Of Flooding and Exploding Blow Dryers

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We’ve all heard the expression “When it rains, it pours.”  January was a monsoon for me.

It actually started mid-December with the news of my mother-in-law’s stage IV stomach cancer diagnosis.  With a six-month timeline, Elke* has opted to receive hospice care.  All her life she’s dealt with cancer.  It started in her late 20s, returned in her 40s, again in her late 60s, and with this last bit of news, she said she’s done.  Prognosis was not good to begin with, and she just didn’t want to go through the “cure” again.  Her husband, John*, has been displaying signs of dementia/Alzheimer’s Disease.  He had to be reminded who we were, and yet, most cruel, he’s aware of it right now.  They live in Texas, three and a half states over, and timing was not good.  But it had to be done.

The journey back to Texas was odd.  Any road trip I’ve taken before has always been a good thing.  My husband and I made the most of it, since it was three days hard travel.  My sister, who lives in Bakersfield, was gracious enough to let us use her place as flop house.  We literally spent less than 15 minutes talking to her before we headed for bed, and then in the morning, we hugged one and another and moved on, both going and coming back.  The second day out, I wrote some errant thoughts.  Those long drives gives a person way too much time to think.

January 4, 2017, Wednesday

When the sun is rising, the errant contrail casts a shadow on the higher clouds

Driving east along Interstate 10 to Texas

Don’t know how to feel

Sedimentary, layered mountains Las Cruces

Texas landscape out of El Paso flat

Scrub brush

Minimal traffic

Can use cruise control – indefinitely

Occasional butte, rolling hills

Road stretches out in front of you in gentle, undulating waves

Cerulean sky, painted with high altitude stratus clouds

Harmless, no rain

When sun is setting, the color of the western sky shifts from blue to lavender, then gradually to a dusky plum, all but obscuring the horizon, then gradually, deep purple to the black of night.

Headlights

On the third morning of our visit, I was drying my hair, when my blow-dryer of at least 10 years decides to go out with a bang.  Sparks flew and I had to unplug it to stop the sparks from turning into flames.  The acrid smell of burnt electronics filled our hotel room for at least a day.  I felt it was appropriate, somehow, that it should happen at that time; however, I had spent the night before crying, so it was possible I was just upset.  Saying good bye to something else, even something as replaceable as a minor appliance, really set me off.

When driving back, we ran into the storms in Northern California that we’d been monitoring even before we left.  It was an eye-opener to see the areas around Sacramento, flooded by water that had overrun the bank of the Cosumnes River.  Sacramento has the American and the Sacramento Rivers to deal with and the levies around the city are monitored more closely.  What I photographed was the Cosumnes River gone a bit wild, just south of Elk Grove, a suburb of SacTown.  And then from Highway 99 North to I80 East, up around Applegate, the trucks were pulled over because the road over Donner Pass was closed due to snow.

I was so grateful to be home…because our garage was flooding.  We got some more sandbags (don’t ask) and cleaned up what we could.  Thanks goodness the foundation is concrete, and no real damage was done.

On a lesser, but more immediate note, my husband’s car has stopped running.  The money we would have used to fix that was spent visiting his mother.  It sits in the front of the house, ads running on Facebook, Letgo and Craigslist with no results.  I guess no one wants a mechanic’s project at this time.

There is more to the story, but I will leave it.  Sometimes it’s good not to tell so much, and this is one of those instances.

*names changed for privacy

The Five Hour Trip to Nowhere

Sometimes the best laid plans of mice and (wo)men can be detoured; and by detoured, I mean literally.  I was all packed up, ready for a visit to my family down in South Hell Bakersfield; knitting and camera bags were all ready.  I kissed the dogs good-bye, since everyone else had already left for their respective workplaces, and mentally prepared myself for a six hour drive down the valley after leaving the beauty of the mountains.  It was a Thursday morning, and I was actually running on schedule.  For those of you who know me, I’m never on time.  There’s always something else I have to attend to, and there you are – I’m late.  But not today.  The sun was shining, the weather was moderate and it was time to leave.

In the first hour I buzzed down to Sacramento in good form, listening to KKDO 94.7 and thinking of what would most likely be dinner that night.  When the family gets together, my sister likes to cook monstrous Mexican meals with equally

This is way calmer and neater than what I generally observe!

This is way calmer and neater than what I generally observe!

monstrous messes; the kids all run around even while eating, my mother stands in the middle of the hurricane, working that senior card with her hearing aids turned off, my sister yells at everyone to help, get out of the way or clean up, and I just sit like a lump at the dining room table observing everything, somewhat like an ethnographer out in the field.  And that’s generally every night I visit.  I can’t vouch for when I’m gone, but I imagine it’s the same.

While visions of family mayhem dance through my head in rhythm to the music on the radio, I start noticing brake lights coming on.  That’s never good when you’re doing 75 mph on a highway.  I follow suit and slow down, and hope the drivers behind me are paying attention.  I’ve been rear-ended several times, each while I was stopped in traffic.  Don’t want to repeat that.  Good.  Everyone’s paying attention.  The traffic is moving, but at a slower rate, and I notice a traffic marquis all lit up and pretty, telling all of us southbound travelers on Highway 99 must divert to I-5.  Ok.  That will add 30 minutes to my total travel time, but fine.  So I resolve myself to a little delay.  The traffic gradually slows to a crawl, then we’re stop and go.  I know, I know, you’re not supposed to text while driving, but believe me, this isn’t driving.  We’re stopped.  After I check my android to discover that there aren’t any alternate routes out of this snarl, I think, oh, well.  I’ll be an hour late.  sigh 

Two hours later and the traffic looks like this:

We're still trying to connect to I-5.

We’re still trying to connect to I-5.

The traffic jam has been rerouted, very slowly, onto a little back road to go around the incident, but its one lane is not intended for this volume of cars, and we’ve moved a tops of two miles.  I’m also texting my family to let them know what’s going on, when my mom tells me they’re in the middle of a flash flood warning.  Ok.  I think I’ve had enough signs for one day.

I pull off at the first turn out, text my regrets and get back on the road to Highway 99, which takes me all of five minutes.  I head north, back toward home.  I’m tense and just a little upset that after all that time I only got as far as Elk Grove.  It’s 12:10 pm and, according to my past drives, I would have been approaching Fresno, about halfway there.  Instead, I sat idling in the increasingly warm sun, burning up gas.

Feeling a bit blue, I realize that I’ll be driving past one of my favorite craft stores, Jo-Ann’s.  My mood starts to lighten and the trip out here seems not so fruitless.  Yea, yarn!  I get a little groovy to the music and look up ahead to see brake lights coming on…yet again.  I feel the frustration welling up.  I can’t go anywhere – !  I’m stuck!  I’m sure I hit my steering wheel I was so mad, and that brought me back.  I calmed down and after a few minutes, the traffic cleared up.  But it wasn’t to be the last gaggle of the day.  Just as I was approaching Jo-Ann’s, I ran into another

Again...

Again…

glitch that delayed my sojourn yet another few minutes.  At this point I am very glad I live in a small town where the traffic, though insanely crazy for the small population, never gives me more than a few moments wait.

The visit here was like a balm to my frazzled nerves.

The visit here was like a balm to my frazzled nerves.

So I popped into Jo-Ann’s, and by “popped”, I mean lingered for about an hour or so, purchased some yarn that I didn’t need and continued home, but on the back roads.  I was done with the ineffective highways and interstates for the day.  When I pulled into my driveway, it was close to 3:00 pm, the time I was originally expected in Bakersfield.

Have you ever had one of those days?