4 Friends, 1 4-by-4 and 24 Hours

A grown-up girlfriend sleepover was arranged in November so we four friends could catch up. Our thinking was that it had been so long since we’d really, really talked that an hour or so for lunch wouldn’t leave a dent in the conversational ground we had to cover. For this, we needed at least 24 hours.

For lack of a better term, we called it a slumber party, until one friend’s eldest granddaughter — skeptical that adult women had slumber parties — appropriately coined our event: an over-night sleeping visit.

Mount Shasta was our destination, to one friend’s dream house where she awaited the arrival of  her trio of Redding travelers.

We hatched the plan: Part 1 — Get there mid-afternoon, chat a bit, freshen up, then go to dinner at the Trinity Cafe, where we had reservations. Part 2 — Return to the Mount Shasta house, change into jammies and stay up late talking. Part 3 — Sleep in, shower, have a hearty breakfast, then head back fairly early so friend Judy could book it to her grandson’s out-of-town birthday in time.

Fun, fun, fun.

Friend Judy generously offered to drive us Reddingites; something she would later regret.

We headed north under blue skies that topped views of fall’s Fruit-Loop colored trees and marshmallow-topped mountains. All was well with the world. Judy’s trunk was packed with wine, coffee cake, orange juice, pineapple and luggage. As she drove, the three of us talked  and cross-talked and over-talked and laughed and cross-laughed and over-laughed.

When women do this, it’s called conversation.

When men do this, it’s called interrupting.

Speaking of men, forgive the generalization, but most men I know, if they were the lone captive male in a car load of talking women, would have fought the urge to fling themselves from that car onto the serenity of the asphalt.

But no men were with us. Just women.

We are women. Hear us talk.

All was perfect until shortly before our exit into Mount Shasta.

Cautionary observation: You are totally screwed if you’re driving in the center of a three-lane freeway, breezing along nicely with the flow of traffic, and the surrounding vehicles are moving at a similar clip to your left and right, if you suddenly notice something loom directly in your path that resembles a small pier — or a large piece of construction material — in the roadway. Not just in your lane, but across the entire width of your lane. Totally screwed.

Hail Mary, full of grace … a 4-by-4 piece of timber has landed upon the freeway. Can you kindly remove it before we hit it?

Was there a damn thing generous-suddenly-regretful Judy could do to safely avoid that obstruction? Swerve left? Swerve right? Stop? No. No. No.

We exhaled a collective “Oh no!” as Judy grasped her steering wheel as tightly as the skipper of a storm-tossed little ship and successfully navigated her car over the wood, much as the preschool chant goes about that bear hunt.

You can’t go under it, you can’t go through it, you may as well go over it.

Bump … front tires. Bump …. rear tires.

Conversation ceased as we listened for — what? Tire hissing — thumping — exploding? We heard nothing.

Judy slowly loosened her grip on the wheel just enough to see if the car would list. To our relief, the car did not list.

It seemed OK.

OK turned to O KRAP when we pulled into Mount Shasta to check the car.

Both passenger side tire rims looked like someone had used a giant can-opener to expose the tires’ gum line.

One friend used her iPhone to locate Mount Shasta Tire, which she called to explain our situation. Come on in, Mount Shasta Tire said.

Mount Shasta Tire owner Randy Cardoza greeted us and quickly inspected the damage.

“Stand back. This could blow.”

Five words that rarely relay a positive meaning.

Cardoza delivered more news. He said Judy’s car’s damage required a ride via flatbed truck to Redding for repair.

While Judy began a series of phone calls to her insurance company, husband and car dealership, our friend with the iPhone discovered that her phone’s battery was now kaput, so she asked to borrow the tire shop phone to call our Mount Shasta friend to tell what happened and ask her to pick us up. That call reached our Mount Shasta friend’s answering machine, which now had an urgent message about our dire/tire situation, and a plea to contact us at Mount Shasta Tire asap.

That’s why, when the tire shop phone rang seconds later, and the tire shop clerk was busy on the other line, our iPhone friend gingerly picked up the the phone, thinking it could be our Mount Shasta friend’s return call.

“Mount Shasta Tire,” our friend said, who then listened intently, nodded, and finally spoke.  “One moment.”

She walked to the garage, opened the door and called out, “Do you guys do lubes and oil changes on Saturdays?”

Cardoza took the call.

Our Mount Shasta friend retrieved her phone messsage, and soon returned the call to report her own bad news: She had no car, because her husband had it.


No problem. We’ll just – uh – call a cab.

In Mount Shasta?


OK, then we’ll rent a car.

In Mount Shasta?


Cardoza to the rescue.

He offered to drive us in his truck to our friend’s Mount Shasta house.

“Oh no, we couldn’t let you do that,” we said as we hurled our food, supplies and luggage into the bed of his truck.

And when he heard that we wouldn’t be going out to dinner, because we were car-less, he offered to drive us to a grocery store.

“Oh, really, that’s too much trouble,” we said as we huddled and scribbled an impromptu dinner menu and grocery list.

He overruled our feeble protests, drove us to the store and double-parked as we three women raced through the store for dinner staples as if we were on one of those game shows where we had 27 seconds to shop for a meal or lose a chance to win $1 million.

We would have won, with time to spare, by the way.

On the drive to our friend’s Mount Shasta house,  we learned more about Cardoza, a business-owner, father and husband who believes in karma and community and lending a hand  (or a ride) when someone  (or three) needs it.

And when Cardoza raved about a really cool new bridge in Mount Shasta near Lake Siskiyou, he said we just had to see it.

“Here, I’ll show you,” he said.

And he did.

Sure enough, there was the bridge. Beautiful.

By the time we’d reached our friend’s house — hours later than scheduled — we’d made a new friend: Randy Cardoza, a Good Samaritan who happens to own a tire store.

When we thanked him, he said it was nothing, but if we couldn’t get a ride the next day, we should call him and he’d drive us to Redding. That’s where we drew the line and said a sincere no thank-you. Really. But we knew that if we’d asked, he’d have hauled us to Redding.

The rest of the weekend did not go as we’d planned, but it was as wonderful as if we’d designed it just like that. We made a dinner of tomato, basil pasta and spinach salad, which we ate inside our friend’s gorgeous log house; more beautiful than most any restaurant. We drank wine, we enjoyed our impromptu dessert made of melted chocolate Ice Cubes poured over vanilla ice cream. We talked until our eyes grew heavy.  We fell to sleep in rooms that treated us to tree-house-like views of fall colors the next morning.

After breakfast one of the husbands — our second hero of the weekend — drove all the way from Redding to retrieve us and return us to our respective homes.

During the drive home, which happened to be shortly before Thanksgiving, we talked all the way from Mount Shasta to Redding, a bit more soberly this time. Over and over we verbally replayed the previous day’s near disaster. We were aware of how much worse things could have turned out.

Eventually, we fell back into less frightening talk, and resumed our normal conversation style,  sometimes even one at a time.

And if our friend’s husband was bothered by all that chatter, he didn’t say. Or maybe he couldn’t get a word in edgewise.

One thing’s for sure. We have no doubt that Randy Cardoza would have found us absolutely captivating.

Independent online journalist Doni Greenberg founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Greenberg was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, CA.

A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Greenberg, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment. Views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of anewscafe.com.

Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded A News Cafe in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain holds a Bachelor's Degree in journalism from CSU, Chico. She's an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She's been featured and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, L.A. Times, Slate. Bloomberg News and on CNN, KQED and KPFA. She lives in Redding, California.

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