Last week my wife and I were returning from a wonderful 5 night getaway in Banff and Calgary, Alberta. Banff National Park is spectacular, even in shoulder season when there is lingering snow and cool temperatures (SEE: Banff, Alberta in 14 photos).
Our travel plans home included a midday non-stop flight to SFO out of Calgary on United, and then a 5.5 hour drive home back up the coast.
Flying 1,000 miles? No problem
Our flight was uneventful, and we landed in San Francisco just in time to catch the rush hour traffic headed north.
After fighting our way through Santa Rosa, the road finally opened up. We started counting down the final 3 hours of our drive, anticipating being home in our lovely apartment around 10:00 p.m.
Driving 270 miles? A bit more difficult
We got as far as Leggett, only to be stopped by a “Road Closed” sign. A CalTrans worker soon informed us that a problematic hillside had decided to fall into the road again, and 101 was completely closed. The road had just opened from the previous slide the day before. Shoulda figured it would slip again. *Sigh.* Back to Willits we’ll go.
Willits, the closest town to where we got turned around, is only about 100 miles from where we live. Because the road was closed at the worst pinch point possible, there was no easy to way to just drive around.
Many of you who are locals understand the major issues we’ve had this winter, as 101 has seen multiple closures. When 101 is closed at Leggett, you only have 2 options:
- Take a local dirt and gravel road that is not intended for a large amount of traffic (and by all accounts has been brutalized this winter)
- Drive 7 hours around, which is over 3 times what the drive *should* take!
Because we drive a minivan and not a 4×4 pickup, the only reasonable option was the latter.
The long way home
We spent the night at the Super Duper Pooper 8 in Willits, basically just sleeping and showering. The next morning we hit the road at 7:00, headed south to take Highway 20 over to I5. By a little after 9:00 we had reached the valley. An hour later we made a pit stop in Red Bluff before heading back over the mountains.
The last few hours were the worst, as we drove winding highway 36. The road has taken a beating this year, as so many people have had to drive around the closures on highway 101.
Finally, we arrived home a little after 1:00. I literally headed straight to the office and into a meeting, arriving at 1:30 on the dot.
Will this ever get better?
Honestly, this sort of thing has become par for the course when we travel. Some situation *always* seems to present itself that we have to work around.
I just have to resign myself to the fact that getting in and out of Humboldt will never be an easy proposition. Yet I still seem to convince myself that one of these times things will be different.
Header image courtesy of CalTrans.