Annette's blog

Bring it, mountain

Yesterday, I attended a writing seminar near Seattle. An editor from Harlequin, Susan Litman, spent most of a day telling authors how Harlequin could help them become hybrid superstars, which is to say writers who both self-publish their works, as I do, and sign a contract with Harlequin to publish their work.
I really wanted to attend this seminar; I really didn’t want to drive there.
You see, I live in eastern Washington state. The conference was held in Seattle. Between them and me is a mountain range. And it’s February. And we’re enjoying a robust winter with lots of snow and ice.
I left Friday morning about 8:30. I made it to Seattle shortly before 3 p.m. Not too bad. The mountain pass was mainly just wet. But, all day yesterday, I watched the state cameras and saw this message: “Eastbound I-90: Chains required.”
I have never put chains on a car. I didn’t even own a pair of chains until yesterday afternoon when I went to a Les Schwab and bought a pair. The salesgirl – and I’m using the word “girl” because I’m pretty sure she was twenty years my junior – made it look so easy. You just wrap the chains around the tire. Snap here, here and here, and voila, you are road ready! (Just don’t go faster than 30 mph).
My plan was to enjoy the writing seminar and then start the 300-mile drive home. But by mid-afternoon, they had closed the highway due to heavy snows and, my favorite, avalanches. My anxiety only grew.
So, I stayed another night at the hotel, spending the evening at a Barnes & Noble and shopping at my favorite Seattle grocery store, Whole Foods. And my anxiety grew.
Last night, I studied a map of Washington and looked for a way to get from the hotel to home without crossing the mountain pass. No problem. Just drive south on Highway 5, turn left at Oregon and drive east to Richland, then a few more hours of driving north to Spokane. No problem. Except the 300-mile trip becomes a 550-mile trip. The five hours of driving becomes nearly nine hours of driving. Oh, and the Seattle news station kept showing this amazing footage of semi-trucks skidding out of control on ice just north of Portland. So, my long detour offered no guarantee of safety.
This morning, I awoke about 3:30 a.m. Insomnia has its uses. I was completely awake and just dreading this drive. So, I checked out of the hotel and at 4 a.m., sitting in my car in the parking lot, I made a decision: I would face this mountain. Whatever it had to dish out, I would take it. Bring it, mountain!
I hit the worst part of the pass about 5 a.m. The few cars on the road at that time had pulled off to the right and the drivers began to put on chains. I did the same. Did I put on my own chains? Uh, no. A good Samaritan with a thick Hispanic accent put the chains on for me. But then I was off at a speed of 25 miles per hour, determined to put Snoqualmie Pass behind me. There were no cars behind me. Even fewer cars in the oncoming lanes. But mile by mile, I climbed that mountain. At one point I saw a state transportation worker. I slowed down and asked him if I needed to stop. He said, “You keep going, girl.” So I did. Further down the road, I realized the snow on the road was lessening. I pulled over at a gas station and took the chains off. By myself. No help. I found out later they closed the pass by 7 a.m. Too many wrecks.
I’m at home now, wearing my cozy pajamas and listening to my basset hound snore. But the sense of pride I feel for conquering Snoqualmie Pass is with me still. I did it! I told that mountain, “Not today, Mother Trucker!”
This reminds me of writing the first draft of a novel, which I’m struggling to do right now. The first book of my trilogy, Building Celebration House, is with the proofreader. I will make my deadline. But the second book, Stay at Celebration House, is giving me trouble. I can’t convince the heroine to do what I need her to do – forgive her cheating ex and accept his marriage proposal. She’s fighting me. But in order to give her the satisfying final scene I want for both she and the readers, she must do this. Just like I must get over that mountain. And we’re gonna get there, she and I. One mile or word at a time.
Hands and arms inside the cart: Rebuilding Celebration House