Christmas arrived quickly for me and on what was supposed to be one of the most wonderful times of the year; I was worried sick about the journey that awaited me. The planning and all of the little details involved took weeks to finalize, and as my relatives and friends learned about my plan I gained wide spread support especially after everyone learned the true about who Becky’s father really was and how he treated her.
On Christmas morning my parents drove me to the airport, gave me hugs and kisses, and watched me board the plane. And as I traversed the terminal I mentally went through every last detail of my trip and prepared myself emotionally for what it would be like once Becky and I would finally be together as husband and wife.
It had now weeks since we had spent real time together and yet I could still remember what it felt like to hold her hand in mine, to smell the scent of her hair as she sat next to me, to look into her eyes and have her know my desire for her without saying it. It was those things about her that kept me going during the long weeks that had passed since we were last separated. and it was every other thing about her that made me hunger to return to her once again.
The plane ride to Portland, Oregon only, lasted a couple of hours and before I knew it, I was searching for the next gate where I would sit and wait once again before boarding another small airplane that would take me to a small county airport in La Grande, Oregon, which was very close to Becky’s home.
I felt like a spy on a secret mission to retrieve a priceless jewel from my enemy.
I was on a long journey to an unfamiliar city where I had to navigate my way in the dead of winter through snow and ice to rescue my wife from her vengeful father. By 3 p.m. the next plane was ready for me and the other passengers. We boarded the plane and sat there for a few minutes before the pilots voice announced on the intercom that our plane would be delayed for one hour because of snow and ice. We would stay on the plane and wait it out, hoping that the plane wouldn’t be grounded for the night. I began to grow nervous.
We waited on the plane until 4 p.m. when the pilot announced that the weather had cleared and he’d been given go ahead to fly. I began to relax and wondered about what I would have for dinner that night.
The plane took off. It felt like it was flying smoothly for a few minutes when it began to shake and the pilot advised us to buckle up due to turbulence.
“Shit!” One of the passengers next to me said.
I started to freak out and pictured the plane crashing into a small field, with my parents learning about it the next morning from an early phone call from the F.A.A.
“This can’t be happening!” I thought as the plane was tossed back and forth like a flimsy trashcan.
The other passengers on the plane were also visibly shaken and holding hands. Some were even saying prayers when the pilot’s voice came on the intercom again.
“Folks, as you can see, we’ve hit some bad weather this afternoon and will have to divert to Washington for the night.”
“No shit!” Said the passenger sitting next to me.
“Please keep your seat belts buckled because we will be landing in a few minutes.”
After more shaking and rolling, the plane finally touched down in Washington. We exited the plane and were greeted by a heavy snowstorm that blanketed the area with snow and ice. I walked inside the terminal with the other passengers and stopped to look out of the windows facing the runway. There were dozens of other planes that were grounded by the heavy winter storm. When the pilots and flight attendants walked into the terminal I went over to ask them if they thought we would be able to fly to Oregon the next day.
“I don’t think so, sir. The weather report is saying that this is the worst winter storm up here in 20 years.”
“We might be grounded tomorrow,” The pilot said.
My plans were falling apart, again.
Feeling depressed, I went to look for my bags unsure of my next move. Airports were typically happy places for me, full of people eagerly coming and going to different destinations and cities but on that afternoon, the airport in Washington was full of displaced people who all had a glazed-over look in their eyes as they sat around waiting for welcomed news of departures. After searching and grabbing for my bags I found a corner of the airport and decided to lie down and rest. It was going to be a long night. So I accepted my fate and fell asleep.
I slept for a few minutes when someone started to shake me awake. “Son, you better get up.”
I opened my eyes and was greeted by an elderly looking cowboy who was holding his hand out to help me up.
“The airlines chartered a bus to take everyone to the hotel up the street where we can stay for the night,” He said.
I got up, rubbed my eyes and remembered that it wasn’t a dream, and that I was really one 1,000 away from home in the middle of nowhere.
“You look like a man on a mission,” The man said.
“You’re right.” I said.
“I can always judge a man by the look in his eyes,” he said.
“My name’s Angel Johnson,” he said as he positioned his hand for a handshake.
“My mother named me Angel in the hopes that I would stay out of trouble as a kid, he said, laughing.
