Whew. I’m bushed.
Mom was working on getting enough paintings for her art show when she got – The Call. Yup, it was her work asking her if she could rush in West Virginia because of all the flooding. She almost said no, but at the last second she decided she needed the money so Dad could get the siding fixed. Personally, I think it’s a waste of money. I never see the siding. And if it doesn’t affect me directly, it’s frivolous.
But I digress.
The town Mom’s working in is the one we saw on the news back in Mouskin. They had a thousand year flood and the news showed some of their houses floating down the river on fire! Mom’s already talked to one of those homeowners. There were some deaths in the community as well. That always makes it harder, because in small communities like this everyone knows everyone. One of the workers helped an applicant who lost her husband, mother and son at the same time. She was remarkedly composed. We think she was in shock.
We were supposed to fly into Charleston, WV, but the booking agency couldn’t find a plane that wasn’t full. (I take that back. For the Mouskin to Dallas flight the agent said, “I’ve got one seat left on this airline. Do you want that?” Mom said no. I don’t even know why the agent offered it to us as it would take less than halfway to where we needed to go. And besides, we’ve all seen Final Destination, right?
So they booked her on a flight to Columbus, Ohio (SOUTHWEST! Mom’s mantra is If Southwest doesn’t go there, neither do I.) We had a nice couple of flights, then after getting in after midnight, stayed at a hotel near the airport. In the morning we drove for three hours to get to Charleston.
Driving in West Virginia is different. On the interstate going south, Mom was doing the speed limit (70) and people kept coming up behind us, so close you could read the paperwork on their dashboards. Then they’d yell for her to get out of the way (I can read lips) and speed past like we were standing still. And when we passed a car which was going less than 70 mph, the cars behind us would speed up and tailgate us until we were out of the way. Some of them turned on their headlights once they were close to us, and honked at us. With a semi on one side and a cliff on the other, Mom just threw up her hands and said, “Where do you want me to go?” She said it reminded her of Houston, except for the scenery.
The next night we stayed at a hotel in Ripley, WV. It was about 40 miles from headquarters, so another fairly long and dangerous drive. She got her equipment and after being sent to the National Guard facility to twiddle our paws, we went to the hotel.
In the morning Mom tried to take a shower. It was cold. She called the front desk and said, “Yeah, I’ve had the water running for quite a while and I’m not getting any hot water.”
The desk clerk said, “What room are you in?”
Mom answered, “145”.
“Oh,” the clerk replied, “You’re a fur piece from the boiler. You have to let the hot water run for a while.”
So we waited for a quarter hour with the allegedly “hot” water running, but in the end Mom took a very quick, very cold shower. I sat on the back of the potty and laughed.
Later that day we drove to yet another motel. Victoria, our British GPS, sent us down the Old Coal Road. (She’s much nicer than the old GPS, Stella. Victoria never says, “Turn right now. Turn RIGHT NOW! You missed it, you moron!”) The Old Coal Road follows a railroad that twisted and swerved through the mountainous coal mines, producers of low-smoke coal. It was built in the 1890s to fuel America’s Industrial Revolution. It’s obvious that this road was built for horse drawn wagons with upper limits of 25 mph.
Every mile or so we saw yellow road signs bearing twitching, black snakes with triangles for heads. Some of them had five or six curlicues. And those snakes did not lie. It took us three hours to drive a 70 mile route. But the scenery was beautiful and thankfully, nobody tailgated us.
When we finally got back on the interstate, we were in an area with very steep hills. Signs along that road had pictures of black trucks barreling down acute angles. Some of those stretches were 8% of grade. It was tough for Mom to keep to the speed limit when going downhill and all she was carrying was our stuff. Imagine a truck full of onions speeding willy-nilly down those hills, brakes blowing smoke and flying off the highway, crashing over a cliff, tons of onions broken and soppy on the ground.
That would be a spill to cry over.
That may be why they also have “Runaway Truck Ramp” signs . (Not, as I originally thought, was a ramp for trucks unhappy at home). As we went by those ramps, I got a look at what would happen to trucks using it. The first one had about 400 yards of road going downward, a 12-foot pile of sand and a cliff after that. The second one went upwards, but it curved sharply around the mountain. I can’t imagine that a speeding, brakeless truck would be able to make that curve without flying off sideways. The third one (yes, it was that steep!) went upwards and had a slight curve. It ended with a tree in the middle of the road. None of those alternatives seem quite adequate.
It’s put me off long-haul trucking for a while.
We checked into our third hotel. Remember, that morning Mom took a cold shower. When we walked into the room, there was a huge pool by the bed. Mom called it a “Jacuzzi”. She filled it with hot water and turned on the bubble machine. I thought she was nuts going into deep, boiling water like that, but she just put her toes against the jets and said, “Ahhhh”.
In the morning we went to work. There are a whole lot of her coworkers there, more than I’ve ever seen in one place. They also have four (count ‘em,four!) SBA folks. Mom knew one person there, Jeri. They worked together in Quincy, Illinois years ago.
So we’re making new friends.