We decided to go home, after some deliberation, to rescue our guinea pig, Snowball. I know that seems kinda silly, but Snowball is our beloved little ornery pet and we like his company a lot. Strangely enough, we felt that everything else was okay since we had our laptops, cellphones, and 3-days worth of clothes each. Our pictures are on Flickr, so if our house goes up, it’s okay as long as we get our pet out. We left Las Vegas 2-days earlier than we had planned (I was supposed to leave that night from LV to Vancouver). We must have looked very troubled because the hotel clerked responded to us with a lot of sympathy and asked if everything was ok. We got on the road and cut off from the Internet we tried to find an AM news station out of So. Cal to listen to the latest news.
Traffic was fairly smooth until we hit Victorville where traffic came to a halt because the 15 was closed through the Cajon Pass due to the fire (the news reported that the fire had caused some power lines to overheat). We were stuck in traffic with no information for 3 – 4 hours, believing that we were going to be detoured another way through the San Bernardino forest. The news kept describing a mythical route of back roads that would get us into LA. Meanwhile, off to the left a fire was visibly raging in the mountains. We later learned this was the “Lake Arrowhead Fire” and we were actually watching people’s houses burning down. My husband was surprisingly calm and wished he had his long lost GPS gadget. We finally got to the road closure and instead of being detoured, we were routed north-bound on the 15 back to Victorville. For the love of Google Maps! In a moment of inspiration I called my little brother who lives in Georgia. He’s a college student so we knew he would be up despite it being 1 in the morning on his coast. We called him and asked him to find us an alternate route home using Google Maps. He and Steve fought the computer locally and remotely and finally came up with some bizarre routes through the forest, but not having current information about road closures we had no idea whether any of these routes were viable. Then there was another problem … what good is Google Maps when you can’t see it. I then remembered that we have Thomas Guides in the car for SD and LA. Oh, sadness, neither of these cover Victorville, but alas, my husband remembered we have another LA map in the glove compartment and it covers Victorville! Yay!
A paper map can be bewildering when you’ve become used to Google Maps and the like. We actually had to find our origin and destination and then find roads that connect the two. It took a while, but we came up with two routes – one Northwest and one Southwest. But we still didn’t have any road closure information. For that we decided to take a break in a fast food restaurant. My husband has one of those “smart phones” that is supposedly Internet friendly. The problem is that government websites are not web friendly. Government websites are basically paper forms put directly online without any thought to web optimization. Navigation of the Caltrans website was difficult and form driven and every announcement was a 300KB+ PDF — not at all mobile device friendly. They are clearly stuck in a world of paper. We finally found a list of road closures, but the information was old and we ended up getting information from the radio. Of course our routes of escape were on fire and there was no exit from Victorville.
This is where something like “What to do” would come in handy. What’s there to do in Victorville/ Barstow? Where are the hotels, which ones have vacancies? Let’s reserve a room now instead of driving around in a 30-mile radius looking for a place rest our tired bodies. We ended up driving around randomly looking for hotels and at one point we drove into the empty parking lot of the “Sterling Inn”, celebrating because it seemed as though we had found an empty nice hotel that was away from the freeway. Strangely the “hotel” was locked down and we couldn’t get in, so I 411ed the place and asked the person who answered the phone if there were vacancies. The person on the other side asked if I was confused. I asked if this isn’t a hotel, then what is this place and she replied, “It’s a senior home.” And we were off again. We ended up 2-hours and 30 miles later in Barstow at a run down Value Inn that was located for us by a well connected (by ground phone line) and kind clerk at the local Holiday Inn Express. No comment on the hotel … In the morning we got access to the wireless Internet from the hotel owner and we checked the Caltrans webpage to see if the 15 was open. It was and we were off again.