Angel looked like the classic 1970’s T.V. character, “McCloud”. He was dressed in faded blue jeans, rough-looking boots, a long winter jacket, and a cowboy hat.
“Let me help you with your bags,” Angel said.
“Thank you,” I said, feeling at ease.
“Where you heading?” Angel asked.
“Lostine, Oregon. My plane was supposed to land in an airport in La Grande, Oregon, but it was diverted here because of this winter storm,” I said.
“You have family in Lostine?” Angel asked.
“Yes,” I said.
What I didn’t tell him was that I was on a secret mission to save my wife from the hands of her psycho parents who forced her to accompany them.
“So you’re far away from home?” Angel asked.
“Yes. I’m from California.” I said.
“How about you?” I asked.
“I’m from La Grande, Oregon.”
“I’m heading back from a yearly fishing trip that I go on with old friends,” Angel said.
We walked over to the bus that was waiting for us and were driven to the hotel that was conveniently right up the street from the airport. Once we arrived at the hotel I was feeling more exhausted than ever, and walked over to the front desk and paid for a room for the night. As I walked to my room, Angel came up behind me pulling his luggage and said, “Son, the hotel manager just informed everyone that the airline is going to make another attempt to fly to Bend tomorrow, so everyone is supposed to meet at the front desk by 7 a.m. for our 8 a.m. flight.”
“That’s great news!” I said.
“Just thought I’d let you know,” Angel said as he opened his door.
“See you tomorrow!” He said.
I found my room and once inside, called my parents to brief them on where I was and what had happened that day.
“What’s the weather like at home?” I asked as I looked out the window at the heavily falling snow landing outside.
“Santa Ana, It was 80 degrees in the shade today,” my dad said.
“Save some warm weather for me, okay?” I asked.
“You got it. See you soon, son,” my dad said.
I hung up the phone and wanted to go home that night, but instead, I stuck to my plan and kept assuring myself that it was going to work.
The next morning, I woke up early, showered, and ate breakfast in the hotel lobby. I went over the remaining details of the trip in my head.
Step 1 – Arrive in La Grande, Oregon.
Step 2 – Drive to Lostine, Oregon.
Step 3 – Arrange a meeting point with Becky.
Step 4 – Get Becky and drive like a madman back to the airport to wait for the flight back to San Diego.
“It’s going to work, it’s going to work,” I kept telling myself.
After I finished breakfast, I went over to the hotel lobby, checked out, and was greeted by my new friend, Angel.
“Mornin, I thought you might need this,” Angel said as he handed me a large cup of coffee to go from the hotels restaurant.
“You read my mind,” I said, smiling.
As we sat there talking, the other passengers from the night before began to walk up to the check out counter. Everyone waited anxiously for the bus to arrive and take us back to the airport. Angel and I chatted with ease like two old friends about everything, from bass fishing and country music, to politics and religion, when the bus arrived and we boarded it with the other passengers and to head back to the airport.
“Looks like were on our way now.” Angel said.
“Thank God,” I said in relief.
The bus quickly drove us through the deserted streets and made it back to the airport in minutes. I looked out at the town, wondering where everyone was.
“It’s Christmas day. Nobody will be out today especially in this weather.” Angel said.
“It sure is cold,” I said.
“Bet it’s not like this in San Diego,” he then said.
“How’d you know I’m from San Diego?” I asked, feeling like Angel knew everything about me.
Angel smiled and said, “We better get goin.”
We walked into the airport and were greeted by dozens of angry passengers who were shouting and screaming at airline officials.
“Damn! I’ve got a business meeting today at 3 p.m.,” a businessman said.
“I have to get home to feed my dog,” and elderly woman declared.
“You bastards are always screwing us around,” claimed a young snowboarder.
“Yeah, man, typical bullshit from the Man!” said another snowboarder.
“Screw it bro, let’s go find a bar and get drunk!” another snowboarder said.
“Must have beer!” They all said in unison as they went looking for the airport lounge.
“I’m sorry ladies and gentlemen, but the airline has informed us that there won’t be any planes coming or going for the next few hours because of ice on the runway,” the airline official said. “For those of you who can’t wait, we have car rental facilities inside the airport that can rent you a car for anywhere you need to go. For those of you who are going to stay and wait you will find our facilities comfortable. We have a Starbucks and McDonald’s in the terminal.”
