“Good evening, sir! Do you have a reservation?”
The desk clerk at the Tillamook, Ore. Shilo Inn looked like she had put in a full day checking in families and answering calls for more towels and was ready for her Friday night to begin. But she was still cheerful and pleasant as she greeted me when I stepped up to the counter and began to answer her as I reached to take my glasses off.
My glasses that I wear to drive. My glasses that I had just worn over 662.7 miles of driving from Oakland, Calif. My glasses that, as soon I pulled them off my face, snapped apart, breaking in hands.
The girl at the counter saw me juggling the lens that had popped out and the arm that had held it and which was dangling like Joe Theisman’s leg after Lawrence Taylor broke it in two on national TV during that Monday Night Football game back in 1985. She then asked me what was probably the only thing anyone would ask a person in such a foolish-looking position as myself
“Can I get you some tape for those?”
The reason we were in Tillamook was because we needed someplace to stay the night on this two-day drive from Oakland to Tacoma, Wash., near where I grew up, to spend a week at my mom’s. We did this drive last year and enjoyed it so much as a family that we decided to make it an annual tradition. Only this year, we made a slight change in the itinerary, and that change was going to Tillamook so that we could visit the world-famous Tillamook Cheese Factory.
Driving to my mom’s is a long, but relatively stress-free trip. Once you get out of the San Francisco Bay Area and hit I-5, it’s a straight shot to Tacoma. The total drive is about 770 miles. If I left my house at 5 a.m. and really put my mind and gas pedal to it, I could be at my mom’s in time for some of her homemade fried chicken and the first pitch of that night’s Seattle Mariners game.
But when you add your wife, The Thoroughly Awesome Ms. Crums, and two daughters, Maddo, who is three-and-half, and the nearly two-year-old Little Sis, to the roadshow, time on the highway takes on a whole new meaning. You make pit stops for standard things like lunch or to get a cup of coffee, but you also have diaper changes that must be attended to.
And you also don’t just blast by things like the big dragon made of scrap metal that’s off to the side of I-5 North and just before the scenic viewpoint of Mt. Shasta. Especially not when Maddo is fascinated by dragons and you can use the threat of that dragon coming to take away little girls who spend hours in the backseat of your spacious quad-cab truck screaming for no reason at all to get her to quiet down as you negotiate the highway through the Siskiyou Mountains of Northern California.
So driving takes longer than it might when you are going solo. And this trip was going to take a lot longer than it had last year because of the stop in Tillamook.
As I said before, the drive from Oakland to Tacoma is long, but easy, because once we get on I-5, we don’t have to make any changes on the route until we get to about two miles from my mom’s house. However, to get to Tillamook, we had to go north on I-5 for about 586 miles until we hit Salem, the Oregon state capital. Then we hung a left and headed west and north toward the Oregon coast and Tillamook.
That part of the drive is, on paper, an smooth 76 miles. In reality, we were off the Interstate and on what was mostly a two-lane highway out into the Oregon rainforest. And with the rainforest came rain. And with the rain came slow drivers, probably more familiar with the road than I, and certainly not driving the 75 mph I had been averaging on I-5.
And with the slower-than-I-was-accustomed drivers leading the way, it came as no surprise that two hours dragged by before we pulled into the parking lot of the Tillamook Shilo Inn and my glasses broke on my face.
My wife was tired, Maddo was complaining that she wanted to watch “Tiana”, aka “Disney’s “The Princess and The Frog””, which she had already watched at least three times during the drive, and Little Sis needed a diaper change. It was beginning to rain when I started to unload the truck, starting with the Bugaboo stroller.
[Dads all over the world know what the Bugaboo stroller is. It's that (approximately) $800 kid carrier that their wife has told them they have to have because their wife's' girlfriends said they had to have it because some celebrity was seen using one in a copy of US Weekly several years ago. You know what I mean.]
The Bugaboo stroller that, as soon as I lifted it up, broke, dropping one of the front wheels on the ground at my feet. The front wheels of the Bugaboo each fit into a holder and have a peg that pokes through an opening in the holder to lock the wheel in place. Somewhere along the route to Tillamook, the locking peg on one of the wheels broke off. The wheel would still work, but any hard bumps or wheelie-popping would cause it to fall out of its holder. And I was going to be out $45 when I had to order a replacement from the folks at Big Bugaboo.
We couldn’t do anything else with our stroller, but my glasses needed immediate surgery. And across the road from our hotel was a monstrous Fred Meyer store. Anyone who is from the Northwest knows Fred Meyer. It truly is a store with everything. Bigger than Target and much better than Wal-Mart. Groceries, garden supplies, jewelry–name it and Fred has it. If there was any place in Tillamook that would have an optometry shop open at 6:45 on a Friday night, it would be Fred Meyer, and Fred didn’t disappoint.
What did disappoint was that the gal working the counter at the optometry office was the only person there, and she could only offer up that we try taping my glasses together. “Janet” had that look of a woman who ends up in a small town because of her man, only to find out he likes Natural Light beer and Carla, who works at Denny’s more than her. And now she’s in a perpetual circle of trying to save up enough cash to move back home, which Janet told us was Napa.
We got some clear strapping tape, a pair of kids safety scissors and, for good measure, a tube of Krazy Glue, just in case. My wife performed some quick optical magic to my glasses and we were off to dinner.
Of course, even with my wife’s best efforts, my glasses still shifted slightly to the left, and the rim of tape around the lens made me wary of my peripheral vision. Still, I was able to see the road well enough as we drove over to the aforementioned Denny’s where Carla worked as a waitress.
But, before we could get inside, one more joke in this evening’s comedy of errors had to be told, and it was told in the window of Denny’s as we pulled up for dinner.
As I swung my truck, which I affectionately call “The Beast”, into a parking space, I thought I saw something missing in our reflection in the Denny’s window. Sure enough, my eyes weren’t deceiving me, as the driver’s-side headlight was out. I flicked on my high beams to check, and, yes, no regular headlight. I drive with my headlights on all the time and I had no idea when the light went out. And by the time I noticed this, it was 8 o’clock, and the local auto parts store was closed.
There was nothing left to do for the night except let Denny’s do dinner for us. Of course, no meal would be complete without at least one meltdown from my daughters. In this case, it was Little Sis’ turn and she didn’t disappoint. I wanted to warn the people who ended up sitting near us and pay for their meals to apologize for her shrieking that I’m pretty sure violated a half-dozen of Tillamook’s noise ordinances.
We staggered back to our hotel. Amazingly, nothing else broke the rest of the evening. And like something out of an episode of “’The Simpsons”, the cheese factory awaited us in the morning.