Sunday, January 6, 2008
A little storm story
Alright, I give.
I'm throwing in the towel.
The official score:
Mother Nature: too many to count
Kristabel: a big fat zero
It all started innocently enough Friday morning right after the power went out. When Squirrel and I left the house at 7 a.m., we realized there might be some obstacles....tree branches in the road, a few pot holes, maybe a puddle or two. With plenty of caffeine coursing through our veins we headed out full of energy. We had seen the weather forecast and since the storm was supposed to get worse, we had packed our bags and were driving in two separate cars so that we could spend the weekend in town as I had to work Saturday night.
About every 1/8 of a mile or so we were stopped by tree limbs - some of them much larger than we imagined. At first it was fun - jumping out of the car, hauling off a big branch, flexing our muscles that early in the morning. The ranchers are usually the ones doing things like pulling our sorry asses out of ditches and such, so it felt good to be the first ones on the scene - clearing the way for everyone else who had to get on the road that day. It usually takes us 20 minutes to reach the Wildcat from where we live. On Friday it took close to an hour.
Continuing on down the Wildcat there were even bigger and heavier branches to get out of the way. At one point I looked down at myself and realized I was soaking wet and covered in mud. "At least if I'm going to show up for work like this I'll have a good country living story to tell," I thought.
Suddenly Squirrel stopped in front of me. I looked around his truck to see that a huge tree had fallen into the road and was leaning precariously on a power line. I rolled down the window to yell at Squirrel as he surveyed the scene. "Can we drive underneath it?" I innocently asked. He looked at me like I had asked him to vote Republican, and I quickly rolled up the window and turned around.
We headed back up the Wildcat and over Bear River Ridge Rd., thinking that we might be able to get to town by driving over the ridge and into Rio Dell. A few miles in we came upon more trees - big, heavy and lying across the road, and we knew we couldn't make it that way either.
Resolved to wait it out at home until the tree was cleared, we started to drive back down the hill to our schoolhouse. Unfortunately, my body was revolting against the gallon of coffee I had drunk, and I found it necessary to stop at a conveniently located corral to take care of things. Upon returning to the car I let out a groan. My front tire was almost completely flat. Squirrel got out his handy air pump and pumped the tire back up, but we decided to leave it there until later when we were driving back into town.
We spent a lovely couple of hours at home getting caught up on chores...really....we were not eating blueberry bread and pretending it was Saturday night...no we weren't...stop smirking....then got in Squirrel's truck and started back up the hill. I was praying the entire way that the tire had stayed inflated, and that I could drive it right to Fortuna, but when we pulled up, we were out of luck. The tire was completely flat.
Squirrel quickly grabbed everything to change it and started loosening the nuts. He had only been working on it for about five minutes when the wind started blowing so hard I thought that Squirrel, the two cars and I were all going to end up at the bottom of the ravine in a heap. Then it started to rain. Realizing we needed to wait until the storm broke a bit to finish, we ran for Squirrel's truck and sat inside. Every time we felt like there was a little break in the wind and rain we ran out to work more on the tire. Then the wind would start to howl, the sharp hail would pelt us in the face, and we'd have to get back in the truck. It took us two hours and innumerable swear words to get the spare on. At that point all hope of working that day was lost.
Still dodging fallen branches all the way down, I drove as carefully as I could to Fortuna, and I could swear I heard a choir singing as I pulled into Les Schwab. Completely relieved to be somewhere warm and helpful I waited in line not realizing what I looked like. The woman at the counter glanced up at me, and then her eyes widened. "Are you alright?" she mouthed. At that moment it struck me as such a kind thing to ask that I couldn't respond. I just shook my head as she took my keys and pointed me to the free popcorn.
Saturday was uneventful, and I woke up Sunday ready to head back to the valley. I had left Hitchcock, the world's greatest cat, with plenty of food and water, but he's old and needy and really likes it when we're around to build him a fire. Plus when we've left him for too long, and he gets mad about it, he pees on our bed. So it was important to get home to him.
I checked the weather reports. No storm advisories. No flood watches. Nothing about snow. The temperature was pretty warm. I thought it was a great time to head for home. Squirrel had gone over to his mom's earlier in the day, and we were going to meet back at the house. I was looking forward to a quiet evening with him and my newly brewed batch of Meyer Limoncello.
Most of the drive was fine with just a light drizzle falling. I was lost in my thoughts of the toasted corn chowder I was going to make that night when I noticed that the rain looked more like slush. As I turned onto Upper Bear River Road, there was a little bit of snow sticking to the sides.
Just then the sky burst open and huge amounts of snowflakes started falling so thick I could barely see. I drove a little bit further and realized there was a lot of snow on the road and that I'd never make it home in my two-wheel drive. At the first clearing, I turned around to go back to town. I had almost made it to the Wildcat when through the snow I saw a large blue truck coming my way - PG & E. I hesitated. Should I back up? Was there room for both of us? Would he back up? I saw that he was easing his truck to the side of the road so that we could get by each other, so I did too.
And that's where I stayed.
I was in a bank of snow that had accumulated on the side, and there was no way I could get traction. I tried to reverse it, but that didn't work either. I sat in complete disbelief of my own stupidity and tried to stop myself from banging my head on the steering wheel. Then I got out and tried to wave down the PG & E truck.
"Hey...you! Hey! I'm stuck! Stop driving you jackass! This is your fault! Heeeeey!"
He kept on driving.
Fortunately, just as I was deciding which of my poor friends or family had four-wheel drive and would have to come get me, the PG & E driver came back. He had tried to drive down into the valley but had thought better of it and had turned around. He sweetly tried to push my car out, but it was no use, so I grabbed my bags, and he drove me back to Ferndale. On the way he told me all about what it was like to be a PG & E guy in storms and how his usual shifts were 36 hours straight and how he was on his way to San Rafael. I smiled at him and told him how much we all appreciate them through gritted teeth that were keeping my mouth from yelling, "36 hour shift! My god! Can you even see straight? Please don't kill me."
Back in town I called Clyde's Towing. "Nope, sorry. We don't have four-wheel-drive tow trucks. There's a guy in McKinleyville that does, but he's really expensive. Your best bet is just to wait until it's melted."
Wait until it's melted. Argh.
So here I sit. Car-less and limoncello-less, with a cat who's probably peeing on my bed as I write this. Waiting until it's melted.
I'm done. Beat down and worn out, and I admit my defeat. All those "Don't Mess with Mother Nature" warnings were right.
Will somebody please pour me a drink?