“When is the earliest that we can get in the air?” I asked the airline rep.
“Probably not until 3 p.m. today,” he said.
That would screw up my plans and I wouldn’t be able to get to Becky’s in time.
“But that’s hours from now!” I exclaimed.
“I’m sorry, sir,” he said as he squirmed out of my way.
“I’m never going to get to Oregon,” I said.
Suddenly, Angel appeared out of nowhere and said, “Looks like everyone is in the same boat.”
“No kidding,” I said.
“I got an idea. Why don’t you and me rent ourselves a car and you can drop me off in La Grande on your way to Lostine, Oregon. I’ve got plenty of cash and can pay for half of it,” He said.
I thought about it for a minute and once again, my overactive imagination pictured Angel murdering me and dumping me on the side of a country road.
I was prepared to say no, but realized that he was probably a lot older than my dad was and couldn’t possibly pull a fast one on me. Besides, I was out in the middle of nowhere, with no friends or family, and decided that having Angel, as my travel companion and guide on this trip was probably the best decision I could make.
“That sounds like a great idea to me,” gleefully.
“Good, because I sure don’t feel like hitch-hiking my way home today,” Angel said.
We walked over to the rental counter, rented a brand-new Ford Focus and quickly got on the road. During the first few minutes in the car, Angel instructed me on how to drive in the winter weather and navigate through the completely foreign weather conditions I had never driven through. Angel really was my guide that day and made me feel completely at ease behind the wheel, even though it was snowing again outside and we continued to pass cars that had gone off the road every few miles, reminding me how dangerous the driving conditions were.
After driving for a while, I started to relax.
“What kind of hobbies do you have, Son?” Angel asked.
“I’m an artist,” I said.
Even though I said it, I didn’t really feel like one because I hadn’t painted or made anything new in over a year because of my relationship with Becky and everything that came with it.
I just didn’t have the heart to touch my art supplies or create anything new.
“An artist, huh?” Angel grinned.
“What kind of work do you do?” He asked.
I told him about my love of modern, abstract art and artists like Picasso, Matisse and Braque and how some day, I wanted to follow in their footsteps.
“Sounds like you have a lot of talent, Son.” Angel said. “Have you produced anything lately?”
I sighed and said, “no”.
“Why not?” He asked.
This gave me a natural opening to talk about my story. I talked for over an hour with my new friend and told him everything about my relationship with Becky and why I was really in Oregon.
Angel sat quietly for a minute and finally said, “son, I got one question for you. Why the hell are you going after this girl after everything she’s done to you? Especially with all your of talents and gifts, it sounds like you can have any girl you want.
I thought it over and said, “I have to try and make it work one last time. All of my life I’ve given up on things when the going got rough and I don’t want to give up on my relationship with Becky, especially if there is any hope left,” I said.
“Well, I don’t envy you with the path you’re walking because you sound like you face a great deal of opposition from her parents and that’s not easy to deal with, especially now that you two are married. You know that what you want to do might not work out right?” He asked.
“I know,” I said.
“It might not work out,” had been one of the main topics of conversation in my family lately. Nobody wanted to see me fail and witness my hopes and dreams fall flat, even though at that particular time my dream seemed like just that: a dream.
“Can I give you a word of advice, Son?” Angel asked.
“Sure,” I said, not knowing what to expect.
“Don’t give up on your other hopes and dreams after your journey is over. Even if your plans with her don’t work out, don’t give up on your art when you get back home. God gave you those artistic gifts for a reason, and I don’t think he’d want you to waste them. Take it from a guy who’s walked in your shoes and seen it all, okay?” Angel said.
“I appreciate the advice, but I’ve got to see this journey through and give it my best shot.” I said.
“I know you do, I just don’t want you to come home a broken man if your plans here don’t work out,” he remarked.
“You sound like you’re speaking from experience,” I said.
“Son, it would take me a few days and lots of beer to tell you all of my stories. Unfortunately I can’t drink anymore and we don’t have a lot of time left together.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Look,” Angel said, pointing out the window to a sign that read, “Welcome to La Grande Oregon.”
I looked at the clock and realized that we had been on the road for hours. It was already 1 p.m. and time seemed to fly by quickly while we drove on the empty, icy roads.
