Opinion & Editorial

Tough times? ‘Let’s keep going’

Even now, it’s difficult to think about it long enough to properly write on it. The wounds are still soft and sore, the scars are too fresh. And I’m confronted each day with so many events that require a forward-focused mindset, I’m grateful I can’t allow myself time to dwell on those memories.
Next week will mark our one-year anniversary as owners of The Chronicle, which means this week was the one-year anniversary of our cross-country adventure through a blizzard and into a historic snowstorm – with two cats, one dog and half of a single nerve remaining between two humans.
Our planning for the trip from central Connecticut to central Oregon was good. As Krusty said, not just good, but “good enough.”
And to add a small measure of difficulty to the precious days before our move, I was out of town. I’d been consulting for a San Diego-based company, and was at its headquarters in La Jolla for strategy sessions the weekend before we left on our trip. That meant Dee Dee, my wife, had to initiate all packing and moving sale-related activity by herself.
Of course, she’s the best at that. She’s moved us from Miami to West Palm Beach, Fla., to Jacksonville, Fla., to Gainesville, Fla., to Florence, Ala., to Provo, Utah, to Dallas, Texas, to Connecticut. What’s a little drive out to Oregon?
Of course, “everyone has a plan,” Mike Tyson once noted, “until they get punched in the mouth.”
We realized early that any “cushion” we had built into our travel plans would need to be spent up front on tidying up the house for sale and selling off the last few items in our possession. And by “tidying up” I mean back-breaking cleaning and by “selling off” I mean begging people to take/or throwing out precious things that had three-digit price tags a few days earlier.
There is a cathartic, cleansing effect with moving; the obligatory distilling of “stuff.” There also is a feeling of misspent money, a renewed appreciation for the fact “wood, hay and stubble” are replaceable and/or unnecessary “things.” “Why did we buy these giant, glass vases?” … “They were on sale at Home Goods.” … “Oh.”
What was worth $200 on Monday was given away for free on Wednesday or thrown in the trash on Thursday. Our lives were being discounted in real time.
And we were exhausted.
A few friends, also veterans of cross-country travel, were peppering us with all the right questions. And warning us of potential hazards. “There are blizzards in the heartland, and no snow plows for miles and miles.” “Do you have snow tires?” “How about tire chains?” “There are miles of exits with no food option.” “There might not be lodging available.” “Make sure you’re never even ‘low’ on fuel.” “Do you have four-wheel drive?” “How about front-wheel drive?”
It was all well-intended, but ramped up the anxiety a tad, too. Still, it helped us focus. Dee Dee and I re-committed and made vows – not about our marriage, but about smart, safe travel.
We violated every one of them.
It was day three of the journey, and we enjoyed nice weather and smooth traffic flow through Ohio and Illinois. Then, the weather slowly began to change as dusk approached. Plenty of gas in the tank. Plenty of snacks in the car. Lots of time to find someplace to settle in for the night.
“Let’s keep going.”
Three of the most fateful words ever spoken when driving long distance.
Suddenly, it was dark, and we were in a blinding blizzard, now in the middle of nowhere Nebraska. (I understand that Nowhere, Neb., could be just about anywhere in Nebraska.) We were low on fuel, saw experienced, commercial drivers safely stopped on the side of the road or jack-knifed in a ditch. We literally counted more than a dozen cars that had slid off the road. Why should we think we’re any different?
The tense banter between the driver and passenger – it doesn’t matter who was in which role – kept us alert. The pets, often restless and roaming in the car, seemed to sense the gravity of the situation. “Should we pull over now?” … “Let’s keep going.”
The folks at the front desk of the Comfort Inn were angels that night. And at every stop along the way. They were compassionate and understanding, helping humans and a variety of animals survive the blizzard and its after-effects.
We spent most of the next day driving slowly along US Highway 30 because I-80 was shut down. We followed news reports about the people stranded on the Amtrak train in Oakridge. “Where’s that?” … “Far from Creswell, I hope.”
On Monday, Feb. 26, we arrived in Twin Falls, Idaho, and Dee Dee turned 60 years old. That night, I bought a take-out dessert from the Olive Garden near our motel. We were nearly to Oregon. Things were looking up.
Tuesday, Feb. 27 we left Idaho and had more glorious weather and scenery for most of the drive; we dipped down into Utah and then back into Idaho and across the Snake River about seven different times (how is that possible?). We arrived in Eugene just as it was getting dark and amid the start of a consistent, and thickening snowfall.
As we sat on the side of a road that soon was completely blanketed by snow, we called various hotels looking for a room. Our apartment in Eugene would be ready the next day. However, there were no rooms available because many people without power at home opted for hotels and motels. Sitting in the car, getting rejection after rejection from motels, the pets restless and hungry, a bright yellow light appeared on the dashboard. Dee Dee dug through the manual. Our accelerator chip had gone out in the engine. We look at each other. There is no other option. “Let’s keep going.”
Then, a breakthrough! Candlewood Suites called back. It has rooms! Only because its computer system crashed, and all reservations were gone. We drive, racing with the pedal-to-the-metal at 10 mph, the engine straining, to reach Candlewood before word gets out about room availability. We get in! We move in the pets and our luggage through the heavy snowfall. We have shelter.
The next morning, before I even awake, Dee Dee has arranged to get us to a rental car agency and drop off our car at a dealership. We do that, then get the pets and our luggage out of the hotel, move into our new apartment in Eugene, go back to pick up the repaired car, return the rental car, and then back to the apartment to unpack. Maybe even sleep.
The next day, Thursday, Feb. 28, we met with the former publishers of The Chronicle at an attorney’s office in Eugene and signed the paperwork. An hour later, Dee Dee and I drove down and met a few staff members.
On Monday, March 4, we formally started working on our mission to help renew hyper-local, community journalism in the southern Willamette Valley.
It hasn’t been easy, starting all the way back last year from when we were preparing to leave Connecticut, and it’s not been easy through the past year, since we joined this community. Rest assured that our resolve remains strong.
“Let’s keep going.”

Noel Nash is publisher of The Chronicle.



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