Thursday, January 29, 2009

Home at Last

Wow!  Winter travel can be interesting indeed.  With our hazard training complete, we were ready to go underground Wednesday.  But Tuesday evening it kept raining.  Raining and 26 degrees.  How does that happen?  Back at the hotel after dinner, the power went out.  No problem.  Cindy and I met in the hallway with the mission of using our underground batteries and lights in our room.  'We're cool', we thought.  Then the power came back on for a while.  The TV announced a "State of Emergency" for Kentucky.  Not cool!
In the night, the power went out for good.  I covered my head and tried to sleep, knowing there would not be staff at the mine to run our section again.  But it was worse.  We learned in the morning that the mine didn't even have power.  Then we saw our truck - encased in a shell of ice 1/2 to an inch thick.  Somehow, Cindy got the passenger door open and started it up.  We let it run hoping it would thaw while we used our cell phones to call co-workers for information and advice.  
It took over an hour of chipping and tugging and pushing on doors - waiting - trying again - to get into our truck.  Our mission was to head north trying to find a hotel with power, listen to radio reports, and decide what was safe to do.  Our boss had located hotels just miles north of us with power.  But as we listened to reports, saw the trees about to topple on lines, and passed traffic signals that were dark, it seemed likely that power outages would continue to occur. Reports said some places could be without power through the weekend.  Meanwhile, the roads were snow covered and plowed.  Traffic was light.  We had 4 wheel drive and moving slow was safe.  
About an hour north we encountered bare tread marks on the road and it got better as we went.  No precipitation.  So we keep going north.  Then headed east at Terre Haute - all the while listening to reports of power outages along our route, monitoring radar on my cell phone, and calling co-workers who were checking for us on line.  Finally, we were on bare roads.  Homeward bound!  All the while, it ate at us that we had not been able to complete our final mission at the Kentucky mine.  Failing a mission, whatever the cause, does not sit well with either Cindy or I.  
We focused on how nice it would be to finally sleep in our own homes and our own beds.  And Cindy was really missing her husband.  I was missing my Molly mutt.  We were happy to sense home was just hours away.  Then as the sun went down, so did our hopes for reaching home.  All along the way, when we hit underpasses, we were encountering black ice.  It was brief and expected so we adjusted.  But, at Akron, black ice was random and anywhere.  Suddenly, we began seeing cars off the road having just wrecked.  We decided to stop for the night.  We were both exhausted and sad.  We agreed to get going again at 7 am.
I wanted to ignore the alarm - just another hour - but...  As the sun came up the roads were better, though still requiring caution.  We began to relax as we came to the PA border.  THEN, just one more rush of Adrenalin when Cindy's husband, Scott, called to say he had just been in an accident on I-80 as he was going to work.  We were less than 30 miles away.  It seemed forever to get to him.  By some miracle, his little car and he had encountered two semi's, he was forced into the deep snow at the side of the road, and he was fine.  A tow truck pulled his car out, and though a bit dented, he was even able to drive it home.   
By the time we all reached Franklin our co-workers said we looked shell shocked.  We showed off the ice crust still on the mirror's and the top of the truck.  Scott showed off the dented little car.  We had plenty of help unloading our stuff.
I guess if there is a moral to this story it is that no mission is more important than life.  I'm imagining Cindy and Scott in their hot tub tonight, happy to be together and safe.  I am sitting here with Molly mutt - happy to be together and safe.  And I am mindful of our friends in Kentucky - hoping they are well, happy, together and safe!  This time, the mission will have to wait.

No comments:

Post a Comment