“Why don’t you drop me off at the town hall? Then I can get you a map and show you how to get to Lostine,” Angel promised.
“That sounds great.”
“I can’t believe that we’ve been on the road for this long!” I said.
“Well, the Good Lord has been looking out for us,” Angel said.
La Grande, Oregon, looked like Mayberry and with the prevalent snow-capped rooftops it looked inviting to a tired homesick traveler like me. Once we found the town hall, Angel and I got out of the car and entered the warm town hall building and were greeted by friendly, cordial faces.
“Welcome to La Grande!” A girl behind a nearby desk said to me.
“Ma’am, this young man needs a map of Oregon so he can route out his trip to Lostine to see his family.”
“Well, you’re in luck! I just happen to have one right here!” The girl said.
She opened her desk drawer and pulled out a well-worn map of Oregon. She then proceeded to highlight the easiest route into Lostine. Things were now going exceptionally well and I was developing confidence in my plans once again. While she highlighted, Angel stood calmly next to me and when she was done, we thanked her and walked back outside.
We outside looking at the snowy day for several minutes when Angel said, “Son I better get home because I’m dogged tired and, besides you got a long drive ahead of you.”
“You want to go get some lunch or something?” I asked.
“No. I appreciate the offer, but I think it’s time we get going,” Angel said.
Once again, the kind old cowboy and I shook hands like old friends.
“Son, it was great meeting you. Don’t forget what I said about not giving up on your goals or dreams if your plan doesn’t work out okay?”
“I promise,” I said.
“And if I’m ever back here, I promise that I will look you up and take you out for a steak,” I said.
Angel chuckled and said; “I’d take you up on your offer if my doctor would let me eat red meat. Those hippie doctors won’t let old folks like me touch that stuff anymore.”
We laughed and stood there for a few more seconds before Angel said, “You better get goin.”
I thanked him again and we parted ways. I walked back to the car while Angel started up the street towards the direction of an old hotel in town. I got into the car, rolled down the window, and looked up the street for him, but he was gone. “Thanks again Angel,” I said into the wind and continued on my way.
The drive into Oregon could have been a lot worse if I didn’t have an experienced traveler like Angel to guide me on the roads, and give comfort to me after I told him my story.
I was in La Grande, Oregon, only a few hours away from my wife, a few miles away from seeing her again. I was getting excited, so I raced along the snowy roads anticipating our reunion.
En route to Lostine I drove through the remaining little towns with ease until I finally reached Becky’s new home. The town wasn’t much to look at. With no major stores, buildings, developments, stoplights, or civilization around for miles, I could see why this town appealed to her father’s nature. He didn’t move his family up here because of the great weather and atmosphere. Fred moved his family to Lostine because he wanted to hide them from the real world, keeping them locked up in his own little world until the day he died.
Nobody knew who he was, people would easily fall for his deception, and neighbors would welcome him into their lives, appointing him their new religious leader. I pitied the people in this town and couldn’t wait to get Becky and leave immediately. I was already sick of the constant snow, cold, and steel grey skies. I wanted to see sunshine again; I wanted to get back to the blue skies and warm weather of San Diego with my wife by my side.
Once I pulled into town, I drove around for a few minutes and surveyed the scene to make sure that I knew all the towns’ roads and was familiar with the major intersections. I knew that if Becky’s family saw me outside their house, they would call the police to arrest me. Or even chase after Becky and I in the rental car. I didn’t want either scenario to happen and prepared myself emotionally for whatever was in store for me.
I found the old, beat-up house where Becky’s family now lived and slowly drove past her kitchen window, catching a glimpse of her inside doing the dishes. It was around 3 p.m. and I knew that her parents had asked Becky and her other sister to get things ready for dinner at 5 p.m. As I drove past her window, I waved, turned a corner, parked the car up the street from her house and waited. After a few minutes, she slowly came out of her house, walked up to my car, and got inside. She wasn’t excited to see me.
There wasn’t a passionate embrace or speedy exit like in the movies. Becky was indecisive again and giving me the cold shoulder. I grabbed her and kissed her, but she was like kissing a cold fish.
“Are you ready to go?” I asked, sensing what she was thinking.
“Becky? Hello?” I said, waving my hand in front of her face.
She just sat there, thinking over what to say.
