Monday, November 21, 2005

Over the Hills and Through the Woods

I have written before how many people in the Seattle area are from somewhere else. Our extended families do not live here. My son has told me that it has always seemed to him that everybody's Grandma lives in Spokane, on the other side of the state. Lots of Puget Sounders have Montana relatives as do we. We also have relatives in Spokane and Post Falls, Idaho. The Boeing plant right up the hill from me employs tons of engineers and it just so happens that Montana State University in Bozeman has decent engineering programs so the good students end up here. Add to this that many families here have kids in college at Central, Eastern, and Washington State Universities all of which are on the other side of the Cascades. And, of course, at Thanksgiving time, all of these folks need to travel on I-90 over Snoqualmie Pass which cuts through the Cascades to get to Mom and Dad's or Grandma's or Auntie's house.

Last year and the year before I would have apoplexy worrying about Lucas driving I-90 over seven mountain passes to get home for Thanksgiving or Christmas. This year I only need to worry about exploding dumpsters and cars because he is in France but I am glad I-90 is out of the picture. You see, nature is doing what nature does--its own thing. Last September, three young women were killed driving over I-90 when a refrigerator-sized rock tumbled off of the mountainside and smashed their car. Two weeks ago, an entire rockslide of huge boulders slid onto the highway closing the entire thing. At the moment, they are trying to stabilize the hillside so only one lane is open each way. Five hour delays and 30 mile back ups are expected over Thanksgiving weekend and they are asking us to stay home.


The problem is the other east-west route is Highway 2 which is not even four lane. Stevens Pass can be more treacherous in bad weather and since it cannot accommodate the traffic I-90 can, there will probably be five hour delays there, too. So unless Grandma lives in California, Portland, or Vancouver BC along I-5, Thanksgiving travel is going to be miserable. Normally, Snoqualmie handles about 3000 cars and hour but now only about 800 are able to get through. In other words, the entire population of Helena, Montana travels over the hills and through the woods to Grandma's house per day over Thanksgiving.


We learned long ago, even without rockslides, that staying put for Thanksgiving and Christmas works for us. In fact, airplane tickets to Montana are outrageously priced and blocked and we seriously can get to Paris with frequent flyer miles more easily than we can get to Montana.

So that is what we are going to do for Christmas---we are flying to Paris and we are taking Grandma with us. I just hope they quit blowing up cars in Paris by that time.