Monday, May 01, 2006

Sunrise is becoming a habit.

In exactly one month from today, the movers will arrive to begin packing boxes and my Houston sojourn will come to an end. Time commitments for these last days are filling quickly. Already it’s become evident that some of the things I had hoped to do before we leave will not happen: roadtrips to Marfa in West Texas (see Sean Wilsey’s Republic of Marfa in The Better of McSweeneys Vol. One) and “one last” trips to Austin, San Antonio and Galveston. So I was very happy to hit I-10 west one last time this weekend, headed west to Laity Lodge outside of Kerrville, in a part of the Texas Hill Country I’d never been to. We were joining ecclesia for a family retreat. Preplanners that we are, we left town at the hour most conducive to prompting the refrain, “Thank God we’ll never have to do this again!”—5 pm on a Friday via a major artery, a portion of which narrowed to two lanes inside the Loop due Houston’s ubiquitous road construction.

Wayne knew an opportunity when he saw one and dove in the back for a nap. When we got beyond the Houston area, which is now approximately halfway to San Antonio, the traffic thinned and I made good time to Seguin, where we exited the interstate. Once I conceded my Ipod to Hayley, her complaints of carsickness evaporated and I was left in peace with my thoughts and the sound of whirring tires. And there it was: the vast, open Texas sky. All mine.

After a quick and unremarkable dinner at the county’s Chili’s, we got back on the road with Wayne at the wheel just as the sun signed off for the evening. Realizing we’d be getting in quite late, I called the cell number of the camp contact to find out where to go on arrival so we wouldn’t have to wake anyone up. I got his mail box and had to leave a message. “OK, I’ll try again later if I don’t hear back from you.” I had neglected to turn in my camp registration forms ahead of time and therefore only knew generally where to go. We drove in the dark to Kerrville where we had been warned to fill up as gas stations, or anything else for that matter, beyond that point would be scarce. I was disappointed that our entry into this part of the Hill Country was in pitch blackness, like the episode of the old Night Gallery show in which the blind woman who bought eye transplants has her bandages removed just as the city experiences a total black out which lasts until sunrise, as do her new eyes.

At the small gas station we stopped at on the outskirts of Kerrville, Wayne overheard some storm talk. Seems that exactly between the forty mile stretch between where we were and where we were headed was a line of severe weather involving tornadoes, 70 mph winds, baseball sized hail, dangerous lightning: the works, Texas style. We stood in the store for another round of updates. Another phone call to the unanswering cell number to ask about the weather on that end. The attendant advised us, before we turned off on to 41, just a few miles ahead, to pull under an overpass and wait it out. Which, with two already freaked out kids, we did. We rode out the storm for a good hour or so, shouting back and forth with a local on the opposite lane of the underpass who had sustained hail damage a few weeks before and wasn’t up for another battering.

Then the rain, cascading down the embankment in scalloped sheets, subsided and we cautiously proceeded. Now watching out for flash flooding and the many deer crossing the road. When we got to the entrance of the ranch, we found a map with directions to our camp and continued up and down the winding, gravel roads, imagining the possible fall off from the shoulder of the road and the panoramas we were missing. Our cell phones no longer had reception. Finally, after midnight, we rolled into Singing Hills to find everything shut up and quiet. We tiptoed around the cabins but found none with our name listed. My bad. Why should we knock on the door of some peacefully slumbering family, possibly waking infants and toddlers, to inquire on our housing and thus potentially wreak havoc on the idyllic days ahead? We put the seats down in the truck, unfurled sleeping bags and waited for the next round of storms to blow over so we could open the breath fogged windows for some cool air. I slept like a princess, the one of pea fame, and woke to my second sunrise in a week. Only to find out later that day that the parking spot we’d squatted on was directly in front of the cabin we would occupy, which had stood empty and waiting for us, all night long.


Deeanne said...

Ah, Allison. What an adventure!! How are you going to manage life away from tornadoes, lightning, hail and hurricanes? I think you should stay.

PHYLOS said...

Belo blog. Fabulous blog! Congratulations!

Karen Miedrich-Luo said...

Ah, Deanne,
I've heard that MO sits on a major fault line. I lived your adventure vicariously as I sat here and read. Now I want to know how Wayne enjoyed the trip.

Kimberly Culbertson said...

Nothing like a late night romp through the Weight Watchers Recipes! I laughed a bit too loud probably since all of the normal people in my home can sleep at this hour.

Kimberly Culbertson said...

Hmm... sorry to have misplaced my comment... but if you missed the last post, definitely click through and enjoy

allison smythe said...

Thanks for the comments. It's nice to know someone is reading this!
And Texas should have had 49 tornadoes by this time of year; we'd had 5 until the past weekend added 6 more. I think the tornadoes have all migrated to MO, so I'm covered.

joeytheo93350625 said...
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