“Jeremy, I don’t know if this was the right idea,” she said.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“We broke my parent’s laws and God’s laws.” She said.
“Becky, I’ve just come 1,000 miles to get you because you asked me to. We’ve had this conversation again and again about what the right decision is, but the question isn’t what your parents want, it’s what you want. What do you want, Becky? The dream we had is now a reality and we can make it happen if you leave with me right now.” I said.
“I don’t know, I don’t know,” Becky kept saying, acting like she was doped up.
“Becky, what’s wrong with you?” You begged me to come and rescue you, and now that I’m here, you don’t want to go?” I said.
“I’m sorry, Jeremy,” she said.
“I’m sorry to,” I said.
“Can you give me until tomorrow?” She asked.
I laughed and said, “What’s a few more hours going to do? If your mind is already made up, I can’t change it for you in a few hours,” I said.
She looked at me clearly and said, “I don’t have a bag ready and will need one more day to get prepared,” she said.
“Alright, if I come and get you tomorrow morning, do you promise that you will leave with me?” I asked.
“I promise,” she said.
Suddenly, Becky’s parents pulled into their driveway in their old beat up station wagon.
“Oh no!” She screamed.
We slid down into the rental car seats and waited until they went inside.
“Alright, I’ll come back for you in the morning at 6 a.m. and you better be ready!” I said.
Becky agreed and we kissed quickly, and she exited the car and ran back inside her house. The plan wasn’t working out like it was supposed to, but plans often changed. And since I was here in her town, I didn’t plan on leaving without her. Once I was certain all of her family members were inside their house, having dinner I started up the car and quickly drove away in search of a motel.
Because Lostine had no major developments and no hotels, I was forced to drive to the next town a few miles away, where I found a nasty rat trap hotel that I could stay in for the night. The room smelled like cat piss and cigarette smoke, but it was a roof over my head, and once inside, I slumped down in an old chair and immediately fell asleep for the next few hours. I awoke around 11 p.m. that night hungry because I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast. I decided to get in the car and go looking for the nearest restaurant. I couldn’t find any restaurants, fast food joints, all-night gas stations or any place to buy food late at night. Evidently, Oregon shutdown early, every night at and everyone was tucked away safely in their comfy beds. I was tired, hungry and homesick.
I didn’t know what else to do that night but drive so I stepped on the gas to see how fast the rental car would go.
Since the streets were deserted and there were no stoplights or other traffic for miles I went faster and faster until the car reached 100 miles per hour. After a few miles of driving at race car speeds I slowed down and was doing about 55 miles per hour along the country roads when a police officer pulled out from nowhere with it’s lights flashing.
“Shit!” I said laughing at the situation.
Here I was racing the car at 100 miles per hour a few minutes ago, through the deserted roads of Oregon and now this cop was going to give me a speeding ticket for driving at a measly 55 miles per hour? I hated getting a ticket but laughed at the irony and rolled down my windows as the cop walked up.
“You’re out here kind of late, aren’t you?” He asked.
“Yes, sir,” I replied.
“You know how fast you were going?” He asked.
“No, I’m from out of town,” I said, ready to laugh in his face.
“Don’t get smart with me, Son, you were doing 55 in a 35 zone.”
“Officer, it’s midnight. Unless there are cows out walking the streets at night, I don’t think anyone was in danger,” I said.
“Give me your license and registration, Smart Ass,” he said.
I handed it to him and he walked back to his car, never failing to keep his spotlight flashed through my back window while he checked my license.
Finally, he returned and handed me his notepad for me to sign his ticket.
“You’ll get your ticket mailed to you in 30 days,” He smiled.
“Excuse me, Officer Johnson; is there a McDonalds in this area? Because I’m starved,” I said.
“My name is Officer Smith,” He grunted.
“I advise you to go back to wherever your hotel is and stay there before you get into more trouble,” He said.
I mock saluted him, rolled up my window and drove away, leaving him standing out in the cold. When I got back to the crappy hotel I looked at my watch and it was 1 a.m. In a few hours, I knew there would be a final resolution: she would either come with me to the airport and we would go home together, or I would leave her in Oregon and never see her again. I didn’t want to think about what would happen if she changed her mind on me again, so I tried to keep such thoughts out of my head as I drifted off to sleep.