Wednesday, September 18, 2013

In Which we Run Away from Flooding and have an Adventure

The singers did make it out of Boulder, by the way. Both of their houses are intact.

We made it out of Longmont. Tour in Nebraska.

More from my journal:

September 15, 2013 1:59 am
Yesterday (my gosh was that just yesterday?) I hadn't slept much. I held Jack upright all night so I could be sure he was breathing, and he was having a rough enough go of it that I worried all night. Plus this sickness that everyone's had finally hit me full force. And I was worried about the whole city flooding and washing away—which is kind of what happened. Actually, the whole county.

So when it was time to get up and go, I had not slept much and I felt like crap. But Tim figured we could probably get to Nebraska, and if we didn't then we'd have no mortgage payment. So, dragging and unhappy, I helped load the van and the kids and we headed out. We forgot TONS of stuff—my whole kitchen kit I had prepared for hotels, Elijah's bottles (which would prove disastrous in the long run), and apparently my brain.

And I was so tired, I knew I couldn't drive. And Tim was so tired he could hardly drive.

But it was a 4 hour 45 minute drive—easy peasy, right?

So we set off at 4:30 pm, planning to be in Gordon, NE, by bedtime.

There was only one road out of Longmont that was intact. So we took Highway 66 out to I-25, and I-25 North toward Loveland. We noticed just in time to hit a turnaround that at Loveland, the traffic was backed up. Highway closed? Yup. Signs warning of that? Nope. We got off at the exit before the closure and took the frontage road until we came to a roadblock. MPs from the National Guard were stopping every car, one at a time, asking where they were going and telling them how to get around the flood. Nice of them, but thank goodness we got in the frontage road line instead of the freeway exit line. We had one car in front of us. The other line was many hours long.

So the nice man told us to head to Wilson Road, take Wilson up to 34, and 34 back to the freeway where we could get back on no problem.

So we headed out the direction he pointed. We don't know Loveland. We hit Lincoln—way out from the freeway—and it didn't look like the road we were on went through, so we turned. And we ran into road after road after road that were flooded over. We just kept following the traffic and eventually found Wilson. It's about 10 miles West of the Freeway. So we took Wilson to 34, followed the traffic there, and found ourselves on the only intact bridge across the Big Thompson River, which was in full flood.

That was an awesome and terrifying sight.

10 Miles back through Loveland and we got to the freeway, and it was closed in both directions, with a line of cars that had been let through from the exit we took but stopped at the next one. Glad we missed that! But the freeway was closed! So Tim headed east, knowing that about 40 miles from the freeway in the other direction was Highway 85. He got us to 85 and we headed north.

Normally, it takes about an hour to get to Cheyenne Wyoming from Longmont, Colorado. Yesterday, it took over 2 hours. Maybe over 3. It was well after dark when we got there, and we had left at 4:30 pm.

Feeling hugely relieved to have escaped the floods, we headed into a misty, abandoned landscape that felt like we had driven out of reality and onto the moors in Wuthering Heights. Misty and rolling and empty except for a farm that would appear out of nowhere suddenly and then disappear into the mist behind us. The mist grew thicker and thicker until it was rolling by the van, and then it was fog. Thick fog. Fog like you couldn't see 20 feet in front of you. Really amazing. It felt like riding through a fantasy novel—so the kids made one up that was quite entertaining.

Then we reached Cheyenne. We were glad to get there, and stopped at an Albertsons to go potty and buy some dinner. The kids were excited to actually touch fog as we walked from the van into the store. Everyone was happy to be free and finally having a grand adventure, away from the weather troubles that had beset us so far and were ravaging our county back home.

And then, just as we walked out of the Albertson's, the storm hit.

This was a STORM. Really, a STORM. Oh my gosh. A STORMSTORMSTORM. Within seconds, the downpour had drenched the parking lot and turned it into a lake. Tim ran and hopped into the van and pulled it up to the curb, and we still all got very wet climbing in. I had been about to take a turn driving, but Tim opted to drive instead.

I am grateful he did.

Cuz I'll be damned if that storm wasn't following us.

