Road to Seattle: the road to Seattle

On April 26, 2009, five years ago this week, I arrived in Seattle, ready to start my new job as Online Marketing Manager at GameHouse (part of RealNetworks) on Monday, April 27. This is part two of the story of how I got there(read parts one, two, three, four and five).

On April 24, 2009, I loaded up my Scion XB and drove off with a friend of mine for Seattle. We were planning a pretty straight shot with only one stop: a quick trip to Mount Rushmore.

The weather was beautiful the whole way. We left in late afternoon, but it was light enough to see the bluffs around La Crosse, WI and into Minnesota. Around the end of Minnesota into South Dakota, we started seeing fields of giant wind farms. It was pretty close to dark at this point, but you could hear and feel the turbines moving.

We stopped and carried on the next day with a planned early stop to Rushmore. The weather was still beautiful until just before Rushmore. It started getting cold, foggy and some areas of sleet. Just before we got to Rushmore, I was caught behind a dump truck carrying gravel. Sure enough, some loose gravel came bounced out of the truck and dinged my windshield. Fortunately, I’d find a way to get that fixed at no charge.

With the weather now getting very foggy, we took the hour detour to Rushmore only to find it completely fogged in. There was no seeing any of it. So we did the loop, got back on Highway 80 and carried on. As soon as we got back on 80, the weather started to ease up. There was no sun, yet, but it was getting easier to see. Unfortunately, not yet easy enough.

After we entered Wyoming, about 30 miles east of Gillette, I was in the left lane looking across my right at the sign for Gillette. The driver side wheels hit the warning ruts on the left, and I moved quickly to correct it.

Unfortunately, I over-corrected and slid across the highway back to my right, right through a snow pole and into a muddy field. The momentum was taking us forward as I entered the field at a near 90 degree angle. But it was also taking us a bit toward the driver side.

Because the mud was so thick, we came to a pretty immediate stop once we got into the field. And I think it was because our car was essentially stuck in deep mud that we started tipping over toward the driver side. It seemed to happen in slow motion as I yelled, “No. No. No. No.”

The car tipped over, but seemed to pause as if to consider not going all the way before it went… all the way.

So there we lay on our side in a field in Wyoming. With the ground pressing against my window and my friend dangling from his seatbelt over me, I decided I had to get out of there immediately. I quickly removed my seatbelt and climbed up over the seats, some pretzels, a lot of loose change and my friend to emerge from what was now the top of the car (a door-shaped sunroof).

My friend got out next, and there we stood. What we didn’t notice right away was that up the highway, there were about eight or nine pick-up trucks parked along the side, and the drivers were all slowly making their way toward us. With the fog and gray, it looked more like we were being approached by zombies.

But it was just a lot of very friendly Wyomians stopping their cars to help us out. As the approached I was cursing my friend, “If you were only fatter, we wouldn’t have tipped over!” (We really could have used about 30 extra pounds on him right then.)

When everyone reached the car, I lined them all up so we could tip the car back onto its wheels. We tried pushing a few times, but it wasn’t moving. Everyone started backing away from the car with murmurs that it can’t be done. But I wasn’t about to sit there in a field with my car on its side when I needed to be in Seattle in two days, so I rallied them back up and we rocked the car back and forth until we were able to tip it over.

The damage wasn’t as bad as suspected, though the frame was bent and the front and door panels were bent. What was impressive was my packing job. Even though we were on our side, everything I packed was pretty much where it was when we were horizontal.

As the good people who helped us out cleared, it was time to get us out of there. Fortunately, one of them had called a tow truck. Unfortunately, he had come from where we’d been and would only tow our car back 20 miles to his location. My goal was to continue moving forward. He was able to use his winch to pull us out of the field and back onto the side of the highway.

Once he unhooked it, I turned on the car, and after a few key turns, it started. It was creating a ton of smoke as it burned all of the oil off the engine that had leaked when it was on its side. But it soon recovered from that. What was tougher to recover from was the thick mud caked under the wheels.

As I stood there with my car running, the tow truck man said I owed him $86 for pulling the car out. That sounded fine, but when I asked him, I learned that he didn’t take credit cards. Never one to carry much cash, I asked him what would happen if I didn’t have enough cash. He said he’d tow the car back to his lot. I informed me that he’d made one mistake in that my car was running and no longer hooked up to his vehicle, but that of course we’d give him what we could.

It turned out to be one of those cosmic moments, as my friend and I produced, from our wallets and the change now scattered all over my car, exactly $86. So we paid the man and moved on to the nearest garage.

We found one about 20 miles up the road – driving at a fast 35 mph clip – and they did as much work as they could to get it travel-ready. They checked the engine, and thankfully everything appeared to be fine. The bulk of their time was spent power washing the underside of the vehicle to remove as much mud as they could.

They did a pretty good job, and we were able to move gradually quick from there. We started at about 45 mph, and by Idaho (and probably 10 car washes later), we were traveling at a normal 75 mph.

And with that, we arrived in Seattle that Sunday afternoon. We headed up to the Queen Anne area and got some food. Then took my things to my friend Eric’s house where I’d be staying until I would move into our other friends Jay and Lisa’s house.

This move couldn’t have happened without Eric or Jay and Lisa. Both opened their homes to me and my family and let us stay there as long as we needed. But more impressive, we felt completely welcome the entire time. When someone stays at your house a long time, it’s not easy to hide any feelings you might have of wanting them out, but I never got the sense from either that I was an inconvenience (though I’m sure I was).

So, with my first wave of things in Seattle, I’d take my friend to the airport and start life in Seattle.

Like any place, Seattle has some elements that don’t necessarily suit me, but in general terms, this was one of the top life choices I’d ever made. Unlike San Francisco, which made an amazing first impression on me but then lost its luster over time, Seattle made a slower impression on me, but has grown on me ever since.

I love living in Seattle, and I’m not sure I would ever want to move or live anywhere else again.

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