we wait until it’s warmer on the other side of the mountain. I knew the dog wasn’t going to get out in that weather so I left him there in the car, open the door to step out and almost bust my arse getting out of the car trying to stand up!!! OHHHH MAN! I couldn’t believe I almost ate it hard on slippery ice!!! REALLY! UGH!  Anthony thought it was funny! He’d already gotten out of the car. We got in the building and the attendant graciously informed us that we were NOT out of the mountain and not even to the summit yet!!! I knew we had to get out of that cold ass place as fast as possible! HA HA!
Sacramento is beautiful! It has a lot of history and one way streets! LOL! We had a lot of great food and I learned a few things!  We had great time and enjoyed seeing Anthony’s for the New Year! It was too quick of a trip so we’ll be going back very soon! We didn’t get to go by Travis Air Force Base to check out their base or even go to Oakland, San Francisco or anywhere where Man vs. Food went! A friend also told me that in San Fran there is a Marine Corps hotel that gives deep discounts for active duty so that would be awesome to just get pictures of!
Getting back from our visit on 01/02/11 was a completely different story! Coming back we knew the weather still wasn’t going to be the best of conditions so we bought snow chains and had blankets and food in case we got stuck or had to sleep in our car. We drove on the I-5 South until we saw a sign that changed our plan of action. At Coalinga about 2 hours away from the massive mountain (almost home for us) one of those large “Weather Alert” signs displayed that the Grapevine was closed! So we called his Aunt in Sacramento, who’d been tracking our progress to let her know the latest development. We agreed with her that it might be best to spend the night and gather a new game plan. The trick was finding a place to stay at. I was almost positive that everyone on the congested I-5 had the same idea as we did and so I wasn’t very hopeful that we’d get a bed for the night. Well, thankfully I was wrong! Good ol’ Motel 6 was vacant and we were able to get our next plan together. We decided that even though we were off of the JCT 198 that it would kind of be back tracking so we would try to go further down the I-5 to the JCT 41. It wasn’t something that I was happy about considering that I’d never driven this road and didn’t know what to expect on top of the fact that just fear of the unknown can be stressful when driving with some of the most important 2 and 4 legged people you know in the car!
Nonetheless it had to be done so here we go on the road again like Willie Nelson at 0430 again the next morning. Surprisingly there was no traffic and not even really any rain to slow us down so I was almost overly optimistic! After about 30 minutes on the I-5 South I see the exit for the JCT 41 and exit. I saw lots of lights, gas stations, restaurants and cars. I continue on the JCT 41 which is only a two lane road and slowly but surely everything starts to disappear. I see even less lights and less gas stations, less restaurants and only one set of brake lights in front of me. I realize that I am driving up a large hill but cannot see anything because it is pitch black! No street lights, highway lights, or anything. Oh & as I notice all of that there are also NO shoulder guards or even a real shoulder on this very narrow stretch of road! JUST GREAT! Just when I thought it couldn’t get more nerve racking on this unknown road I start seeing upcoming signs.
The first was “High winds” which wouldn’t be too bad if I would have been in the day time able to see the oncoming car and descending drop off to the left and right of the road but I’ve dealt with those conditions before so no biggie.
Then I saw “Flooded” and I thought okay well that’s promising. I don’t know if it was a sign left over from the previous rains or if it is a caution to watch out for huge puddles that I couldn’t see if I wanted to because it was completely dark!
The next one was “Dust Storms”. This was when I realized how insane I was for driving on an unknown road to me so early in the morning for the first time ever. Jokingly, I told Anthony to start keeping track of them because honestly where were we that we could possibly encounter all of these weather situations at once!
We then came upon “Falling Rocks” which was another AWESOMEEEEEEE in my book because once again I couldn’t see said ROCKS falling from who knows where! One of the last I remember was this amazing obstacle course looking sign. I had never seen anything like it and felt like I was in one of those arcade games playing the car game in the Indy 500!
Thankfully we were able to navigate our way through the chaos and came home in less than record time but it was an adventure none the less.
That was a trip that we will never forget coming back that unknown and mysterious way. I feel more confident in my driving abilities now and will be looking forward to our next adventure very soon! It’s always good to experience or learn something new but hopefully we’ll have a little more time to better prepared next time. We’ll let you know how the next trip goes!
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