Matt’s Seattle Trip

I was going to run this photo of Son Matt dressed up as Superman for Halloween in 1979 along with a link to a Halloween story I did last year. While looking for something else, though, I ran across some writing my kids did. Matt wrote a thank-you note to his Grandmother for a metal detector. Son Adam sent her a note thanking her for all things he and his buddy Buzzy did on a summer vacation in Cape and Kentucky Lake.

The coolest thing was a story Matt wrote about his trip to Seattle. He got bumped on a flight, which earned him a voucher good to fly anywhere in the continental U.S. He put off using it until the last minute, then decided he wanted to get as far from West Palm Beach as he could. Seattle, Washington, filled the bill. He REALLY wanted to drive to the top of Mt. St. Helen’s Mountain, but he had a problem: he was way under 21, so none of the big car rental companies would talk to him. I suggested trying to rent a U-Haul truck. Here’s his account of his driving adventures.

“If you hear a whirring sound…”

I was able to get a car so the U-Haul plans were for naught. In place of the truck, I was able to rent a car just a bit larger – a white 1983 Mercury Zephyr. The thing had over a hundred thousand miles.

The guy who rented it to me (he owned and operated “AAAAAA 19.95 Rent-A-Car” told me that the thing ran great. Of all the cars on the lot, it was his personal favorite and I shouldn’t have any problems, but “if you ever hear a whirring sound while on the highway, stop immediately – right away – and …Can you pop the hood there, son? Yeah, come around the front… can you see that thing down there? Yeah, just give it a few raps with the tire iron – don’t worry, you can’t ever hit it too hard – and the car will be fine. It doesn’t happen often, but I thought you should know. Just be sure and stop as soon as you hear it.”

I didn’t ask.

 Saw all the Seattle sights

With that hurdle cleared, I toured Seattle and the surrounding area. Beautiful is the only way I can describe it. Of course, I did all the tourist stuff — the space needle, the Seattle Zoo, Pike’s Market, Mt. Rainier, etc., but the best part was just driving around on the back roads, looking for cool stuff to see.

My longest trek was up Mt. Rainier. I had gotten up at the crack of dawn and the hill was a three-hour drive. I did it in just under 8-1/2. As Davy Crockett might have said, “I was never lost, but I was once bewildered for a few hours.”

Snow tires required

I was the last car up the road before the park rangers closed it down for the evening. It had just stopped lightly snowing. A quarter of the way up, I passed a sign that said, “Snow tires required beyond this point.” Not stopping to check, I crossed my fingers and hoped the car had snow tires on it. Halfway up the hill, the sign said, “Four-wheel drive vehicles strongly recommended for further travel.‘ Not stopping to check, I crossed my fingers and hoped the car had four-wheel drive.

Not much further up the road, I passed a sign that said “Chains required past this point.” The few locals with me were pulling over and installing chains. Not stopping to check, I crossed my fingers and hoped the car had chains on it.

Well, as someone who has never driven in snow or ice before, the rest of my quest was an uphill battle. I was sliding all over the place. Fortunately, by this time, I was just about the only person on the narrow, two-lane road that led up the mountain. I survived and made it to the top and am glad no one saw me slide into the two or three snow banks that jumped out in front of my 1983 Mercury Zephyr.

 The Rambo of rangers

At the top, I headed to the observation deck. I climbed three flights of stairs before I ran into the Rambo of rangers who said that the observation deck was closed.

“What?!? Sir, I’ve just driven all day, after flying in from West Palm Beach, Florida, to see this wonderful Washington mountain. I’m alone in a state over 4,000 miles from home. This is nature at its best and I’ve come too far to miss it,” I said with Tammy Faye-sized tears running down my face (and then freezing on my cheeks).

Nobody around for 25 miles

“If made an exception for you, I’d have to let everyone up.”

I took a careful look around, surveying what I could through the fogged-up window and the approaching sunset. “What do you mean everyone? There is, quite literally, not a single other living human within 25 miles.”

With an evil, this-man-has-probably-been-trained-in-the-use-of-chainsaws-look, he said, simply, “I know.”

I made it down the mountain in record time.

 Matt’s first report card

His teacher at Miss Lora’s Day School had him pegged early. Here are some comments on his first report card: “We have enjoyed talking with Matt. He always has something special to say…Storytime is a favorite. Matt has been a good listener. He has learned to put the most interesting endings on stories.”