Please mark your calendar for This Whitworth Life: A Campus Storytelling event. The 2014 cast includes nine readers who’ll share their stories at 6pm on Friday, Nov. 21, in the chapel.
For a taste of what you’ll hear on the 21st, check out this piece by Kaurie Albert (’15).
I was headed back to Whitworth after spending spring break at home in Montana. It was the first time I’d be driving my own car back. That 1986 Buick that had been through a couple wrecks and multiple repairs, but had been running well for some time. My dad thought it would be just fine over the two mountain passes and long stretches of interstate between Hamilton and Spokane. I made it to Missoula in good time, picked up my friend Brandon, and continued on our way. My Chihuahua-weiner-dog-terrier combo of a creature named Pippin curled up on his panda pillow pet on the seat between us.
Unusual for Montana, we started noticing more and more traffic. We were nearing the top of Lookout Pass when we came to a complete stop behind a long line, primarily of semis. It was just in time too, as the hood had started smoking. Trying to ignore that dilemma, I turned off the car and let it sit. Curious, Brandon and I stepped out into the cold mountain air, flurries of snow and strong wind whipping about us, while Pippin spasmodically jumped around inside the car barking. Just a small stretch ahead was a massive rock slide. It had taken out one of the cement side things and spilled onto the road.
The next four hours dragged on. We passed the time by telling stories, doing homework until the daylight faded, and observing the many people meandering about. Night fell and it wasn’t until 9:00 that the road was cleared enough for the line to start moving. The car started, though reluctantly. It was not excited to drive after sitting for so long, and regardless of how much I floored the gas pedal, it wouldn’t go over 20mph. Fortunately, we were right at the top of the pass and had a rather long descent ahead. We coasted down the mountain going 55 all the way into Idaho. Brandon’s phone finally got service and he had six missed calls from his mom and numerous messages from our friends. We were supposed to have been in Spokane a good three hours ago.
The road flattened out and the car refused to go over 20. It was making weird clicking noises, but I was too afraid to stop. What if it didn’t start at all again? I tried to drive as close to the side of the road as possible, semis flying by. Brandon searched fruitlessly for the hazard lights. No idea where those were. He was trying to reassure his mom and I was trying to keep my cool. Please, please, please, don’t stop. We can make it, we can make it, we can make it. Pippin remained passed out on the panda, oblivious. I asked Brandon to distract me. We asked each other stuff we never knew about one another. He would tell me every once in a while that it was going to be fine.
Signs to Kellogg, Idaho appeared and we decided we should stop there. There was no way we’d make it to Spokane tonight. After another hour of painstaking progress, I took exit 51 into Kellogg and coasted right into a Les Schwab parking lot. The Dave Smith car lot was adjacent to us. It seemed like a good place to break down. I called my dad, who seemed calmly unsurprised that the car did not make it. We decided to ditch the car and worry about it later. My friend Lauren offered to rescue us and drove an hour and a half from Spokane to Kellogg. I left a note on the car, saying “Sorry, we broke down” and we transferred to Lauren’s. By the time we pulled into our house it was 1 in the morning and I had six hours before I had to be at work. Although it was an incredibly long day, I abandoned a car in Idaho, and put Brandon’s mom through that trauma, we both agreed that it was an adventure. My family has been cursed with cars for years and it only made sense that it would happen to me too. However, I did discover that keeping my cool and just believing that we would “make it” was probably the most valuable trait I possessed in that moment. I will never underestimate the ability not to panic in a situation again, or be more thankful that I had someone as laid back as Brandon for a passenger. Cooler heads did prevail.
Kaurie Albert is a senior Lit major from Hamilton, Montana. She isn’t sure what she wants to do in the near future, though writing will continue to be a large part of it. However, she does plan on returning to Montana at a much later date to settle in mountain country and raise pygmy goats.