…“Turn on the wipers,” Norma suggested, as if SHE had to see where we were
going. “Okey Dokey,” I responded, as I flipped the wiper switch upward. The
Blades began their movement, and my only response was, “Cr-p!”
The wipers began their arduous journey across the wind screen, as the light
rain began to fall. “Scrape, scrape (not the sound you want to hear),” the
blades announced, as they smeared across the windscreen reducing visibility
to nil. “Just what we need,” I exclaimed, as I began to look for an exit on
the interstate that may lead to a service station.
Fairly soon an exit loomed, and there was a Chevron station and mini-mart.
We tanked up, and I looked at their array of wiper blades, but the car has a
pin type connector that is not too common, or at least I thought, and none
were available. But, we were directed to an auto parts store a few miles
down the road into town.
They had them! I was very happy at this point, and in addition top the wiper
blades, picked up a red plastic 2 ï¿½ gallon fuel container, and proceeded out
to the parking lot to get completely soaked while changing them. "I’ll just
fill this fuel container up at the next gas stop, " I mumbled to myself.
Yes, I would be remembering this moment later in the trip, quite clearly. In
our haste to correct everything possible, and with the clock running against
us, there were a “few” things I had meant to stock up on before we left Doug
's place. After all, I had a complete hose kit and all spare belts in the
boot, but I had neglected to buy some “essentials” before we left Longview.
The new wipers worked very nicely, and I settled in to the next leg of the
trip feeling quite optimistic about the rest of the journey. But decisions
had to be made about how to cross the upcoming mountain passes. After all,
it was raining at the lower elevations, with temps in the high 30’s (F), so
it must certainly be snowing up in the mountains. The question was, “how
passable would the passes be?” And, the snow chain question arose again. If
there was anything I did not want to do, was to have to install snow chains
on the top of some mountain pass, at the insistence of the Highway Patrol,
while freezing my butt and hands off at each rear wheel as I had to do many
An interstate truck stop loomed ahead. “Ah,” I thought. “No better place to
get the latest road conditions.” Food was an afterthought. We settled in a
booth and ordered some of the local fare. Lots of truckers to get info from
too. While we waited for our dinner, I approached a trucker who was paying
his bill and leaving.
“Heading north,” I asked. “Yep,” he replied.
“How’s the pass at Mt. Shasta?”
“Not too awful bad.” “Real wet, patchy ice, but no snow,” he informed me.
“Think I should head over to the coast from here instead,” I inquired.
“Wouldn’t do that if I were you.” " Road is too narrow and very twisty." “We
(truckers) barely have clearance around the curves.” “Better be real, real
careful, especially at this time of night,” he advised in a way that made me
fully understand that HE was the road expert, and I was not.
“But ya gotta make it over Ashland Pass first,” he surprisingly informed
with a sly grin.
“Ashland Pass?” I retorted, "What about that?
He smiled as he walked away and said, “That’s the tough one.”
“Ashland Pass?” I thought, “I never even heard of that one,” I guess I must
have stood there staring at my road map for a while, and then slowly walked
back to our table for the delicious truck stop cuisine.
So, after dinner, we gassed up again, and headed on towards Grant’s Pass,
Oregon. This would be our next decision point. We could stop for the night,
and then head towards the coast on those twisty roads, but at least in
daylight, in the event we woke up to snow, or we could press on knowing that
the weather was “Not too awful bad… but real wet . with patchy ice.” It was
decided to stop for the night in Grants Pass. Nothing special about the
motel, but it was worth noting that everything in the small room was bolted
down to prevent guests from “borrowing” things like the lamps and/or TV.
A quick walk around the car in the morning revealed no fluids on the ground.
I checked the oil and remembered wiggling the loose cruise bellows, and
thinking, “Sure would have been nice to seal this up before we left,” as the
cruise had not worked since I picked up the car the previous Thursday in
As we checked out, there was a weather report available for guests at the
front desk. I looked up Ashland Pass and Mt. Shasta conditions, and both
stated, “Roadway dry, carry snow chains or traction tires.” I asked the
clerk about the chains. “Ah,” she said shrugging it off, “They say that
every day all winter, and up to about May 1st” “I don’t think you’ll have
any problem today.”
So, feeling good about it, we proceeded southbound down I-5 towards Ashland
Pass. We drove by the decision point, where we could have cut off to the
coast road. For some reason, while cruising happily along, I pressed the
cruise set button on the stalk, but this time I held it for a bit.
Surprisingly, I felt the accelerator pedal ease the pressure off my foot,
and the speed control engaged! “Wow,” I thought, “Wiggle bellows = fixed
She’s a 23 year old gal, so I guess she has “Senior Moments,” at times. Each
time I would brake to slow, and then hit the resume switch, I had to hold it
down for a moment or two, or three, or four, as if she had to collect her
thoughts and try to remember what speed she was previously holding. But once
she did, she resumed the steady set speed. The trip was starting to look
better, and better. The original Jaguar radio was working just fine, the car
was literally gliding down the highway, the speed control was set and
working, the seats were as comfy as ever, and all was right with the world.
Pretty soon the dreaded signs began to appear, as we prepared to climb
Ashland Pass. “Snow Chain Installation Area,” announced one. “Carry Snow
Chains,” announced another. But, the good news was there were no vehicles in
the installation area, so obviously the road was clear ahead. This was
certainly to be our lucky day - right?
Up the winding highway to the top of Ashland Pass we headed. Norma noted,
“It’s getting darker.” Yes, the weather was changing slowly, but surely, as
we wound up the pass. I noted that the temp gauge was still reading a bit
below 88, as it had the entire trip. I knew we should have changed the
thermostat, which I had with me, at Doug’s, but if we broke a bolt, we would
have been stuck there indefinitely. So, slightly below 88 degrees was OK
with me - for now.
We were definitely climbing higher and higher. Ears popping let me know that
sea level was falling far below us. The skies continued to darken, and a
light mist began to fall over the roadway. Up ahead, when you could see that
far, the mist was definitely turning into fog. Well, not fog exactly. As a
pilot, I know fog, but here, I knew we were climbing into the clouds.
The visibility was dropping rapidly, and we were getting wet. The oncoming
trucks were beginning to loom out of the mist with less and less warning,
and I was reducing speed at a dramatic rate. Pretty soon, we were down to
about 10mph, in thick fog. I thought of the Cibie fog lights that I had
sitting on my workbench at home, that I was going to install when we got her
there. No good to me now. As we pressed slowly on, I was beginning to
wonder, just where the crest was, as large snowflakes started to surround
TO BE CONTINUED
'87 SIII VDP (US)
'79 SIII XJ6 (US)
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