January 31, 2010

Slip Slidin' Away...

...through Texas. Well, once again, God found a way to make an unbearably dull week some what interesting. He never lets me down, though I'm sure there are quite a number of folks across the country that feel differently about this weeks ice storm. Don't know why I'm so weird, but to me, natural disasters and freak weather have always gotten me excited rather than worried or upset. While everyone else is trying to find a way around it or out of it, I'm ready to rush into the middle of it all!

We loaded up our feather meal in Mount Pleasant, TX on Thursday morning. It was going to be a very long weekend! Four days to cover the miles we can do in just over 24 hours. I was bored just thinking about it.

We new there was a storm brewing. We'd seen the weather reports on TV and online. We always do that this time of year to determine what the best route will be, or at least to know what we're headed into. We debated going 100 miles out of route and taking I-10 instead of I-40, but we figured this storm couldn't throw anything at us that we haven't driven in before. The only hitch might be that these southern drivers weren't as used to it as we were, but we'd just be a little more cautious around them.

So off we roll, cruising north of Dallas well before the evening rush hour. We stopped in Denton to eat brunch at Waffle House. It was drizzling rain, but before we left it turned into a pretty good drencher. Onward we go, through the puddles ambling our way towards Amarillo where we'd pick up the interstate and head west toward California. But a kink got thrown into the plan, a little twist we hadn't counted on, or even considered, though we should have.

Trucks heading south began to show up with ice on their hoods and trailers. Not a good sign, but we'd expected ice. It was in the weather reports. But when we got to Wichita Falls, still in the rain, there were signs posted on the highway informing northbound traffic that I-40 was closed at Amarillo to the New Mexico state line. Hadn't counted on them closing the road. Major oversight on our part.

We were still at least 250 miles from Amarillo, but here's the thing. Remember discussing parking issues a few weeks ago back before Christmas? Well when they shut down a road like that, parking quickly becomes a major ordeal. Its pretty much every man for himself, and it quickly becomes a situation where you have to "invent" parking places, and its really unpleasant! We figured we'd stop while the getting was good, and pulled into a Flying J in Wichita Falls where we had a shower credit and food near by. Within the hour I was sitting listening to sleet pinging off the roof.

Thursday morning we woke up to discover a slightly icy world, but over all not bad. The truck had ice on it, but the bulk of the parking lot was fine. Just a few slippery spots. The interstate was still closed though, so we drove across town to Walmart, did some shopping, and ate lunch at Cracker Barrel. By that time, they had reopened the roads, so we headed north again.

This part of Texas is relatively flat. There are vast open areas, and there are miles of thick brush that looks impenetrable. Just glancing around, it was hard to believe that just north of us was a snowy, icy disaster.

Its mostly crop land here, not so many cows, though I know when we all hear Texas we think giant cattle ranches and Lonesome Dove. Those exist in Texas too, just not so much in this part. Texas may be one of the most diverse states in the country, due in part to its size. It is one of our favorite states, and Malcolm has said on more than one occasion that if he moved he'd like to go to Texas. I'm inclined to agree. It is in my top 5 for places I'd move to. There's just something about it there.

Just a little ways north of Wichita Falls, it became a different world.
The roads didn't look too bad, but if you just turned your attention a few inches past the white line on the shoulder, you knew something went down here the night before...
...and that something was ice! Lots of ice!

Lots and Lots and Lots of ice!

And though the roads didn't look too bad, a number of people had found out earlier that it doesn't take much ice to cause "issues."
I've made the observation a number of times that dangerous things are also beautiful. Wonder why that is? Storms are beautiful, but dangerous. Many predators (leopards, snakes, poisonous frogs) are beautiful, but obviously dangerous. And ice...probably one of the most beautiful acts of nature...and oh so very dangerous. There is also oil here, as there is in much of Texas. Truth be told, I think you'd be surprised how many states have oil. I know I was surprised at how many places we see these wells being pumped. I know we think Texas and Alaska when we hear American oil, but its in a lot of other places. In fact, my original Montana hometown of Baker is an oil town. That's where the town money is, not in the cattle ranches. Oil is everywhere!
Got a little off track there...sorry!
Here's another little point of interest in Texas.
We have made the observation that every town in Texas has a Dairy Queen, some of them two. And when I say every town, I mean every town. We've been through numerous "dead" towns in Texas where all the little shops are closed and things are falling apart, with only one or two little businesses in operation...and one of them is a Dairy Queen. Maybe that's another reason I like Texas so much. They obviously LOVE their ice cream, and since its one of my biggest weaknesses, I fit right in! The Texas Dairy Queens even have a separate website .
OK, away from ice cream and back to just ice. The further north we went, the worse it got, until we hit the snow line, and now we were combating snow on top of ice. Always nice, though it does give you a little more traction, except where its been driven over again and again and compacted into just thick white ice.
Go? Easier said than done in some circumstances!