For the next hour we drove north in driving, sheeting rain. Huge raindrops pelted the van (and everything else)--more like buckets of water than drops. Freeway was slick. Roads were slick. So much rain the headlights caught the drops and made it hard to see the road through them. But so pitch black dark out there north of Cheyenne that without headlights you couldn't see your hand in front of your face. Except every 35 seconds or so when the place lit up like daylight because of bright, dramatic lightning. Such lightning as I have never before seen ever. Ever. It was amazing. Huge and dramatic and scary and lighting the whole storm around us so I felt like we were driving in an enormous upside down bowl with lightning in it.

Really scary. Then the fury of the storm would pause, like it was catching its breath, and then let loose again.

And then it was gone.

Just like that.

We drove right out of it.

There were a few pockets of rain after that, but nothing so amazing as That Storm.

Just about then, we hit the Nebraska border. It reminded me of a dramatic storm we drove through when I was a kid on vacation with my family--that one stopped right on the Kansas border, like it refused to set foot in Missouri. This one apparently was a Wyoming-only storm.

So, storm-free, we moved on. It was dark and cool and we were heading toward Alliance when we hit fog again. This time it wasn't misty-and-then-foggy. It was like driving into a wall of pea soup fog like you read about in novels. The kind of fog that makes me want to dress in Victorian clothes and walk through just so people wonder if they really saw that mysterious figure disappear into the fog. Now we couldn't see 10 feet ahead, and the headlights made it worse. But still black as pitch outside without them, so on we went.

By the time we reached Alliance, we were out of the fog. Tim had done a residency in Alliance, so he showed us his old haunts there. And then we headed out of town.

And then CARHENGE!

Oh, I was so delighted when we stopped there and looked at all the cars planted in the ground and standing on end and stacked on top of each other. A perfect replica of Stonehenge made with cars. Tim got pictures while we waited in the car because it had closed an hour before. But COOL. So cool.

Another hour of driving brought us to Gordon, NE, and a lovely big hotel room.

And then the fact that I had forgotten the bottles became a disaster. We couldn't get Nathanael or Elijah to go to sleep. Elijah coudln't sleep without his baba. Nathanael couldn't sleep because Elijah was up.
FINALLY we got to fall asleep. At 5:00 am. After that harrowing 8 hour drive (instead of just under 5. Sigh.). After not sleeping the night before and being sick and so so so tired and worried about everything.
Then today we slept until about 2:00 and then had to get up and go to the festival in town here to watch Wonder Voice perform. They were decent, but not stellar. Maybe because they were singing while three of their home cities washed away? Bass wasn't quite right--I'm guessing due to the sound system because the singer is pretty talented usually. Sound guy squashed the heck out of the treble so there wasn't any high end in the girl's voices. But Kate and Shaw are awfully fun to watch on stage, even when their home town is washing away in floods. And Tim's percussion is awesome.

But it was muggy and hot and when our kids tried to play the local kids shut them out and Nathanael got into a shoving match with a boy (oh my gosh you should have seen those little guys run when I yelled to Nathie, “Stop it right now! Don't you know fighting is against the law?!”). These kids up here in rural Nebraska have different expectations of play—lots of taking sides and making teams and nobody can come into my fort—and they wouldn't let our kids in, not onto any of their teams and not to make their own teams. So that made me angry. And Tim took Benji potty and they were gone a long time and that frustrated me. And Tim needed to eat desperately and was shaking and couldn't help make decisions.

Kids were grouchy. Dan and Nathie have had a really hard time. So we stopped at a grocery store and everything cost a fortune but I had to buy food so I did anyway. But it cost $4 a gallon for milk!

EVERYTHING was awfully expensive. So then I didn't buy enough for tomorrow because I forgot it was Sunday and we were going camping...ooops.

Got back to the hotel room and Benji was melting down and dehydrated and the room was hot and we couldn't cool it off and Tim had to go back to some dinner for performers (but he was late and didn't get any but dessert)....

Not fun. At all.

But then we took the kids to the park across the street after dark when it was cool, and they had fun. And we chased a beacon across the sky and found it was a lighthouse at the airport!

I'm so tired.

Also, silly little quotes and pictures of dinner on facebook seem awfully shallow when everyone in my entire county knows someone who is struggling with significant loss and our whole landscape is changing permanently.

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