Tag Archives: driving




As I checked to see how much gas I had yesterday, I began to think about how infrequently I put gas in my car in Portland. I still haven’t filled it up since we returned from San Francisco – I think we put gas into it in Grant’s Pass or in Eugene that night. I don’t really expect to put any gas into it for a week or two yet.

When I was at college, for a while, I commuted one hour each way – so every day, I’d drive down Hwy 43 for two hours. I didn’t have a CD player at that point, but m sister bought a cassette deck – the kind that you could pull out and take with you given how lousy the neighborhood by Marquette could be. I listened to the entire, unabridged Lord of the Rings twice one semester. One winter night, I hit some black ice at 65 miles per hour and spun out, but managed to keep it on the road. For one terrifying minute, I was facing the oncoming traffic, and then, I was back on my way. I was so terrified, I pulled off on the next exit, and shook for about an hour before I could get back on the road. There was no indication at all that there was any ice on the road.

These days, I don’t think I am in my car two hours per *month* unless we have an out-of-state guest. I walk nearly everywhere. I get my groceries often on foot, and if I were slightly less lazy on Saturday mornings, I could take the bus to the farmers’ market and back. I am planning on biking to the Hollywood farmers’ market this summer, and then that’s one less weekly car trip.

It’s strange how that changes – when we first moved to Madison, I lived without a car for three years. It took me 45 minutes to walk to work. Often at 20 degrees. I used it to stay in shape, and when I got a job that required a car, I gained forty pounds or so relatively quickly.

I wouldn’t be without my car now – it’s paid off, it gets good gas mileage, and I can feel the ocean’s pull on me pretty frequently. I also like being able to drive to San Francisco, or Seattle, or Coeur d’Alene or wherever I feel like driving when I want to travel. However, I’m pretty pleased that I’m not so dependent on it, and that my first thought when I want to go somewhere isn’t to jump in the car but rather how long it will take me to walk there.

While I was looking for a picture to post with this, I came across a picture from the winter before we left Madison. This is Brian’s car, out of the back of the house, with one evening’s snow on it. I don’t miss that, even a little. You’d have to plan a good 15 extra minutes in the morning to shovel off your car and warm it up to be able to drive. Strange.

Brian's car with one night's snow in Madison, WI.

Brian's car with one night's snow in Madison, WI.


Dear lord it is snowing in Portland. From what the news says, it’s also approaching the coldest it’s been in over a decade. The snow is notable enough for Portland that I am blogging it so that I remember it – there was no snow last year other than one Saturday when I noticed some flakes in the air (but nothing on the ground, it melted when it hit).

This, however, is sticking, and providing much consternation for drivers. They aren’t letting people on the highways without chains or traction tires (neither of which I own yet, but chains are in my future so we can take Carrie and Todd up Mt Hood potentially in a few weeks).

We’ve seen cars in front of our house (on NE Fremont St) doing accidental doughnuts, and Brian was very amused to see one poor guy in a gold BMW who clearly had no idea what to do. He kept spinning in circles, and then ending up in oncoming traffic pointing the wrong way. So then he’d tromp on the gas, spin in circles and slide into the other traffic, pointing the wrong way. He must have eventually figured something out because he’s not trapped in front of our house spinning in circles, so hopefully he had the sense to realize he can’t drive in snow (really, this guy couldn’t) and pulled over to have someone come and get him. Heh. And even though I know that’s probably not the case, it’s amusing me nonetheless.

Wandering to the volcano

I’ve been feeling really cooped up lately. In an effort to save money, I’ve been trying to focus on things at home. Which is fine in moderation, but I’m the sort of person who needs to get out and do new things and explore and hang out, so after a while, it turns into a pent-up restless cabin-fever.

So yesterday, in an effort to alleviate that, we decided to drive to Mt St Helens. It was interesting because I didn’t really care if we made it all the way there, and it was raining, and would likely be dark by the time we got to anywhere. Which is fine – it’s more that I needed to see new things. We took Highway 30 most of the way to avoid I-5.

Small waterfall
Small waterfall at about 2000 feet on the way to Mt St Helen’s.

The colors were beautiful. A number of times, I almost pulled of the road just to admire a particularly brilliant tree. We drove through small towns and talked about the good signs (vintage) and the bad (wow, one town was honestly nothing by chain stores as much as we could tell).

Trees and clouds
Trees and clouds at about 2000 feet.

As we started the loop around the mountains, the rain turned into some pretty strong fog, and the temperature started dropping. I knew it was supposed to snow, and I don’t have chains for my car yet, so I kept a pretty close eye on the temperature.

Some of this drive is pretty disconcerting – when you are several thousand feet up, and as you approach a bridge, you realize how slender its supports look, and that this area is extremely prone to earthquakes. There’s rocks that crash down the side of the mountains into the roads, and you see them on the side of the road, smashed to bits. You can see the stress fractures in the roads from earthquakes and winter weather, and it makes you think about the brave people who put the roads there in the first place. This particular drive has the added oddness that all the trees are the exact same age which is very, very disconcerting to the eye. You feel like you are looking at lego trees, or that you are actually having that strange dream, you know, that one. The fog really didn’t help with that feeling.

Cloudline at 4000 feet. The bottom of the valley is 4000 feet-ish down and you can’t see the top of the mountains.

At around 4000 feet, we realized it was definitely going to freeze in the next hour or so, and the clouds and fog were going to prevent us from seeing much more than we were seeing, and it was going to be dark in 20 minutes. So we took a few pictures, and basked in the complete silence of that lonely mountain road (we only saw one other car on it when we were heading up) and headed back. We saw the base of Mt St Helen’s, and its snowline, but that’s as close as we got.

Brian at 4000 feet
Brian at 4000 feet with clouds.

A complete success as far as I’m concerned. We are going to go back on a clearer day to take better pictures, and go the visitors’ center for Mt St Helens, but what a great day to go for a wander. I’m feeling much better today.

No turns!

Oh, and classic:

I had just finished telling Carrie about how Portland doesn’t let you turn left usually, when we got stuck at a green light because someone was trying to turn left off W Burnside directly under a “No Turns” sign.

I was waiting fairly patiently – Carrie mentioned she would have honked by now, but I couldn’t tell if traffic was just backed up or if someone was making an illegal turn, and I didn’t want to be a dick to the guy in front of me who wasn’t involved.

Just then, traffic coming the other way met up with us, and this guy in a truck, probably 50 or so, sticks his head calmly out the window to the illegal turner-guy and yells, politely, “There’s no turns here!” in a you-are-being-an-asshole sort of way.

At which point we finally got to move :)