Thursday, August 14, 2008

Oh What A Day!

Do not boast about tomorrow,
for you do not know what a day may bring forth.
Proverbs 27:1

Yesterday when I sat down to share an update about my dear mother's health I mentioned that I was travelling to Eugene, Oregon for a chaplain training meeting. It was simple - drive to Eugene, attend the meeting, come home. I also told you that my camera would be with me and that I had a couple of places to stop on the way home. I had arranged to meet my son at his office for a tour and a chance to meet the folks he works with. I also hoped to stop at a beautiful old garden near his office for a few minutes of quiet enjoyment and photo opportunities. None of that happened!

Shortly after leaving Eugene I noticed that there had recently been a grass fire beside the freeway. Fire crews were still 'mopping up'. I thought it was strange because there was no sign of the cause. While it was a warm sunny day I doubted the weather was the problem. Just a short distance ahead - another brush fire was beside the road. This became a common sight. Not far from there a fire had been extinguished but was still smoldering and causing heavy smoke that slowed traffic to a near stop. This continued frequently as I drove north. What could be happening? Not long afterwards a highway department reader board told us that there were multiple fires along the freeway ahead. Wow, now I really wondered what was happening. Continuing north it wasn't long before we were completely stopped. Not moving at all. A few minutes later a radio announcement told that the freeway was closed ahead due to a large fire that was out of control. We would be routed off at an exit just before the fire, directed through rural countryside and back around to the freeway beyond the problem. Traffic was backed up for miles as we approached a town about half an hour south of my son's office. I called to alert him of my situation. I told him I expected delays and said I would not stop at his office once I got past the problem. One of his last comments was, 'It could be an interesting trip!' True - so true. Little did I know what was ahead. From that point on we sat for long periods of time in one place. Motors off. People out of their vehicles. Talking together. Then we would move just a short ways and it started all over again. Mile after mile. Hour after hour. At some point in time I reached for my camera and began to document what was happening. Most of my pictures were taken from inside the car.

The freeway looked like a parking lot!
We couldn't understand why we were stopped for long periods of time if traffic was being routed off the freeway ahead. Some drivers decided to drive across the grassy median and go back. In an attempt to go around some drivers went back to get on country roads. A GPS system may have helped out. Or a map!

People were friendly and offered any information they had as we sat. . . and sat. . . and sat in one place for long periods of time. Traffic was stopped for miles and miles ahead. . .And many miles behind me. (If you click to enlarge the picture you might be able to see the backup better.)As we slowly made our way north it became obvious that the long delays were caused by fires between us and the detour. Our safety was the reason.Grass, shrubs and trees were involved along the road.Another highway reader board advised that the highway remained closed ahead and that heavy smoke impaired visibility.About four hours after I left Eugene we were directed to form a single line in preparation to exit the freeway. Finally! And then we moved slowly onto the exit ramp and waited to be directed onto the 'old' highway that would take us through a small community and route us back to the freeway beyond the fire. Evening shadows changed the landscape but evidence of the fire and what had burned were all around us. Right beside me, in the shadows, the earth was charred and black. What had been golden late-summer wild grasses was gone. The hillside just beyond was still burning.State Highway Department personnel and law enforcement officials directed traffic as two highways converged. Drivers were patient. We were all in this together!And then we began to move through beautiful rural Oregon. An unplanned, unexpected side trip. Such beauty. I wanted to share it with you but we had to keep moving. I want to take a leisurely drive through the countryside with my sweetheart soon. Back through this area. To share it with him and to capture it in pictures. When there is no traffic!We were free! Moving again. Once we rejoined the freeway it seemed we were going so fast. What we took for granted when we started our journeys now felt like a luxury. A brief rest stop was needed before I arrived home. Before getting back in my car again for the last bit of my journey home I stood and cherished the sights and the smell. A bright moon in the sky. . .And the end of the sunset, reflected on the smokey haze.The smell? Air - fresh air. No smoke.

I arrived home a bit more than seven hours after I left Eugene. What should have taken about two hours had stretched into a long journey. But I was home! Tired. But safe. And grateful!

This morning's news told that the big fire that closed the freeway is still burning but nearing control. The freeway is open but traffic is moving through the area very slowly because of the smoke. Investigation is continuing to determine the cause. The freeway was affected for 50 miles. Through two counties. A semi-truck carrying hay caught fire. Apparently as he drove north burning hay blew off the truck, igniting fires along the way. The driver was not aware the hay was burning. The roadside fires were larger as he continued to drive north. Wind was a factor and, at times, the fire jumped across the freeway. About three miles before the big fire the driver realized his load was on fire. Pictures of the burning hay on the news are unbelievable. The driver pulled over, the truck was consumed by fire. He was safe. So were we. A few hours parked on a major freeway was a small price to pay. No one was injured. No lives were lost. It's uncertain what started the fire on the hay truck. We may never know.

What did I learn through this experience? A lot! Our next chaplain meeting in October will be nearly four hours from home. I plan to take a small overnight bag. Just incase of delay. And over the next few days I plan to pack a 'survival' bag to leave in my car. It will have bottles of water, nonperishable snacks and meal replacement items, a magazine or two, word puzzles and Soduko (for my sweetheart!) and a book. And maps! We may never need to use the things I pack but I would rather be prepared. Just.in.case.

Edited to add news pictures of the hay truck. Courtesy of a KGW news viewer. (You can see the driver leaping from the truck.)

It's very strange. When I looked at these news photos I suddenly could smell the smoke again! Strange how our minds play tricks on us.

11 comments:

  1. What a journey! It is amazing how we are set to travel through our days and lives and never know what twists and turns will come our way. I am very grateful that you and everyone else was safe. Those are some amazing pictures!
    Penny

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  2. Wow---even my son was amazed by the burning hay. Even tho it appears that haze and smoke obscurs our horizon, there always is our Guiding Force leading us.

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  3. You had quite an adventure. I wonder what started the fire on the truck.

    I'm glad to read your mother is improving. I will keep her in my prayers.

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  4. Oh, my! Not a very fun day at all! I bet it sure felt good to finally arrive home. :)

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  5. I'm glad no one was hurt but there's no way I could have made it 4 hours without going to the bathroom! blessings, marlene

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  6. That really was some day, Adrienne. You put your new camera to good use. At least you had it with you for entertainment. Some of these fires going on are really scary.

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  7. OMGoodness, what an experience!
    And your photos are just fabulous. I almost could smell the smoke, too!
    Thank God you and others are safe!
    love, bj

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  8. Wow Adrienne, you had quite an adventure! It is so true that we never know what's ahead. Glad you got home safely.
    Hugs, Rhondi

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  9. Hi, Adrienne, thanks for stopping by! What a crazy story about the ice cream truck. That man must have been a little nuts to do that. What did he think would happen for shooting out tires!?

    Oh how awful about your fires. I can't even imagine. We only see that on TV.

    Rhoda

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  10. What a day you had! Heavens, that must of been something, I had a day like this about 3 yrs. ago, the Tacoma Narrows bridge got shut down because of an accident, we had all three boys and dogs in the van, made for a very interesting 6 hours of waiting...

    Glad you are safe and sound at home again! Makes us really appreciate it when things DO go smoothly huh?
    Thanks for your kind comments on my blog post today.
    XO,
    Donna Lynn

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  11. Oh how aweful! I am glad you were safe, but being trapped on the highway would have been a trial!

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