Sunday, July 6, 2014

Come on Baby, Light my Fire...

Well, our summer plans are not going as expected.  This isn't going to be a very exciting story, and has nothing to do with DIY,  but it's my blog.  Suck it up, buttercup.

My Great Grandma, who lived a long life, passed away peacefully the end of June.  While this post, regrettably, is not about her life, I do feel I owe her homage to start with her story.  She was 102, had been the valedictorian of her class, and I don't think she wore a pair of pants once in her life (of course, because real ladies wear dresses).  She was still quite the thinker to the end and always very polite. I'm glad I was able to visit her this past fall.  She had nine great-great grandchildren, three of them my kids :)

This is were the story takes a turn.  Friday, June 27th, we were heading from New Hampshire to New York for her funeral.  We prefer traveling on rural road through southern Vermont to driving on highways in Massachusetts.   We don't have A/C in our car, so cool shady Vermont is much preferred to hot traffic jams.  Because it still gets quite hot, I've actually learned to keep a cooler with a few bags of ice open in the car to cool off the car a bit.  We keep soda cans in there to pass around the car to cool us off (and sometimes drink).  I'm getting way over detailed here....  back to the point.

We had a car inspection the next Monday, but we still looked over the engine and checked the oil level before we left.  I packed the typical stuff for a weekend trip.  Some of our nicer day clothes, funeral clothes, nap mats, pillows, diaper bag, kindle, laptop, etc.  I actually packed my bin of receipts from 2014 that I had been meaning to sort.  Plus I decided to grab the kids teddy bears, even though none of them requested I packed them. I grabbed a few DVD's for the car, particularly Frozen, which is both a hit with the kids, and would help to keep their mind on ice and not the heat :D

So, we're driving along, the kids are disappointed because the Frozen disk was left at home.  Whateve.  We'll survive with the others. Eve pull stuff out of bag, reads a little, feels a little queezy, and puts her stuff away (thank goodness).  I say no movies for a bit, until I'm sure that Eve's queezness subsides. The boys fall asleep, and I think Eve started nodding off.

Just as we're pulling into the last NH town, Brattleboro, Eve alerts us to her tummy woes.  I sprinted back to her with an empty chip bag we had devoured in no time (don't judge - Late July Dude Ranch... so yummy!) I made it in time, and thankfully the carsickness mess was contained.  Jon had pulled off while I was back there, which landed us in 99 Restaurant.

So, we have some lunch, use the potties and are back on the road.  I actually moved a lot of stuff in the cabin to the back, just in case there's more car sickness.  About 15 minutes out we pass Marlboro, and start heading up hogback mountain, which is known for it's view overlooking 4 states.  At the time though, we had no idea where were yet, because we hadn't gotten to the mountain yet.

Anyway, as we're climbing, Jon says "The transaxle light is on".  I wasn't super alarmed, it's come on before going through Vermont, we've pulled over, let the car rest and the light stayed off for the rest of the trip.  We had our mechanics check it out after, and they hadn't seen anything wrong.  I suggest we pull over.

As we're pulling over though Jon makes me very alarmed, and says, "We're stuck in 1st gear."

And as we hit the shoulder, thick white smoke starts pouring out of our vents.

I yell to the kids to "Get out now!" and I open the door and notice the ground is still moving beneath my bare feet,   I guess Jon hadn't come to a stop yet.  Isaac, our youngest at 3 1/2,  sits behind me and can't undo his buckle by himself, so my first thought is to get him out (um, duh) and I pull on the handle, and it doesn't open.  That fraction of a second induced Mom-panic.  Either because the car is locked, or even just not in park, cause either way it won't let the doors open.  I flip back to my open door and hit unlock at the same time Jon had hit it.  Thank God (no really) our electrical was still working, and the doors unlocked.  That would be the last time I saw the front seat, where I had my purse, sandals, and kindle.  Not that I give it the tiniest thought.  I hadn't even noticed I was barefoot yet. 

At this point, I get Isaac out.  The big kids did as they were told and quickly got out of the car on Jon's side.  They started towards the back to meet up with me.  Jon says at this point he went glanced back up front and saw flames licking out under the hood next to the front window, on the passenger side.  He runs to meet up with us.  I recall seeing two cars stop across the road, people yelling to us (I don't know what?) and a motorcycle behind us stopping.  A small parked motorcycle wouldn't do anything to stop, or even alert traffic to slow down around the bend, so I was really worried about leaving the kids.  However, the women on the motorcycle hopped down and helped take care of our kids, so I ran back to the car.

A man from the other side of the road had ran over to the drivers side of the car and was yelling "I would get this carseats out if I could just figure out how to do it!"  I got to the passenger side sliding door and respond, very uncharacteristically "The seats don't matter, get back!"  I'm a carseat nut, so I'm glad I have one moment to show safety is still my top priority.  But, again in less than a second I thought, I'm standing next to it, I should take the seats out.  Even with shaky hands, my experience uninstalling our Britax seats a million times came in handy, and in less than 2 seconds I had Isaac's seat out.  Have I mentioned, I LOVE the our Britax Boulevards?  I do. I really do.  They're so easy to install, but also easy to uninstall.  As I was getting it out, I'm sure I was taking in a bit of smoke, but I hadn't really noticed much.

