Northwest Traffic Horror

I do a lot of driving and I've encountered some thick, slow heavy traffic in my travels. So I've learned that it pays to allow a lot of extra time to get places. But what happened today went beyond my wildest imagination.

I woke up in Seattle. I had slept in late and spent the day tooling around the house, doing laundry, cleaning out the car, and playing in the park with River. I was scheduled to teach a workshop and class that evening. The class was going to be held in Centralia, which is 85 miles from Seattle, and was scheduled to start at 5:30pm.  I would be teaching a 90 minute version of my Nuts & Bolts of FreeDance playshop and then we'd do my Woodstock Experience Nia routine from 7-8pm.

Since the trip was just under 2 hours, I left at 2pm. That gave me an extra hour to be stuck in traffic or get lost, or to deal with whatever road mayhem may befall me, and still be there half an hour early.

But I hit thick, slow traffic immediately upon departing Seattle. When my navigation system included traffic information in my trip, it indicated that I wouldn't be arriving at my destination until after 6:30pm.  I couldn't believe it at first. It made no sense to me that I could possibly require 4.5 hours to go 85 miles; most of that on the interstate.

But the navigation suggested a detour through back roads. Taking the detour, it said, would get me there sooner; and I'd arrive at 4:55. The whole thing was seriously surreal to me, but I went on blind faith and accepted the detour. I was guided off the highway and into some very congested suburban roads. It seemed that my main road was going to be good old Historic Highway 99, which was a long straight road with lots of traffic lights.

Every time I stopped at a light, I saw my estimated time of arrival increase by a minute or two. Finally, in a town called Fife, which is about a third of the distance I was going, I thought it would make more sense to take my chances on the interstate. I switched my navigation back to the shortest route and it directed me to take a left turn to get back on the highway. Traffic in Fife was so backed up that I waited literally for fifteen minutes at the left turn signal before I could get through the intersection.

By this time, I had started to wrap my head around the very strange possibility that I wasn't going to be on time to my playshop. Unless the traffic suddenly and completely disappeared and I was able to sail the whole rest of the way, I was certainly going to be late. So I called the studio and told the person manning the desk that I was running late and to let my host, Christina, know what was going on.

Christina and I ended up chatting through Facebook messenger and we decided that she could get the playshop started and I would get there as soon as I could and take over. So using Messenger Voice to Text I dictated instructions to her on how to lead the playshop, which she did. I asked her to take notes on what the students said and to take a video of them dancing 'before' the playshop so when I got there I would be able to see where they started from.

As I crawled slowly through the gnarly traffic, I kept sending the next step in the process, trusting that they were getting it and understanding it.

Gradually it became obvious that I wasn't going to make it in time for ANY of the FreeDance playshop, and now I was getting more and more concerned that I wouldn't be there in time to start the Nia routine. That's not something I could lead over messages.

So, it turned out to be just after 7:10pm when I arrived. There was a parking spot right in front of the studio door!  I took River out to visit a tree before ushering him quickly into the studio and setting up his crate and my music while they watched the before and after videos of the group FreeDancing. I gave them some of my observations and asked them about how their experience was in my absence.

We decided that I needed to come back to Centralia later in the year and teach a repeat of the playshop. Many people were away for this one because of summer vacation activities. So we decided that I could come back in the fall, after I'm back from my full USA tour. We'll give the students who attended today free admission to the next one.

I was sickened by the traffic situation. As I crawled along, I was cursing the whole notion of being a traveler. I romanticized how nice it would be to sell my car and to call up everyone along my future route and cancel. I fantasized about staying home and just walking or taking the bus everywhere.

But by the time I got to the studio and everyone was so spirited and joyful, it reminded me how much I love what I do and all was well again. I was so thankful for them being understanding and we all danced The Woodstock Experience and had a great time.

After class, Christina showed me the apartment she has in the studio and invited River and I to spend the night and teach again in the morning. But I had plans for the next day so I had to brave the highway back home.

And by that time, all was clear and I made it home in the 90 minutes that the trip should take.


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