Monday, June 8, 2009

Scary Driving Adventure

Wednesday evenings are when my critique group meets. I live in Springville, a foothill community which is called the gateway to the Sierra. (Sierra means mountains--many people mistakenly write or say Sierras.)

We've been having very weird weather for June in Central California. Thunderstorms, wind, lots of rain, cool temperatures. The lightning started lots of fires, especially in the mountains, wind blew down trees, broke off branches, and lots of other damage that I didn't know about.

To get to Porterville where the group meets, I have to drive 17 miles down the hill and past Lake Success. As I neared the lake signs warned of a single lane ahead. When I reached the lake, cars were being guided by the CHP past a place where three telephone poles had been blown down and rested against the bridge.

I expected the same to happen on the way back. Instead, when I reached the road up the hill it was blocked off with a Detour sign pointing to the right. There was nothing I could do but go that way. It was pitch black out and I was now on the Reservation Road. The name is apt since it winds round and round to the Tule River Reservation. I don't like driving that road, or the other one I'd have to take to get back to the highway, in the day time. It's two lane, the people who live on the rez drive really fast and resent slow pokes like me, and of course there are all the people anxious to get to the casino--or home again after losing all their money.

So I made a choice. When I reached the next place where you could go left to the reservation or right, to I didn't know where, I turned right. I drove up and down, round and round, some curves were marked 10 miles an hour so that tells you how sharp they were, past orange groves and ranches, and I had no idea where I'd end up. Mind you, I was heading in the exact opposite direction of where I wanted to go.

Finally, I was shocked to find I'd ended up at the entrance to the Porterville Developmental Center, another right turn and I ended up back on the highway, less than five miles from where the detour was. No point in going back that way.

I turned left and headed back to town, when I got to the first street I could turn right on I did. I knew that if I took this one and kept on it past the three four major streets that go through Porterville I'd eventually hit a road that goes over a big hill and ends up on another two-lane country road, but one that I could take all the way to where it dead ends on the highway I needed to be on and way above the lake and the problem.

Finally, I was in familiar territory and on my way home. This all took about 45 minutes, though it seemed more like two hours. Those really are the only ways to get to Springville, a fact I've used in several books where I've set the location in a place similar to where I live.

I wasn't scared, but I do know my limitations--driving at night on roads I'm not all the familiar with is not something I choose to do. And, even in the daylight, I do not enjoy driving on winding roads with drop-offs like I know the road to the rez is.

Anyway, that was my scary driving adventure.

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