Sunday, September 25, 2005

Travels with Nicholas Part 8

Date: Wednesday, October 27, 2004 23:40:54 -0700 (PDT)
To: Friends & Family
Subject: Travels with Nicholas - Part 8

I know that by now you realize that I have written my e-mails mostly with a tongue-in-cheek approach. That has been to add a little color to an otherwise unspectacular trip. However there is one rather serious episode of my trip that I would like to share with you.

I pulled into Cody, Wyoming only to find the flashing signs on the outskirts of town informing me that the entrance to Yellowstone Park 50 miles ahead, which was where I planned on going, was closed due to snow. I then decided that I would go to the Little Bighorn Battlefield up in Montana, which meant I had to either leave Cody the way I arrived or head north on an alternate route. I selected the alternate route as I didn't want to cover ground I had already been on. Of course this hasty change in plans meant that I did not study the route on the map very carefully. It was seven o'clock in the evening and I thought I could cover the 80 miles to the Bighorn in short order. Soon after leaving Cody I saw a sign that said "Steep Grades 20 Miles". I think God decided to momentarily take away any little common sense that I might have possessed which would have told me to stop for the evening and proceed in daylight.
I continued on and sure enough, in twenty miles I hit some steep slopes. As a matter of fact, they were steeper than any I have ever seen. Any motorhomer will tell you that a six percent grade is steep, and eight percent very steep, but ten percent is sure to be trouble. My coach groaned up the hill in first gear. Suddenly rain drops started pelting my windshield. Good grief, this is all I needed. In the dark and rain I kept going, sure the top had to be at hand. Then suddenly the rain drops turned into soft splashes of snow hitting my windshield. I knew I was in trouble. Since there were no turnarounds and if I took my foot off of the gas for one second I knew I would lose any forward momentum and engine revolutions, so I kept going, hunched forward with the brim of my ball cap hitting the sun visor and with my butt cheeks clenching the seat in sheer terror. After what seemed like an eternity creeping along at three miles an hour, I finally made it to the top of the mountain. What a relief it was to have gotten to the top of that mountain. I was overwhelmed with happiness. I pulled over into a turnout at the summit and jumped of the motorhome and shouted "I own this mountain" in sheer elation. I was so excited I even took a leak in the fresh snow. I showed that mountain what for.

I got back into my motorhome and started on. In spite of the snow I felt I could slowly get down the other side. I started down, and then up another little rise and then down again, as on a ridge of a hill, when suddenly my jubilation turned to sheer panic when I realized that the road was starting to steeply climb again. Now you have to understand that I was in a snow fog and couldn't see beyond fifty yards, so I had no visual perception of the terrain. What I was also unaware of was that there were two peaks to this mountain, and I had only just reached the peakof Bald mountain, elevaation 10,042 feet, and had yet to scale Hunt mountain with an elevation of 10,162 feet. Now one might think that the difference in elevations of 120 feet is not that much, but to climb it in a vehicle means at the minimum two to three miles by road. Any consternation I had climbing the last peak was magnified ten fold. The snow was coming down much harder and there were no cars but me on the road. I kept talking to Rocket, that's the name of my coach, coaxing him along, assuring him that he could climb this hill. But suddently the inevitable happened, I started losing traction. I inched to the side of the road and ground to a halt. I was in a fix...big time.... and I knew it.

All I knew was that I was on this mountain all alone in a blinding snowstorm on a ten percent grade. I hastily jumped out and started putting anything I had to act as blocks behind the tires. Two hydraulic jacks, a large pipe wrench, a large propane tank fitting that carried with me, and the spare tire out of the trailer. I then placed my safety reflective triangles in the road and two battery operated emergency flashers that my folks had just given me as a gift. I climbed into my darkened motorhome. I dared not turn any lights on so that I could conserve my battery to operate my furnace....and God bless that furnace. It was my salvation. Twice, believing that the motorhome was sliding backwards down the hill, I panicked and jumped out of the motorhome door out into the blinding snow. I had to convince myself that I was suffering from vertigo which was causing weird sensations in my mind, due to a lack of orientation because of the steepness of the slope and the darkness that I had enveloped myself in. I laid down on my couch with my head up towards the driver's seat because of the steepness of the slope. I dozed off and was awakened after about half an hour by wind and sleet hitting the motorhome. I started to become alarmed thinking that possibly I drove into the front of a big storm which was going to snow me in for days or maybe weeks. This was a devastating thought. I started thinking about my heat supply which wouldn't last more than a week, and my food. What was I going to do after my food ran out? The prospect of eating myself to stay alive did not sound too appealing. I won't deny that I was frightened. So frightened that I prayed to God to help me, and put my deceased mothers crucifix neclace on and held on to her hairbrush which helped comfort me. As odd as this might sound, I could actually feel my mothers arms around me in a warm embrace, which allowed me to finally drift off to sleep.

I awoke to the sound of the Angel which God sent down to help me. His wings were making an odd sound. Kind of mechanical it sounded like to me. I peered out and saw this scruffy looking Angel dude. He had a ball cap pulled low over his eyes, and had a beard and wore a coat that seemed two sizes two large. And he was driving a snow plow of all things! Knowing the predicament I was in, and without saying a word he backed his orange snow plow up to the front of my motorhome and hooked up a large tow strap. Then slowly off we went. He pulled me to the top of Hunt mountain which was about a half a mile up. At the top he unhooked me and I jumped out and thanked him profusely. "God bless you I said" as he was walking off. He turned around and winked at me and jumped in his plow and disappeared into the fog. And I was back on the road.


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