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.