Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Odyssey

I just wanted to write a quick note to say thanks to everyone who has left a note or sent a supportive email. It is very much appreciated. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, my wife's grandfather passed away. He was the last living grandparent for either of us. He lived a great life and made it all the way to the age of 93. Even more, he remained healthy and sharp for all but about the last 6 months of his life. We should all do so well. While there were some sad moments, the service was very much a celebration of his life and a good time of fellowship with family members that we don't get to see as often as we would like. The trips to and from the Panhandle, however, proved to be rather challenging.

The trip up was to Amarillo was difficult from the get go as it poured on us for about the first 4 hours of our trip. Throw in a handful of accidents on I-35 and it was quite an ordeal. We even ran into some light sleet near Vernon, Texas. A trip that normally takes 8 hours suddenly turned into 10.

My oldest daughter and I had to turn around and return after only two nights. She had tests to prepare for and my basketball team had a game the next night. We left Amarillo about 2:00 in the afternoon on Monday and quickly ran into trouble. The wind was absolutely screaming as a cold front had blown through the Panhandle the night before. All kinds of wind warnings were out and straight-line winds of 60 mph were almost constant. It wasn’t long before the dirt from the bare cotton fields in the area was sucked up and blowing all over. We hit a couple of spots on highway 287 where, just for a few seconds, visibility was absolutely zero due to the dust blowing. It seemed to clear up a bit briefly but things changed just before we arrived in the small town of Memphis. It was at this point that we found ourselves smack in the middle of a full-fledged sand/dust storm. It was like something out of the movies. Very scary. Visibility was so bad I could not see more than 5-10 feet in front of the truck. I wrestled with myself over whether or not I should pull over but decided to keep moving, albeit extremely slowly. The storm seemed to ease a bit as we rolled into Memphis but there waiting for us was a road block. The Texas Department of Transportation had completely shut down highway 287 between Memphis and Childress. The person I spoke to said that visibility was down to 0 and there had already been a multi-car accident just ahead. The delay cost us well over an hour.

Eventually, we did get going although we were forced to take an alternate route. Once I pulled into Wichita Falls I decided to turn south on 281 rather than drive all the way into Fort Worth and running the I-35 gauntlet again. It is a much prettier drive and I figured traffic would be light on a Monday night. I was right about that and we made excellent time until just south of Mineral Wells. It was there that we found ourselves behind what had to be the worst drunk driver I’ve ever seen. This guy was truly a menace and literally all over the road. He weaved from one side of the road to the other. He often crossed all the way across the shoulder to the point that his wheels were off the pavement. He would then over correct and veer all the way off the shoulder on the other side. He was only going about 45 mph but he was so reckless that I was afraid to pass him. It is an absolute miracle that he didn’t cause a head on collision with oncoming traffic. Fortunately, as I mentioned before, traffic was light and only a few cars were met coming northbound. We muddled along for an hour before he finally turned off the highway. Thanks to this idiot we were now about 3 hours behind schedule. Fortunately, there were no more incidents and my daughter and I arrived home safely.

It is funny. I travel to some pretty rugged and isolated areas due to my unusual interests but often the most dangerous parts of these trips are on the road travelling to and from these locations. I guess this trip was no exception.
I’ll be getting back to posting regularly here pretty quick now that things have more or less fallen back into their normal routine. I’ll be checking my game cameras within the week and have another possible project on the horizon. I’ll be filing you all in on the details soon.

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