The End of An Era (or, Good Riddance, I-5)

Today was the end of an era for me in many ways. It was my last day at work – new job starts Monday. It was my last day commuting on I-5. And, it was the last day of my nearly eight year steady relationship with Eugene. (Eugene the city, not Eugene the person. I don’t actually know a person named Eugene.)

Eugene and I go waaayyyyy back. As a kid, it was the place of fun – good malls, fancy movie theaters, and track meets.  Eight years ago, I moved to Eugene for college, where I got to continue the fun close up.  After three and a half years at school (two years spent living in the city), I graduated and got a job in a neighboring town.  So for the next four years, I still came to Eugene 4-5 days a week for work, shopping, date nights, and general fun.  I came to take it for granted that I would be in Eugene regularly and able to take advantage of all it has to offer.

But today was the end of that.  Since we moved last year, it is actually just as easy for me to go shopping in Portland, where I have more options.  And  we don’t have to drive to Eugene for date nights anymore because we have plenty of restaurants and movie theaters around here.  It is weird not knowing when I will next make the trip to Eugene, because I don’t have much reason to go there anymore.  I will miss the atmosphere of the city, my friends at work, and being able to go to the mall as I please.  Eugene will always have a special place in my heart.

What I will not miss?  Interstate 5.

For those of you unfamiliar with Oregon, I-5 is basically the only way to get anywhere that is anywhere.  The vast majority of our population lives on or near the I-5 corridor.  As a result, I-5 gets a lot of traffic.  And I spent my commute this week thinking of all the things I will not miss about I-5:

The Crazy Semi Truck Drivers:  Maybe it’s not just Oregon, maybe semi drivers are crazy everywhere.  But here, they are not only crazy.  They speed, swerve, cut people off, and generally break nearly every rule of driving.  (Although I will say they are pretty responsive if you want them to honk their horn).  When it snows or ices over, they drive 75 while everyone sane else drives at 50 or below.  Their trucks have the magical ability to create their own storm system of rain and wind.  And the day I got a flat tire and pulled off at the rest area in the pouring rain (with no idea how to change it), how many of the many semi drivers pulling in stopped to help me?  The answer is NONE.

About four years ago, Nathan & I went to church in the little town we lived in.  During the part of the service where people can ask the parish to pray for something/someone important to them, one lady’s prayer stood out to me in particular.  She said she had recently graduated from truck driving school, but that it was a miracle because she failed all the tests and they passed her anyway. (?!?!?!?!)  She wanted to give thanks and pray to God for this blessing.  I wanted to pray too - if only to pray that I never encountered her and her semi truck on a freeway.  But most days, it seems as if every truck driver on the road is that woman.

The Crazy NASCAR Wannabes:  This category is comprised of the crazy regular drivers who feel the need to drive everywhere at 85 mph, weave in and out of traffic (without blinkers) before slamming on their brakes, and flash their brights at anyone who dares to drive slower than 75.  They are most commonly found on I-5 on Fridays afternoons, when apparently no one in the state of Oregon is at work.

The Crazy Non-Headlight Users:  It drives me bonkers when I am driving in a torrential downpour on I-5, barely able to see ten feet in front me, and other drivers do not have their lights on.  TURN ON YOUR HEADLIGHTS FOR SAFETY, PEOPLE!!! DO YOU NOT SEE THE SIGNS???  People already think Oregonians are nuts for speeding through massive rainstorms, let’s not encourage the insanity by refusing to turn our headlights on while doing so.  I really don’t want to rear-end your car, and I don’t think you want that either.

The Wind:  Much of I-5 is in a valley, with open fields on either sides.  It makes for very windy conditions, even on a nice day.  And on an actual stormy, breezy day, the wind blows you all over the place, locking your hands in a death grip at ten and two.  There was literally a day last week so windy that I felt like I was in the Wizard of Oz, driving into the tornado and waiting for a cow to fly across the road in front of my car. 

The Lack of Exits:  Unless you are smack dab in a metropolitan area, exits on I-5 are few and far between.  This is a problem if you are out of gas, directionally challenged, or suffer from what my dad likes to call tiny bladder syndrome.  One night in college, the fog was so thick that I missed my exit ramp, even though I knew that I was near it.  I couldn’t see it until the very moment I passed it.  My house was less than 5 minutes from the exit, but I had to drive 25 minutes farther north until I could take the next exit and turn around, adding about 45 minutes total to my trip.  Boy, did I feel stupid when I had to explain why it took me so long to get home.

The “Bump”:  A couple months ago, during a week of massive rainstorms, a gaping hole opened up in the right lane of the freeway near Eugene.  To call it a giant pothole would be putting it lightly.  Every single morning for two weeks I would forget and hit that stupid hole in the dark on my way to work.  After a couple weeks, the road crew finally decided to warn people.  They put up a sign that said “BUMP” and was well over a mile in advance.  So you would drive cautiously thinking, “Where’s the bump?”, assume you must have passed it, and then right about that time - BAM.  Your tire would nail a direct hit.  After about a month, they finally got the good sense to fill the pothole, but apparently decided to leave up the “BUMP” sign for entertainment value.  Or perhaps they knew they did shoddy work, because I noticed yesterday in the daylight that our most recent storms have opened the hole back up.

I could go on, but I have gone on long enough and I think you get the picture.  Good riddance, Interstate 5.  Eugene, we’ll meet again.  And back roads?  Please don’t flood from snowmelt and force me to take I5 to the new job next week.

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