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Friday, September 14, 2012

Journey to WA (Part Deux)

We traveled through what was left of Utah, enjoying the sights, talking endlessly about the family who had been so unmistakably kind in helping us out.  That brand of kindness truly is rare in our society today, but welcomed nonetheless.  

The sun was bright, not even a hint of rain was to be found anywhere, and we were determined to make it to Goldendale that evening.  When we hit the Oregon border, we called Uncle Cliff and let him know that we were well on our way, excited about reuniting with him and his wife Patty and the chance to see Matt, Paige and Rylan made us absolutely giddy with excitement.

Stop Two
Oregon is not known for being a flat state, rather mountainous in areas and the Explorer's legendary engineering flaws came to bear not long past the border.  As we were driving up one of the rather steep hills, the "O/D" light began to flash on the instrument panel and the transmission started to sleep.  Yes, we had awakened the demon that possessed generations of Ford Explorers previously.  Somehow, however, we were close to an exit and exit we did.  We found a little town where the mechanic put his computer module on it and explained that it was a shift solenoid in need of replacing - and no, not something they have lying around.

Mindful that we all three were pretty rough looking, Shawn looked up the problem on the Internet from her phone (finally had cell coverage enough to do that) and we determined that the problem with the Explorer was one that could be dealt with once we arrived in Washington - as long as we didn't get the speed beyond 60mph, adding at least an hour to our drive time.

Those of you who know me, know that at times, I can be somewhat "anxious."  I had gripped the steering wheel with such force during this leg of the trip that the steering wheel cover had begun to rub off on my hands, making the palms black.  To say that I was uptight and nervous would be the understatement of the century - knowing that we were not only on a tight budget, but that nothing would be worse than to be stuck in Oregon somewhere or worse yet, to have the transmission simply fall out of the legendary Ford Explorer.

The sight of the Columbia River was a welcomed one.  Majestic and soothing, the sun setting in the West glistened along the river.  The highway travels east and west along the river, providing some of the most beautiful scenery in the Pacific Northwest.  Shawn and Anna took pictures furiously, enjoying what was a first time experience for them.

Stop Three:
Biggs, Oregon is due south of Goldendale on the Oregon side and the bridge across the Columbia River marks the final leg of the trip.  A mere 15 miles from Goldendale, on the map it seems an easy enough trip, but the grade is exceptionally steep.  Not wanting to cause too much panic for the ladies in the vehicle, I simply gunned it, ready for the hill.

We made it 2/3 of the way up the massive grade when the transmission decided to not only slip, but virtually stop propelling the vehicle.   Fortunately, there was a little driveway we could pull into to let the vehicle rest long enough to try one last time to make it up the last 400 yards of the grade.  You see, from there on, it would be an easy trip to Goldendale and a little jog down Cliff and Patty's driveway.

We gave it our all and yes, we made it (three hours late).  The Explorer intact, we unloaded and was greeted by the open arms and warm smile of Uncle Cliff.  We had reached our destination after what was a trip never to be forgotten and certainly something to tell the grandkids about.  

The Explorer still limps around, and if you're real quiet, you can actually hear the vehicle chuckling under its breath...