This happened in 2000 or 2001 in Oregon. I was about 26 and had my children with me, my son being 5 and my daughter being 4. We had moved about 150 miles from the rest of the family. Its close enough to drive over and visit for the weekend and drive back.
The drive goes over the Santiam Pass and parts of it has lots of tight curves. We had a set routine when traveling…. Something that parents of young children figure out….
You know if you dont make restroom stops along certain roads, you will find yourself pulling over to the side and guiding your child to a relatively close but private spot to take care of business.
Along the Santiam there is only one small rest stop called The Maples Rest area, near Gates, Oregon. I’ve driven this section of road ever since getting my license as my grandparents lived on the other side of the mountain pass.
I have always been independent and not afraid to stop and help someone in need, and have grown up hiking, camping, hunting, etc. I say this to explain I was in shape, and basically a tough country girl.
On this particular trip over the pass, it was a late start, after dark probably around 8 or 9pm. I actually liked driving after dark as there is usually less traffic and I love driving. We made our regular stop at The Maples rest stop and there were either 2 or 3 other cars in the parking lot.
Now as a mother of young kids, I am cautious of strangers around my kids.
They knew to not question what i tell them in certain situations and when i would use certain tone of voice. In example in stores like Wal Mart, if I noticed someone paying a little too much attention to them, I would have them come and hold on to the shopping cart.
When I had explained why I wanted them not to question me in the circumstances, they understood and never had a problem immediately putting down a toy and returning to me.
When we pulled into the parking lot, I parked at least 2 spaces away from the nearest car. It was a full sized old van.
There were people sitting in another car a little further away, looking like they were getting things situated in their car. My son was going through an independent streak, and wanted to be a “big boy” and go in the Mens restroom. I said no and explained i couldnt allow it as it was night time and did not feel comfortable letting him go by himself. He wasnt happy about it but complied.
We went in the Women’s restroom and had an uneventful experience. When we exited the restroom however, my adrenaline kicked into overtime… the other car or cars were gone, except the van. It was now turned around and was backed into the space next to my car on the passenger side.
The side the kids used to get in and out of the car. I usually let them get in on their own and buckle themselves in. Upon seeing the now threatening situation, I quietly told them to run to the car and get in and shut the door as soon as i unlocked the doors remotely, using the drivers side back door.
I did not want them taking their normally slow time to tease each other and climbing up into their car seats before shutting and locking their doors.
Not with that van sitting there with that sliding door facing the passenger side of my car. I could not see anyone sitting in the front seats, and there were no other windows in the back.
They immediately complied and I jumped in the driver’s seat and locked the doors the same time the kids shut their door.
Little did I know, my terror was not entirely over. My fear was realized when I backed out and immediately the van started up. I had the kids buckle up while I was driving… something I have never done before (we had one of those “magical” cars that would not start unless they were buckled in) Thankfully they didn’t hesitate.
I didnt even stop at the stop sign at the highway. I could see there were no cars coming. While I did have a cell phone, there was no reception for at least 10 miles. I had a decision to make quickly, do I head west and back towards the nearest towns?
The problem with this area is that the towns turn into ghost towns after dark. I also knew from growing up just a few towns over, this area is covered by 1 sheriff and could be anywhere up to an hour away.
I know this because while house sitting for my parents, there was someone outside the house one night and called 911. It took an hour for him to show up…. he then notified me of his district he had to cover.
He did find footprints in the snow from someone, but evidently I had scared them off when I called 911. So this made up my mind to go against that logic and drive east towards the mountains.
I knew the road as, again, I basically grew up going over it. I turned East and proceeded to speed away.
The van followed pursuit. It chased me for several miles, pushing my speed to levels way over the speed limit, thankful for my knowledge of the road and that I was driving a small car. I knew they would have to take the corners slower than I could.
I lost them after about 5 to 6 miles, but never slowed below the speed limit the remainder of the way home. Thankfully we never saw that van again. I still have nightmares about that night. I always go back over it and think what would I have done had I not taken those precautions.
What would I have done if that sliding back door had opened. What would I have done if someone overpowered one or all of us. That is what still haunts my nightmares.