n bad road conditions, this was not a hill you looked forward to tackling anyway. This time of year there was some left over sand from road crews, but even then you’d want a run at it. The safety railing on the side had fallen over for the most part, and it looked as if part of it had sloughed downwards with a long crack pretty much going straight up the center of the road. With a muttered “Oh this is going to be awful” I realized I basically had no way out of this obstacle except back across the creek and more miles to pick through on a long detour. I told the guys to give me time to get up, then come up one at a time, just in case. I’d wait up beyond the brow of the hill out of the way on the right if I could.
Leaving the truck in four wheel drive high, I put it gear, and with a prayer backed up as far as I could get to the bridge approach to make a run at it. Reaching out to pull little Jethro close to me, I gave it one heck of a gun, and up we went, engine whistling and dust flying behind me. The truck lurched from side to side but I didn’t lose traction when I was forced to straddle the crack and I popped up over the hill and coasted to a stop. Nearly bawling in relief, I hugged Jethro, got out and checked the big dog. The poor thing was a nervous wreck, shaking and giving his little worried whines. With feet splayed and legs too, he had somehow managed to stay on his feet through all of that. I jogged back to the crest of the hill, waved the okay, and watched as both trucks made it up without stopping. Dave drifted to a stop along side, and asked me where I was headed. I told him, and he said “Good, we can pair up, I go as far as Vine” The other driver, whose name turned out to be Gray, thanked us both and then said he only needed to go another mile or so, he lived near the senior center. After shaking hands all around, we set off.
For a while, I thought I would have fairly smooth sailing going home. I flipped on the radio and heard that the time for the tidal surge/tsunami had passed and that damage reports were trickling in. Several planes were in the air to assess damage and announcements were going to made every 15 minutes on the Emergency Broadcast System. The Governor had already asked for a disaster declaration, and so forth. I was following along behind Dave and my thoughts began to wander as we picked our way around split and tilted lengths of pavement, or took detours onto the bike path, and went around stalled or abandoned cars and trucks-a few of which had obviously gone off the road during the main event and crashed. In one spot we were forced to drive completely around a stretch of power poles with lines down by crossing a community ball field parking lot, that had luckily been pretty much cleared of snow. A number of people were on foot, and of course quite a few dirt bikes and ATVs were out as well, people going to safety I presume. I finally noticed that the dash clock showed it had been over two hours since I had left the shop-I had about five more miles to go as we were just coming up to the grade leading down to Fairview Loop and the convenience store there.
Suddenly, the brake lights lit up in front of me and I slammed to a stop right behind Dave. He got out and motioned me forward too, so I did the same, walking up to see what the problem was. Not another 60 yards ahead of us was a big tangle of wrecked vehicles-basically blocking the entire width of the road. A couple people looked to be stuck on either side, trying to mud bog it with family sedans. With a muttered oath, I knew what we had to do to get around, and told Dave to follow me. Back into our trucks we went and I pulled a quick three point and took the first turn down into the subdivision frontage road along KGB road proper. I was stunned at the amount of damage I could see to the fancy new houses along there-busted windows, siding popped off, garage doors sprung and items knocked over and jumbled up. A few people were sitting outside, waiting for what I wasn’t sure and they watched us drive by vacantly. At the stop sign, I could see beyond to the wreck area to the road easily enough and it looked like we could sneak a path through between the mailboxes and the ditch there if we were careful. I told Dave what I planned and lead off, negotiating the tight fit with only one small clang as a mirror clipped a mailbox. Once through, I pulled on ahead and stopped on the slope to wait. Behind Dave there turned out to be a handful of vehicles, so I watched them blast right on by. Like them, I was in a hurry to get home too.
I asked Dave if he wanted me to lead and he agreed, although he said he should stop and help clear the wrecked cars. I looked at the mess and thought to myself it would take several wreckers a few hours to untangle it all, at best, and passed that along. There were only a few drivers hanging out by their cars and trucks anyway, and he agreed. With that, we headed on out towards home.
The gas station was a shambles, as was the liquor store. Some clerks had stayed and were working at getting people what they needed without much fuss from what I could see. I was amazed, but then realized that there wasn’t much else they could do, otherwise they would be looted by someone, or worse. The mystery of the order was revealed when I saw two guys with shotguns standing at each entrance. That’ll work, was my thought.
We made the next three miles or so without incident, easy as can be with only a few spots where we had to make small detours. The large bulk grocery store was obviously closed, with a couple pickups parked across the glass doors, with what were probably armed guards. There was a small knot of people gathered and I didn't like the looks of the whole thing and kept going. The largish expanse of gravel hill on the north side of the roadway nearest Vine Road had slumped pretty badly, pretty much covering the entire road. By the time we approached, it was obvious that quite a few vehicles had driven over the loose gravel slope, and that each passing set of tires had caused more material to slide downhill. But, there had been worked into the surface, a set of tracks to follow so after checking for oncoming traffic I headed across and made it with only a few short spots feeling uncomfortably soft under the wheels.
With that, we approached the well known intersection. Easing to a stop I was discouraged to see both stop light cross members down, and a tangle of power poles and lines had caught on them, halfway down to the ground. Even the tsunami warning siren tower was canted off vertical and looked damaged. Several trucks were stopped on the far side, and a few were hung up on Vine, as there seemed to be no way around this mess either. The coffee shop looked to be partly off its foundation but I pulled into the parking area anyway and stopped. Pretty soon it began filling up behind me, and I realized I would be stuck there, about a mile from home if I didn’t figure our way out of this.