I love the overpasses in Amarillo! I love that they used cowboy boots (or are they cowgirl boots? maybe?) as the "L's" in the name. Texas has a lot of pride. You see it on every corner, from government buildings to private residences sporting the lone star on their porch. Yards, parks, streets...its everywhere. Texans LOVE Texas.

We pulled into a strip mall parking lot in Amarillo and walked a couple blocks to a Texas Roadhouse. Its one of Malcolm's favorite places and he was craving a steak. Chatted with the waiter there for a bit about the weather as we watched a solid line of trucks creep eastward behind a line of snow plows. I wasn't aware that snow was common down here, at least not enough to warrant having snow plows. But they had enough equipment that it was obvious they do deal with the white stuff some. Waiter boy said they have a few small snows a year, but this was the worst storm they've had in a long long time. Everything had been closed on Thursday, including the Roadhouse, and the roads really weren't much worth anything even after the work they'd been doing on them for the past 24 hours. They even had the road graders working on the ice right along with the snow plows. It was pretty bad.

After dinner we pulled out and headed west cause we didn't feel comfortable parking at the shopping center all night. We hoped to go just west of town and park, but turns out, even though the roads were opened, trucks weren't leaving. So we had to go almost all the way to Santa Rosa, NM before we found a place to park. And even then it was on an off ramp, which was quiet and peaceful, but not always smiled upon by the highway patrol. They didn't bother us though, so we had a nice quiet night without the rumbling of a neighbors truck or refer unit.

Today, Sunday, we're on into California. Crossed the line this morning. I talked to Dad and Mom earlier and even in Chattanooga, they got 4 inches of snow mixed with ice. That's like the storm of the decade for them! Had it been during the week, they'd have canceled school and everything else for days on end. As it was, they did dismiss school early on Friday, so Mom got an almost three day weekend.

I know this storm effected a huge chunk of the country, and a lot of the trouble was ice. I'm have lots of blogging friends that were in this storms path. My sister in Nashville, Small Farm Girl in Kentucky, and several others. How about you, Jim, at A Rancher's View down in Texas? Were you in all this ice and how did your calves come out of it? Just curious, how many of you were effected by it?


BlueRidge Boomer said...

We got 12" up here my part of North Carolina's high country.......Enjoy your blog and beautiful pictures....

Stay safe....LindaMay

Jim Fisher said...

This post made me smile so much. It had some all so true statements. First, “Texans LOVE Texas”: I don’t know why this is maybe the Alamo, but It is something we just do. Second, “Dairy Queens in every town”: that is no exaggeration I seen Texas towns that don’t have a post office that have a Dairy Queen it is hard to believe but true.

The weather down here in my part of Texas has been good no ice and no problems. I know we where lucky and dodged a bullet on this storm. I have heard plenty of reports of how bad this storm was on cattle up north, many that were cut off and unable to be fed, and covered in ice. It has been close to fifteen years since we had to burn brush to heat the cattle from ice storms like this one. I know how blessed we were to skip this one. My thoughts are with those that didn’t have the same fate.
A Rancher's View

small farm girl said...

We didn't get as much snow as they predicted. But the kids are out of school Monday because of the snow. Of couse we always say they will let the kids out for floods,flu, and flurrys. lol.

Be safe out there.


Rambling Girl said...

No snow or ice here in Ga but what an amazing view behind your wheel. I loved all the pictures and even hearing about DQ...we have two in our town and I love them also.

Sharon Tachenko said...

Always an adventure - reading your blog! The visuals through your wonderful pix make it easy to get sucked in and almost live it with you. Of course, actually living it this weekend made it more real, too! The ice appears to be receding from the mountains tonight, but even this morning, it was a shimmering ICY wonderland on all the mountains surrounding Chattanooga. Even last night EPB was still fighting to get the power back up - because they would barely get one tree cleared from wires, until another was falling. One of my FB friends on the Lookout Mtn said it was "snap, crackle, pop" on all sides and continual - It is reported to be a disaster zone on Lookout.

Pretty exciting for us "southerners!"


Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Oh yeh...ice can be very dangerous.

One of my dear friends' husband found out about this while driving north up from Socorro, NM last week.
You can see the terrible damage it caused here:


And his x-rays:


It's an amazing miracle that he came through without more serious injuries after looking at his truck.

You guys stay safe out there.

Oh! And I LOVE texas, too. I was born there, in Corpus Christi. So Texas is in my blood. But I Love New Mexico even more :-)