Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Grand Arrival (and Finale)

Ta da! They are back!  
My loyal support crew is back but it was no easy feat for them.  Naturally you’d want to take pity on the cyclist coming from Hobart, Tasmania with a 23 hour journey, drained from the 2000 km loop she pedaled on the island.  But this time, I have to say my parent have every right to be completely exhausted after what was suppose to be a nine drive from Eugene to San Francisco.

Mom and Dad had been planning their trip down to San Fransisco since they came back from Australia.  We had everything in place.  Their visit was key; to celebrate my Mom’s birthday (Saturday, the 26th), see their son and his family outside of San Fransisco, and accompany me again for the first few days of my route south.  They were also acting as my “pack mules” carting unwanted gear home and bringing a few special clothing items to wear on my rest days like a pair of jeans, some running shoes, and my favorite pair of PJ's (flannel AND with bikes of course).  They were driving, like they often do instead of flying, in our loyal, huge, Chevy Suburban.  Even though it is a beast of a car, and not fuel efficient by any means, at one time this car was filled with 5 kids, two parents and all their luggage for holidays.  Nowadays it gets used quite frequently when one of us decides to move, haul furniture places, cart the fishing boat or trailer, or go on a long road trip. 

They had gotten a later start than expected because my mom got an eye infection in the morning and had to go to the doctor before leaving.  They were on the road at 1pm and had driven about 4 hours when they were going over a huge mountain pass in Southern Oregon, just before the California border.  The Siskiyou mountain pass climbs about 700m (2,300ft.), a difficult challenge for someone on their bike, but a piece of cake for a car.  Going up the hill in the fast lane with the objective of passing a slow truck, my dad had the “pedal to the medal”, the accelerator topped off at 60 mph and he had another truck on his tail, honking impatiently who had good momentum going up.  All of sudden the odometer dropped and racing down to 50, 40, 35, 30,…….20.  Their speed dropped abruptly although the accelerator was still on the floor.  They had to strategically get over to the slow lane, then the shoulder, behind the slow truck and carefully, so as to not get run over by the one on their tail. What was going on?  They both wondered, thinking the oil pump had broke.  They had just about made the entire climb, and now they were stuck on the shoulder of the road in the middle of nowhere.

Our good old Suburban, almost 20 years old!  (photo taken 2 years prior)

From what they could see, the car just wouldn’t go,….be it the oil tank, radiator, or engine, they didn’t know.  The next hour was filled with one phone call after another to various people, AAA, the hotel, car rental services, the insurance company, a tow truck.  In about an hours time a tow truck had arrived to tow them back down to Medford where they could leave it at a shop and hire a car.  The shop, at this time of the night was closed, so the damaged couldn’t be assessed.  However, if they left the Suburban in Medford, it could be fixed and picked up on their way home.  At least this was the plan.  At 9pm, they got on the road again and continued driving south to their intended destination, a city just an hour north of San Fransisco.  They arrived at the hotel that night at 2am, exhausted but not defeated.  They were filled with determination to make it to the airport to pick me up the next morning at 11am.  I shouldn’t leave out the small detail that their car was also filled with a few pieces of large furniture from our neighbors, whose daughter lives just outside of San Fransisco.  This was to be delivered before my arrival.

The temporary replacement, Mom and Dad's rental car

With 4 hours of sleep, and one big nightmare fresh in their head, they managed to deliver furniture to Holly in Berkeley at 9:30 am, who was so thankful to have it.  She could make out that the trip didn’t go smoothly by my Dad’s anxiety, but it wasn’t until later that night at dinner she learned the truth when I filled her in with all the details! 
Charlie, Me, and Holly (standing in front of the delivered furniture)

Meanwhile, I was on the third leg of my flight, from San Fransisco to Los Angeles.  I was a little frustrated by American Airlines,….no snack for me on this leg of the flight, only a limited selection of beverages.  I had just gotten off two previous Qantas flights were I had been pampered like crazy with meals and drinks galore.  I’m the type of person that loves to fly- I enjoy the little perks like unlimited movie entertainment, replacing my old sleeping mask with a new one, and trying the different “special meal” options like Asian, Hindu, and Vegetarian.  For someone who is constantly on the go and always active, a plane forces me to sit still and I absolutely love it!  At home, I never watch TV or go to the movies, so for the first half hour of any international flight, I make my movie “play list” for the flight.  I also have my computer handy to “catch-up on stuff” if I feel like it, and have a ritual for preparing my eye mask, ear plugs, and sleeping pill.  I start watching the first movie, eat my dinner, take a sleeping pill, and by the time the movie is over, I can’t keep my eyes open.  I fall asleep and usually get about 4 to 6 hours of sleep, if not more.  When I wake, I have time for one more movie. 

On this trip, I tried a new strategy, staying up all night before I flew out at 6:30am.  I thought I’d for sure sleep the entire second leg, I had 14 hours from Melbourne to Los Angeles.  I actually did manage to stay up that night, but I only slept about 5 of the 14 hours.  This meant I got to try more meals and snacks, from delicious Easter chocolate and ice cream bars, to wraps and fresh fruit.  The stewardesses kept me well fed on that flight!  So by the time I arrived in Los Angeles, I didn’t need any pity.  I knew that I’d be a bit tired upon my arrival, maybe just slightly more than my parents with their nine hour car ride. 

Little did I know what they had been through….They made it to the airport on time and were right at the arrival gate to meet me.  They looked fresh as always, and it wasn’t until I asked them about their trip down that I heard the full story.  Somewhere between dropping off the furniture and getting to the airport, the car mechanics called with some sad news.  The engine had blown.  With a car that is almost 20 years old, well, you know what that means…..time to get a new car!  My parents amaze me! Nothing get in their way, not even blown engines on a mountain pass, and miles and miles of driving in the dark at ungodly hours.  For those of you who think I’m determined, well, I am, but it doesn’t even compare to my parents!

Running shoes have been successfully delivered!

The important part of this story is, that after a loong journey for us all, I’ve been reunited with my #1 support team - Welcome to the United States!


  1. Welcome back to the U.S. Melissa! And props to your folks on their perseverance and crazy driving skills!

  2. Glad you are home safe, come back to Tasmania one day, you KNOW its the best place in the world :)