Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Holy Road Trip, Batman! (The Finale)

Now, for my final adventures on this 3 day road trip! I arrived in Las Vegas to visit with Laura. After much hugging and excitement, I let her know that I had done a little research into tea places in the Las Vegas area I wanted to check out. Happily for me, she was right on board with going on a tea adventure!

After some Google Mapping, we narrowed it down to 3 locations and determined the order in which to visit them. I grabbed my Garmin and away we went with Jessica, Laura's roommate. As we were on our way to the first location, I realized I had never named my Garmin, so we decided to call her Georgia. Georgia directed us and, all of a sudden, Laura yelled out, "A LAKE!" for we had, in fact, discovered a (man-made) lake in Las Vegas. It was in an area known as The Lakes, so it sort of made sense, but we were very excited! We found the address where the first tea shop was supposed to be and, instead, found an office. Yes, I know. Totally lame. But we did find a lake instead, so we called it a win.

On our way to the next shop, we drove over a bridge over the lake. It was exciting! Then we were off to the next location, found in the heart of Las Vegas's China Town (which is really more like "China Plaza"). This shop was basically fully stocked in Ten Ren teas. It's a decent brand, but not exactly a favorite of mine. We enjoyed a nice pot of Oolong and got a serious kick out of the paper place mats. Best advertising ever!

From there, we went in search of the final location. After passing it a couple times, we got the turn right and found it - inside a huge, glorious antiques warehouse! Naturally, we were perfectly distracted with the antiquing. This place was amazing. It had everything from a giant New Kids on the Block pin and a Backstreet Boys scarf, to a Canada themed tea cup and saucer and rusty old swords, clocks, and phones. It was magical. We were there for a couple hours (about) when the ladies at the register came up to us to let us know they were about to close. It was only then that we realized that we went to this place for the tea shop in the first place. Turns out it had closed right around the time we showed up, so it wasn't a big deal we were antiquing instead. And I got the Canada tea cup as well as a Bermuda one while I was at it.

We decided that dinner was a must and went to this amazing place called the Geisha Steakhouse. It's in a shady shopping center just by an empty suite, with not a lot of lighting outside the building. But once you go inside, it's simply glorious! It's one of those places where they cook the meal in front of you and it's sort of a show. So much fun! Our chef was particularly entertaining and cooked a brilliant dinner for each of us. One of the things I found the most entertaining is that the special ingredient they include in every dish is at least a little strawberry ice cream. Very cool! And delicious!

I fell asleep watching National Treasure with the ladies and got up bright and shining early to head home the next morning. With an anticipated 10 hour drive ahead of me, I wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible.

Georgia (now Karen, as I had changed her voice to an Australian accent) took me a route home I'd never actually driven, up I-95 and over the mountains near Reno. As I drove, I had a blast finding different stops. First, I found Area 51... in Nevada... It's a random truck stop with an alien theme and it's hilarious! My favorite item from there was a book of all the brothels in the state of Nevada. It has a description and review of each and every one. MAGICAL.

I continued on and really enjoyed driving by Walker Lake. It was beautiful! As I kept on, I came to a town with a smattering of snow fall on the ground. I enjoyed this, so I stopped briefly and took a few pictures. As I drove through the town, a bunch of things stood out making me wish they were open (alas, it was Sunday and almost everything was closed). The name of the town (Tonopah) sounded familiar, and I couldn't budge the thought that I had heard of the "Muckers" before (the high school mascot). It wasn't until I was almost out of the town that I saw the Clown Motel. YES. THE CLOWN MOTEL. You read that right! Once I saw the Clown Motel, it all came rushing back to me - "Commercial Kings" did an episode where they created a commercial for the entire town of Tonopah because it was too epic to select just one business. Check out the majesty of their commercial here:

In any case, I continued on my way and not a whole lot exciting came up until I was just past Reno. I started seeing signs indicating there was Chain Control over Donner Pass. Now, since this is a route I haven't driven before, I wasn't entirely certain if this applied to me. I had a feeling it did, but... you know. I wasn't positive. In any case, I kept on. As I was getting into the mountainous area, there was very, very, very light snow falling. Almost so small that it wasn't visible. I was grinning because I really do love snow and I'm in/around it so rarely. It wasn't sticking or anything, so everything seemed just fine.

