We woke to another sunny day.
After a quick cup of coffee, we jumped into the Jeep and scouted the way out. Bottom line, the road out was barely passable but worth a try. On our return to the coach, we saw a crack had developed about 15 feet from the edge of the cliff. Yep, another section would soon be on its way to the Pacific, but we weren’t going to wait around to see it. Time to leave. C-Yah. Adios. We’re outta here.
It is strange how things work out. Today was the day we were scheduled to leave; our departure date had been set almost three months ago and our destination was an FMCA rally in Indio, California about 200 miles due east right through the worst traffic in Los Angeles. I wasn’t looking forward to the drive and the road closures from the storm would only complicate matters. By 7:00 AM, we were ready to leave. I would be driving the coach with Jeanne following behind in the Jeep. To distribute the weight, we didn’t want to hook-up the Jeep until we rendezvoused at the K-Mart in Santa Paula. We would use the walkie-talkies to communicate. I thought about writing my social security number on my arms and legs in case the coach crashed into the river and I was dismembered.
Here were the obstacles: The sharp turn getting out of the too-small emergency campsite; the infamous cliff; the undermined country road; the shaky-at-best bridge; the one-lane-is-gone highway; the unstable ready-to-break-loose hillside; the hub-deep suck-your-shoes-off mud.
With no alternative and a turn of the key, 330 horses got ready to move the coach. One last look at the gauges, especially the pressure in the air-brake system, and we started to move.
I stopped to say goodbye to the campground manager. We wished each other well, but I was shocked to hear he not only decided to stay, but was moving to a spot near the edge of the cliff. What the hell was he thinking!? There is only one solution — get the hell out of there asap. The rainy season ain’t over. Well, most problems in life are self-inflicted.
We took it slow. Each obstacle was fraught with danger and worst-case scenarios flashed through my mind. I was ‘feeling’ the wheel for anything unusual – like a sudden loss of all directional stability. One by one, we got by each section. I can’t say which was the worst since they were each equally bad in my mind. At our glacial velocity, it took about 30 minutes to reach safety. Finally it was over. We were out of danger. What a relief!
As planned, we met at the K-Mart parking lot basking in our good fortune. We dodged the bullet this time. We could reflect on our adventure later, we had a long drive ahead of us. After hooking up the Jeep, we were on our way. Little did we know the day was far from over.
With many of the major highways closed, all the traffic heading our general direction ended up on Highway 101. The drive across the San Fernando Valley as awful. It was a good reminder why we left Los Angeles. After stopping for fuel, finding a place to dump the tanks and driving around road closures, we finally got to the rally around 4:30 PM. Lo and Behold, many of the parking areas were flooded from the rain and coaches were lined up trying to get in. We were last in line. Finally, we caught a break and they parked us on the lawn right at the front gate. We even had power on a 30-amp circuit. We set up for the night under date palms gently swaying in the desert breeze. The place certainly had a Baghdad look about it.
That night, we slept the sound sleep of the redeemed.
Contemporary Note: After thirty years of marriage, I realize Jeanne is a realist that confronts challenges. There isn’t much that she can’t deal with and she took the flood scenario in stride. I am truly fortunate to have such a life partner.
Driving to Indio we talked about the ordeal. When she asked “What would we do if coach fell into the river?”
I envisioned the coach floating down the river towards the blue waters of the Pacific and responded “Call the insurance company”.