Everyone knows Murphy’s Law, which states that in a given situation, anything that can happen will happen. But with my laundry list of medical mysteries and complications over the last decade, it’s been the long-running joke among my family and friends that Old Man Murphy should retire his namesake and hand it over to me. Today was a fine example of that.
The morning started off well enough. With roughly 600 miles to log from home to Susanville, CA en route to Reno to see some of my family, our Saturday was designated a boring travel day. To boost early-morning morale for the long haul, we all donned matching Here and Now Project “do life” T-shirts and were on the freeway by 9 AM. Then, Life intervened.
We were about an hour past Portland, making good time and mowing through mounds of road trip staples like donuts, Cheez Its and beef jerky when an ominous flapping noise started in the back right side of The Short Bus. Amanda spun around in the back seat just in time to catch a fleeting glimpse of something flutter off the roof of the van; the cargo carrier on the roof had popped open and was spewing our belongings all over a rainy section of I5. This picture pretty much sums up our collective “Oh, Shit!” reaction.
Claire pulled the car over so we could assess the damage and Amanda climbed onto the roof to see what all was lost; a handful of my shower supplies, a pair of padded night boots I wear at to prevent foot drop and lastly, most crucially, the portable constant airflow mattress I put over hotel beds to prevent pressure sores on road trips. Yep. We were only a few hundred miles in, and the single most important piece of equipment for the entire road trip laid somewhere a few hundred yards back on the freeway, flailing about amid rural Saturday traffic. The three of us looked at each other and knew we had to go back to see if it was salvageable. Our location on the freeway meant a few mile detour down and back to the next exit, so we opted to do the smart thing and throw the car in reverse to save time and possibly recover the mattress partially intact.
So there we were, Claire deftly guiding The Silver Bullet backwards at a 30 mile an hour clip on the shoulder of the West Coast’s busiest freeway, Amanda on the lookout for medical supplies, and me just along for the ride. After about a quarter of a mile, we finally spotted the mattress lying limply in the fast lane and screeched to a halt. What happened next you could not have made up.
Just as Amanda was hopping out of the car to take a picture to chronicle the chaos, a black Chevy Tahoe swerved to miss the already tattered vinyl bed, failed, and slammed its front quarter panel into the steel cable guardrail, causing it to spin a full 360° and come to a stop about 50 feet in front of us. Amazingly, about five other cars managed to slip, slide and somehow avoid the helpless driver who, with his University of Oregon “O” symbol on his windshield, was the very definition of a sitting duck. He managed to work the mangled truck to the opposite shoulder and Amanda sprinted to pull the worthless air mattress from the middle of the road before it could wreak any more havoc than it already had.
We traded insurance information with the driver and stayed until after the cops came and gave us the all clear. Within an hour we were back on the road, with frazzled wits and some damaged goods, but otherwise intact. Incredibly, we found a replacement mattress on Amazon (for 80% off!) that will meet us at one of our next stops, so we won’t be without one for long. After our nerves settled, we realized that the craziest part about this whole experience came about three minutes before all hell broke loose.
Claire had just taken over driving detail and had caught the worst combination of inclement weather with a side of leftover construction debris sandwiching us right up against a long stretch of semi trailers that were creeping along in the slow lane. No sooner had she issued a minor complaint about the situation, when suddenly the rain stopped and the roads cleared, seemingly blessing us with a small bit of good fortune. It reminded me of one of my good friends’ favorite mantras, “This, too, shall pass…”
The notion is almost the antithesis of Murphy’s Law, basically stemming from the age-old quote that “The only constant in life is change.” Given that truth, it doesn’t matter whether your current situation is good or bad, it is guaranteed that circumstances will change. And it was maybe one minute after I had parroted my buddy’s line to “when times are good you should ride them hard, because this too shall pass” in reference to the previous turn of events that the cargo carrier burst open, triggering our first wild story of the road trip.
After a quick hike up Mount Shasta, it was all downhill — literally and figuratively — until we finally made it to the Land of Susans a good six hours later. It was about 5 miles out of town that a deer decided dart across the street, as if to give us one last reminder of the day’s experience. So I guess that’s the kind of trip is going to be… stay tuned for more hijinks from the road.