A Drive in the Country - through a Blizzard
We'd gone up because I got a job offer from a small town newspaper. It actually sounded pretty good. Not the best paid mind you, but congenial with good hours and a chance to sign on to a project of rebuilding a paper that had... perhaps seen better days. New editor, new policy, new attitude.
Well, this actually sounded like the most interesting offer I've had since I got invited to help start a new college in Poland. And I liked the attitude at the place. I check my email and found a reply to an application I'd submitted close to home - with a "yeah, get in line if you want to" kind of attitude that made me really appreciate the offer in the Valley.
I took the family up to see if my wife would like the place. We fell in love with it. It's a river valley on the great north plains. Travelling cross-country you probably wouldn't see it until you were right on top of it. Then you'd see the whole valley laid out below you. In the snow it's just beautiful.
So... during the interview a fellow stuck his head in the office and asked, "Did someone say they were looking for a house?"
House turned out to be a lovely cottage just blocks away, with a fenced yard, garage and basement big enough for a spare bedroom/playroom/martial arts class.
A few blocks in the other direction is a small state university whose director said, "Sure we need adjunct faculty!"
Rents are quite cheap, even by our present university housing standards, and prices for homes are - you wouldn't believe me. But I do know that the editor of the paper found one she liked and cut a check on the spot.
You read me right, she owned the house free and clear from day one.
We started back in kind of a hurry because the forecast said snow. First day we made good time even through a heavy fog. We got as far as Auburn, Nebraska and spent the night.
Next day we took off early, just as the snowflakes were beginning to fall. By 10 am we were in a serious snowstorm. We took it slow, passing lots of cars that had slid off the road into the drifts.
You wouldn't think that an ancient Honda Accord would do so well, but... it has front-wheel drive so the drive wheels are right under the engine.
We made it to Wichita by 4 pm and decided to check into a motel. Alas, there was no room at the inn. We decided to press on.
However, there was evidently a wreck on the Kansas Turnpike ahead of us, so instead we waited in a traffic jam for two-and-a-half hours.
During that time I wondered exactly how long should it take to shove a goddam wreck to one side? I was thinking of going up the line and asking for volunteers. Enough of us could have shoved even a semi off the road.
So after they let us off the turnpike we stopped for dinner. Waiting in line with all the other people who had the same idea, I talked to a fellow who'd just come from Oklahoma. He said that south of Wichita the roads were reasonably clear with patches of snow. So onward we pressed.
The rest of the trip went quicker, though between Braman and Ponca City (where my grandparents lived long ago) we saw one big hummer of a mobile home on its side, still attached to the pickup that was pulling it.
My family it turned out, had been frantic with worry. No need said I. We always travel with blankets, food and water. Plus candles, entrenching tool, winter clothes and boots and anything necessary to spend the night in the car. (One candle will keep the interior of the car at survivable temperature. See http://rantsand.blogspot.com/2006/12/man-and-nature-what-weve-forgotten.html)
So after all this I asked my wife, "You still want to live up here?"
"Sure, what's the problem?"
We like a place with lively weather.
PS We also found out that when you are out of your dialing area, cell phone batteries run down about twice as fast because they are constantly on roaming. You should take this into account as well when travelling in bad weather.
There is such a thing as a hand-cranked cell phone recharger, but they are said to be destructive of batteries.