The Adventure Continues…
19 to 75 in Less Than a Week
“Life is an amazing adventure; it was never intended to be lived in gray-scale.”
― CK Kochis
My breath hung frozen in the air for a moment before evaporating into the dawn of the day. The words thank you slipped through my lips as I observed the pinkish orange hue above the purplished colored hills in the distance. Variations of yellows blended from the sunrise to the clear blue skies.
It’s 6:43 am on Saturday morning and we are officially on the backside of the coldest week I’ve spent in Texas. It’s 21 degrees outside and 54 inside my home on wheels. The furnace quit working on Monday, one of the coldest days of the week. At first I thought I was out of propane. The stove ignited, so that wasn’t the case. Maybe my tank is too low, I thought. One of the three 20lb propane tanks was empty; I emptied it early at some point last spring. The second tank, the one fueling my home, was low. That I was certain of. The third tank is an old one that’s traveled in the back of my truck for at least two years. It might be at the 1/3 level. Maybe.
With the possibilities of losing power, like the majority of Texas, I thought it best to use the worn out electric space heater and conserve fuel. The roads were slick, and some were closed to traffic. Texans have no need to slap a set of winter tires on their vehicles like us northern folks. With the warm earth below the surface, black ice forms quickly when the temperatures drop down to 7 degrees overnight. They have yet to create a tire that can maintain any kind of –as one of my sons said when he was four or five — “gription” to the road. The snow was packed tight to the road with each set of treads meeting the surface; again, the warm earth beneath warmed the snow and the just-under-freezing temperatures converted snow to ice. It’s wiser to stay home and not get in the way of those who need to traverse from point a to point b.
A week ago today, Wednesday, the weather peaked up the thermometer to begin a short lived thaw. I grabbed the two empty tanks and headed out of the campground. In the nearby city, red and orange plastic bags adorned the gas pump handles at both of the larger gas stations. A line formed long along side a side road in one direction and on the shoulder of the highway in the other direction at a small four-pump station on a hill. Vehicles overflowed the grocery store parking lot with people walking from the neighboring gas station parking lot to join the community within the shrinking aisles of food and supplies. There was nothing I need badly enough to elbow my way to the cashier from the meat counter at the back of the store.
I drove into the parking lot of small propane company a block away from the overcrowded grocery store and gas-less gas station only to find three 8 1/2 x 11 white sheets of paper taped to the outside of the glass door. The top one read, “Masks require to enter”; next one down read, “Closed due to weather”; and the bottom post displayed what I feared, “Out of propane. Sorry.”
“Well, shit,” I said to Willie James sitting in the passenger seat. “Where to now?” I looked up my options and found another facility outside of town, about nine minutes away, and pull into what I considered Cherry Festival traffic. Anyone from northern Michigan knows exactly what I’m referring to. Yeah. It was that congested.
It was easy to find the propane depot. There was a long line of cars, trucks, campers, utility trucks and a red delivery truck all waiting their turn to replenish their supply of fuel. “Oh shit,” I grumbled at Willie James. We spent an hour waiting as the guys hustled with their synchronized routine of hauling, filling, and return tanks to us patrons waiting in line. Inside the office, as I waited for the credit card to process my purchase, the gentleman behind the counter continued his conversation with another man, “Yeah. It’s been like this all day. I’m surprised we haven’t run out, too.” The first thought that formed was, oh f*ck.
With two full tanks, both tethered down in the back of truck, Willie James and I visited one of those dollar stores that pop up in nowhere-ville. I figured we needed a treat to re-adjust the mood. Inside, the shelves of ready-made meals were empty; cans of vegetables and more-healthier food choices remained ready for purchase. Oddly enough, I grabbed a box of ice cream sandwiches and a few other items I didn’t need but sounded good and once again Willie James and I were on our way home.
It didn’t take long to replace the tanks on the camper. Still the furnace would not ignite. I followed the manual instructions and a helpful hint from a neighbor, I continued to “purge” the line of any air by turning on and off the furnace. No aircraft engine roaring from under the sofa after igniton. Only cold air forced through the vents. “Aw, shit,” I exclaimed too many times to count.
Willie James and I stayed warm under blankets. I wore three layers of shirts under a big floppy sweatshirt and baked a lot (if I’m going to freeze, I may as well do it with a pan of homemade brownies). Amazing how much heat the little oven can put out.
I am grateful the broadside of the camper faces south. The Texan sun is hotter than what this Michigander is accustom; it heated the inside of our home during the days it shined.
I am grateful the only water lines that froze were to the kitchen sink. Many of the others here at the rv park fared much worse.
I am grateful I thought to pull the hairdryer out of a storage bin to heat the frozen door handle so I could let Willie James outside to do his morning thing.
I am grateful for the friends and family members who checked in on me to make sure I was okay.
I am grateful for a puppy who love to cuddle under the blankets even when I stick my ice cold feet on his warm back.
I am grateful we had power. It flash off for thirty seconds the first night Texas got walloped with the freezing weather pattern.
I am grateul for my survivor-skills and spirit. A handful of life’s lessons were tested.
It’s Tuesday afternoon. A week later and I am sweating. It’s 75 degrees, sunny with quite a bit of wind today. A honey bee is butzzing outside my window attempting to find a way in (I’m sure he’s hoping I’ll share the honey I purchased from Lelanau County, but he’s wrong). Yesterday it was in the low 70’s and the day before it was in the low 60’s. Crazy how a week can make a difference temperature-wise.
This experience was a great reminder: this too shall pass.
It’s time for Willie James and I to go for our afternoon walk. Until next time, be grateful for what is. Nothing lasts forever.
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