By Clint Shearer
This is a story of what ended up being far more of an adventure than I would have ever believed and the great people that gave me a hand in getting through it.
Last December I purchased a supercharged 2005 Viper Copperhead on the Internet. The car was located near Los Angeles and I live in the Seattle area. As many of you know, buying a Viper can be a stressful experience. Lucky for me DC Performance just happened to be three miles from the dealer that was selling the car. When I called DC I didn’t know what to expect. I asked them if they would do an inspection on the car for me. They responded with an extremely positive attitude! They took it upon themselves to acquire the car, road test it and do a very thorough inspection. They found only a few minor problems.
The dealer, Front Line Leasing of Los Angeles, stepped right up and fixed the problems without any hassle. It was nice to deal with such a stand-up dealer.
Now that the inspection was done and the work was completed I headed to L.A. to pick up my new pride and joy. The excitement level of that day is the only kind a person can feel when they are going off into the unknown, looking forward to the new car and the adventure of driving it up the West Coast.
Upon my arrival in L.A. I headed to the dealer and picked up the new car. I cruised the few miles through L.A. with the top down feeling like a proud new father, watching as people’s heads turned and camera phones pointed in my direction all the way to DC Performance.
Tony and Dan, from DC Performance, had invited me to stop by and said they would go over the car with me. When I arrived at DC, the parking lot and shop where full of Vipers! These guys were obviously very busy. Tony and Dan welcomed me in and didn’t rush or try to get me out the door. Dan actually went over my new car with me as if I had just bought a new car from him. Being as this is my first SRT®, he explained where everything was and told me of some of the major differences from my GTS.
Thank you Tony and Dan for putting up with me calling five times a day and welcoming me in when I got there. You guys took the stress out of my buying experience!
THE JOURNEY TO WASHINGTON
I immediately headed north from there about noon on Friday. The weather forecast for the Portland area was calling for snow on Sunday and I knew I needed to get north of Portland before the storm hit; there was also snow in the Siskyous in northern California and southern Oregon.
Knowing of the snow in the Siskiyous, I headed for San Francisco so that I could drive up HWY 101 on the coast and avoid the bad weather in the mountains. As I drove up the 101 in California with the top down and the music up I was having an incredible time rushing through the amazing Redwood forest feeling like a million bucks.
I stopped and got a room in the small town of Garberville and got up early the next day to a small crowd of people standing around my car. After talking to everyone and opening the hood for a while I headed out.
That day I drove up the coast of California and then Oregon. I got north of the snowy mountain passes and made the jump over to Interstate 5 to head north to Portland.
THE WEATHER TURNS
This is where things started to get a little more interesting. I was in Albany, Ore., about seventy miles from Portland on early Friday evening when I got a call from a friend in Portland telling me that it was snowing. The forecasters had missed it and the storm hit the Portland area a day and a half earlier than they had said before.
It was raining where I was and I thought to myself, “No big deal if it starts getting bad. I will just stop and hole up at a hotel.” Boy was I wrong!
It was as if someone had drawn a line on the freeway. I was about fifty miles from Portland at this time and it went from rain to snow instantly. The first exit ramp I arrived at had more than six inches of snow standing on it. I had to keep going on the freeway as I knew if I hit the deeper snow on the exit ramp I would be stuck.
I traveled north in the snow, white knuckled and at a stress level I don’t know if I have ever been at in my life, just trying to find an exit ramp (with a hotel) that looked like I could make it down. Before I could find an exit I was faced with the I-5 and I-205 junction. Remembering the large sweeping overpasses on I-5 in the Portland area I went for the I-205 exit ramp. I barely made it! The snow on the ramp was deeper than the snow on the freeway and it just about stuck me. After getting on to the 205, I was faced with 4x4s that had slid off into the ditch, several trucks stuck in the middle of the freeway putting chains on, and all the time they were being passed by some nutcase in a Dodge Viper.