A little further up the mountain, it started sticking. And it was slushy and stuff in the air. So I decided I should probably stop at a gas station advertising chains to ask if they thought I'd need them. I went in and they were shocked I didn't have any already with the route I was driving. That was when I spent nearly $100 extra dollars on chains... a little more than I had planned to spend the weekend in the end. But I figured I was better safe than sorry.

At this point, I wasn't driving any faster than 35 mph, due to the state of the road. To my utter horror, about 30 minutes after I picked up the chains for my tires, I saw a car spin out like crazy. They ended up in the shoulder by the barrier to the road going the other direction. After this, I started to panic a bit. I pulled over at the next "chain installation" section where there was a truck already there. Turned out to be a Cal Trans truck. I walked up to them and asked if they would be willing to help me put my chains on because I had zero idea how to do it correctly. This guy just goes, "You don't need them," and I responded that I was kind of terrified, could he please help. I was about to offer to pay him when he just said to drive slow and closed his window. 

I slowly got back on the road and stayed behind a semi truck that was going so slow that other semis were passing both of us. I was okay with this. All of a sudden, I realize Karen is telling me to take an exit in 5 miles to get on I-20 and go through Grass Valley. All I could think of is how mountainous and windy those roads were through there. I wondered if I should stay where I was and just make my trip last longer, but be safer. In a bit of a blind panic, I called my friend Andrew, who was the only person I could think of who knew the area well enough that I trusted to call. After taking a minute for me to be less panicky, I described the conditions and asked his advice. His thought was that yes, it is a more direct route that will take less time overall, but it will cause me to be in the snow a little longer. He did say, however, that I-20 looked pretty clear like the road I was currently on and the snow wasn't sticking, it should be just fine. But if I was in doubt, to keep on to less snowy areas.

I did feel a little better at this point and, upon getting to the exit, it looked mostly clear, the snow wasn't sticking, and it wasn't any worse that what I had been driving on 20 minutes earlier. So I take the exit and begin down I-20 for about 20 seconds... when the snowfall becomes very heavy and starts sticking like mad. I'm totally panicking again by this point. I start to try and pull over once and start sliding, so keep on. There's a bigger section on the shoulder a moment later and I slide my way into the snow there (I sure didn't drive there, if that's what you're thinking). 

I took a good minute to sob to myself in absolute panic. I knew it was time to put my chains on, but I had no idea how to accomplish this. I looked up just as a car was starting to pass me and flail my way out of the car flagging them down. Thank all that is good and holy, they stopped, turned around, and joined me. There were two women in the car, one appeared to be the mother of the other (also an adult). Neither of them knew how to put chains on so much either, but the older of the two was very concerned that I had money, gas, AAA (or its equivalent). At one point, she said, "No, you're not driving all the way back to Chico tonight. You can stay with us in Grass Valley. We're ordering pizza. You can have pizza with us." It was one of the sweetest things anyone had ever said to me. At this point, we were actually able to flag down another car with a man in it who, while not experienced with snow chains, was able to help us get them on.

It took us quite a while to get it right, but they were installed successfully and they waved me off as I drove back up to the road I had been on previously to take the easier (longer) route home. By this time, the snow was sticking everywhere and when I finally was on my way on the other main road once more, it was scary and snow stormy again. It was totally dark out by this time, too.

My saviors!
It took me another hour to get out of the snow and, when I came to the point where I could pay someone to remove my chains for me, I panicked about them being taken off so early. He assured me that just down the road it was pure rain and the snow was all gone. After some deliberation, I decided to trust the man whose job it was to know and continued on my way into the rainy slush. For a while longer, I continued going somewhat less than the speed limit, as I was still pretty horrified by everything.

I managed to get home by right around 9pm, almost a full 3 hours later than the original estimate. But I was home. And I was safe. And I called in saying I'd be coming into work a little late after my experiences of the day. So it was nice to sleep in a little, make breakfast, and come into the office with a calmer mind.

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