We spent all day Saturday preparing for our trip to Oregon. We washed, dried, folded, packed, wrapped, and piled up the necessary items for a cross-country trip with 2 young ones in tow.
We rose at 4:30am to bundle sleepy children into a waiting cab, driving in sub zero temperatures (-3 outside with a wind chill of -27) to the airport. We made it to our gate and enjoyed a few quiet minutes in the terminal while the crew worked to defrost our plane and make sure we could get off the ground.
Our flight was uneventful. We landed in Denver and de-planed.
And then the chaos began.
At our next gate, we were told that the Portland airport had been shut down until at least 6pm PST (it was 8am). We were instructed to go to customer service to figure out our next move. The line of angry travellers stretched down the terminal.
I took my place in line, and dialed customer service while I waited to talk to someone in person. On the phone they told me they could do nothing to help us, as I could only be rebooked in person. She also told me there were no available flights into Portland until WEDNESDAY.
After an hour and a half, I reached the head of the line. And then they announced that they could do nothing for any Portland passengers, and that we should go get our luggage and call customer service. Direct quote: "We have other customers to deal with, and will not spend any more time trying to deal with people going to Portland or Seattle". Thanks United!
As it was a weather delay, they would not offer food vouchers or pay for a hotel. Because it was such a heavy week for travel, there was no way to be immediately rebooked to fly into LA, San Francisco, Sacramento, Salt Lake, Boise, Reno, or Phoenix. Seattle was also shut down.
These were our options:
1. Turn around and fly home. It probably would have been a day until we could get onto a flight back to Des Moines. We're not quitters, so this was put at the bottom of our list.
2. Re-book onto the first flight into the Pacific Northwest. This would get us into Seattle at 1am on Christmas Eve (after spending 2 nights in a Denver hotel). This would also mean that we would either rent a car, or have someone drive at least 10 hours round trip to pick us up. As I-5 from Seattle south to Salem, OR was packed with ice & snow, it was doubtful anyone would be able to get to us until after Christmas. Meaning more hotel time in Seattle. Kind of defeats the purpose of taking a trip to spend Christmas with family.
3. Take the train. Not a real option, as they shut down the tracks between Northern California and Seattle. Too much ice & snow.
4. Take the bus. Again, not a real option with 2 young kids.
5. Rent a car and drive the rest of the trip.
Yep, we rented the car.
I almost cried when I found out how much it was going to be, but I just laid down that credit card and peeled out of the parking lot.
We drove North out of Denver, turned West at Cheyenne and floored it. The freeways were clear until we crossed into Idaho, and we finally stopped in Burley at 2am to get a few hours of sleep and let the snowplows hit the road.
On Monday morning we purchased snow chains, more diapers, baby food & formula, then got back on the freeway. We made good time until Boise, where the freeway backed up due to an accident. 3 hours later we took it back up to 65mph.
After listening to weather reports and checking the ODOT website, we learned that our current route would take us on I-84 through the Gorge, which was closed for a 50 mile stretch (more ice & snow). So we took another chance, and turned onto the 20 at Ontario, right on the Idaho/ Oregon border.
The sun was setting, the Eastern Oregon high desert scenery turned desolate, and the roads were packed with ice & snow. I putted along at 30 mph, and we passed through Burns then a very snowy Bend, at 11pm.
We summited Santiam Pass at 12am, and made it to our final destination at 1:30 am. Needless to say, we all collapsed into our beds.
Total travel time: 43 hours. Total time on the road: 36 hours.
This is approximately what we drove through.