Departure day was hectic due to the late RV pick-up the evening before. Somewhere, in the dark recesses of consciousness the radio account of the unseasonal, 22-inch snowfall in Buffalo, New York registered, but went unpondered. So much to haul in and stow away, I didn’t even glance at the map until seated in the driver’s seat. By then it was after 5:00 P.M., and I was well on the way towards violating my only fixed rule, to drive 500 miles each day.

 

It was simple arithmetic; Las Vegas, the destination was 2,500 miles from home, allowing me 5 days, plus one grace day to arrive on time for my meeting. Clear skies, a temperature in the balmy 70’s; I am soaring with adrenalin, anxious to make up for lost time. Dear husband A.K.A. DH, was soon napping comfortably in the navigator’s seat. I decided to drive until fatigue overcame.

 

Six hours later the rocky hills of western Pennsylvania were far behind, and soon the cliffs of West Virginia. Now, the flat eastern Ohio plains loomed an endless expanse. Without warning, the temperature plummeted and gales of 50 miles per hour smacked against the sides of the RV. When passing by a tractor-trailer, the only other inhabitants of the road, the force of the wind would hit with such intensity that time hung suspended before control of the vehicle returned.… we momentarily were floating.

Mental fatigue was not the compelling reason to pull over, rather it was the muscle ache in my shoulders from resisting the wind’s invitation to yield, and all the little screaming muscles in my fingers clasped for hours in death-grip on the wheel.

 

It was evident that truck drivers are mandated to prescribed hours of rest along their haul. Most pulled into the rest areas interspersed along the interstate every 40 miles or so. I gratefully spied one such facility, but quickly found all spaces occupied. The thought of continuing was untenable. I took the only alternative, drove through, and parked on the side of the access ramp back onto the highway, exposed to the full brute force of the wind and cold.

 

The outside temperature had fallen to 29 degrees F. a drop of 40+ degrees in a matter of hours, I moved quickly to start the generator that fired the propane heater. We basked in the warmth as hunger mixed with relief.

 

No one mentioned that the microwave run simultaneously with the furnace would trip the circuit breaker. Suddenly, we lost heat, light and electricity. The cold began to penetrate rapidly throughout the interior. A search for the reset button proved futile and by the time we made it into the bed, DH felt colder than any living body I had ever touched; not just his extremities, but also his trunk, which was raked with chill-spasms. Fortunately, we packed a heavy quilt and I wrapped it tightly around him. Still he trembled and shivered, and his core temperature continued to fall. Panic-stricken, I suddenly remembered an account of adventurers stranded in the arctic, stripping bare and huddling together in a sleeping bag….flesh warming flesh.

Thus, we survived the night, and as the morning sun began to warm the interior, he whispered softly in my ear, “At least I would have died with a smile on my face.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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