WORST ROAD CONDITIONS IN 40 YEARS
For more than forty miles I was driving in some of the worst conditions I have ever seen on a freeway. I would later hear on the news that it was the largest single snow storm in the Portland area since 1980 and the worst road conditions seen in 40 years. Chains were required on vehicles traveling on all metro highways and freeways at the time.
I finally saw an opportunity to free myself and my car from this situation. There was a hotel that I could see from the freeway, the exit ramp was uphill but looked clear and I took a shot at it. I came rolling up the exit ramp knowing I could not stop. I rolled through the intersection onto another intersection and ran a stop sign right in front of a cop that couldn’t believe his eyes. He must have been feeling for me—he never came after me.
I made it into the covered lobby entrance of the hotel and stopped. There was about an inch of snow that had blown in under there and I was stuck in that one inch of snow.
After a little struggling, I got the car away from the lobby entrance and half way into the closest parking spot.
I was so relieved to be off the freeway that I wasn’t even worried about what was next. It was Saturday night and I would deal with this in the morning, I thought to myself.
With the morning came even worse weather, it had not warmed up at all and we had even more snow.
Not knowing who I could call for help in the Portland area I called my good friend James Retych; who is also our Western Zone DAL. James’s first response was, “I will be there as soon as I can,” but it was also bad in Seattle and it would not have been a good idea to bring a trailer through the poor weather conditions. James then gave me his friend Jay Connelly’s phone number, a Portland area VCA member that I could contact.
I then went to the Oregon VCA Web page for the phone number of the Oregon chapter president Cody Reich and visited PartsRack.com for owner Jon B’s contact information.
First call was to Jay. His wife Rhona answered the phone I introduced myself and she told me that Jay was not available at the moment. She then tried to help me and said she would have Jay call me back. I then called Jon B and Cody and left messages for them as neither were able to answer.
My thought at this time was that I was on my own. Who would call back to help a stranger when they are fighting the same conditions themselves? As it turns out, Viper people call back!
My phone started ringing off the hook! Jay called and said he knew people at the local Dodge dealer that he could ask if they could take my car. He also helped me find a Viper friendly tow truck to get it there. He even offered to let me stay at his house if I had to stay in town.
Jon B also called back immediately. He was stuck in a terrible snow storm himself with his own problems, but took the time to offer his advice and tell me of other Viper club members in the area that I could contact. He also suggested some towing companies and said to call him anytime if I thought he could help. Cody then called me back to see if he could be of any assistance.
As it turned out the larger Dodge dealers in town were not open due to the terrible weather, but Tonkin Dodge, a small older dealership in the Gladstone, Ore., area, answered their phone. I told Jolynne Baertlein of my problems and asked if they could hold onto my car for me until the storm cleared. Her immediate answer was “no problem” to my relief and amazement.
The people at Tonkin Dodge welcomed me in; the entire sales staff helped me get my car through the snow into their service department. Jaron Watkins, a sales person, even waited for me to catch a ride out of there once my car was safe and sound. They are a great bunch of people at that dealership and I can’t thank them enough!
In conclusion, maybe I should have listened to all the people that told me that I should ship the car home. There was a bunch of them, from my father to co-workers and other VCA members like Mr. Paul Ronald.
But in retrospect I’m glad I did drive it back. It was an adventure from start to finish and life is about the little adventures that we embark on. It may have been stressful at times but in the end my car and I came through unscathed.
This adventure also helped restore some faith in my fellow man; it is very rare that I am in the position of needing or asking for any kind of help. I am more of the kind of person that is overly prepared and does the rescuing of others. It was a very nice surprise to see how people responded to me needing a hand. It was overwhelming. From my close friends willing to come and get me, to complete strangers linked to me only through a car willing to step in and do all they could.
Most cars will get you to where you are going. The Viper can really take you some place, a place where you will have friends wherever you go, a place where every turn of the key is a new adventure. I could not imagine another car club that is as tight knit, trusting and helpful as the VCA.
They say you come for the car but you will end up staying for the people; I understand more than ever what that is about.