I bring it to the back of the car, and that would be the first time I noticed I didn't have shoes on.  My guess is at this point probably 30 seconds has elapsed since I jumped out?  At most a minute.  I get it a distance away, turn around and see Jon carrying Eli's seat.  He saw that I had grabbed Isaac's seat and followed suit.  I took it from him and carried to the other seat, grabbed both and brought them not too much further back and turned around to look at the car. 

This was the point I realized the whole car was going to burn before anything could be done.  I hadn't really had a chance to think about it before then.  Honestly, my normal "directive thoughts" were just random pulses at this point.  Never before has my mind worked like that.  Most of the time was mind was divided between thoughts of... no more like constant feelings of "Got to get back to the kids" and "What if the car explodes?" Any cognitive decisions were few and acted upon quickly whether good or bad.

Anyway, with the realization that it was all going to go, I set down the seats ran back to the car again. Jon had already opened the trunk and together we started pitching EVERYTHING into the ditch.  I stood up, leaned over the backseat and grabbed Eve's bag and a book that was laying on the seat.  I am SO glad Eve had picked up all her toys and put them back in her bag.  I saw her RECARO carseat and knew I didn't have time to pull it out.  I went back to the trunk and started indiscriminately throwing stuff into the ditch as far back as a I could.

I made two errors in thinking.

The first was hard to recall for a few minutes.  The laptop bag was taken out by me.  I recall thinking, "Oh, thank goodness we got this" but lost the thought pretty much instantly and threw it into the ditch just as I did everything else.   I had a nagging feeling I was forgetting something.  This could have been compounded actually, but I'll get back to that.

The second erroneous thought was that I saw the green bin of 'car stuff' in the car when I did my final look over that I got everything.  I didn't throw that in the ditch.   My guess is that I'm so used to knowing that it's not luggage and it typically stays in the whenever we unload the car.  I recall the thought "That stays in the car."  It's crazy how autopilot I was.

I closed the trunk, mostly out of habit, because I can just barely remember it, and that was it.  The last time I touched the car.  I ran back to the seats and brought them to Jon, the kids and the motorcycle couple.  I had a nagging feeling that I needed to move the stuff we saved.  I wanted to go back so bad, but the car was getting worse every minute.  I couldn't remember what it was I wanted to get so bad.

The ditch was kinda odd, that in some places it was quite low, like where our luggage was and in further back there was no ditch and it went straight up the mountain.  At this point, I sat down into the side of the mountain and started to... pout?  It wasn't crying, I didn't have tears, but I was in disbelief.  Some of the cars on the other side that had stopped right across from us moved on (which is a good idea), and Jon had borrowed someone's phone to call 911. 

He was very frustrated with the 911 person.  They wouldn't alert the fire department until they knew exactly where we were, and we had to find a local to tell us that we were just in front of hogshead mountain.  I recall hearing him say "It's the CAR ON FIRE."  He said it took a full minute before they even connected him to the fire department for him to repeat everything again.  Meanwhile, I got a hold of myself and decided to borrow the woman on the motorcycle, Pat's, cellphone to call my Mom.  She didn't pick up, but I wanted to be super clear on the recording, so I said twice that we were all safe before I said it was a fire.  No reason to make my Mom panic.

It was a good van :(

I got off the phone, and we decided to move back again.  This is about the time I realized the purse and kindle were in there.  I asked her to take a picture, which is the one above.  It's one of two pictures we have.  You can see that my open door is still open from when I jumped out. 

So this is the second thing I think was nagging at me.  There's something burning on the ground at the back.  I think it's our garbage bag of pillows.  I can't remember, but my guess is that I didn't want to throw our nice clean pillows in the ditch, and I meant to carry it with me.  They're the only thing that was in the trunk that we found almost no trace of later.  Oh well, I guess.

My Mom called Pat's phone as this picture was being taken, and I talked to my Mom briefly.  The first two tires popped, and I got off the phone to move back again.  A off duty utility worked had gotten out of his car, thrown on his neon vest, and was directing traffic (and us) to move back because of the increasing chance of explosion.  We decided to round the bend completely and have the mountain between us and the car.

All the while, we were keeping our humor.  Once my initial shock wore off, I realized there was nothing we do, so we resorted to jokes like, "at least we don't have to worry about passing inspection".  Eli even got on board and said "Anyone have any marshmallows?" The kids were concerned about our money and our stuff, but I reassured them that we had insurance just for this reason, and explained how insurance works ::sad face::.

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It was a little odd.  People had got out of their cars to film it or take pictures.  There were several cars now much closer to it then us, and now we could see the line of cars past the bend who were frustrated because of the unknown blockage, and getting out to look around the bend.  Frustration and curiosity were sort of replaced by sympathy.  Sort of.  It's odd to see your misery being something of interest.  My sister found the above picture on twitter.  We were probably a bit behind this car on the side.

Anyway, I should move the story along.  The utility worker gave us water, which was great because my throat was burning (smoke inhalation anyone?).  A women in an RV gave a pair of flipflops, which I was so grateful for.  The tires all blew, and that was pretty loud.  When the last tire blew, we were like. "Wait. Five? Oh the spare!"

The town police came, and didn't say much expect that the state police handles all this.  The state police came and talked to us only briefly.  Finally the fire trucks came.  There was an ambulance, I guess, but it never came to us, because they were stuck on the other side of the road.  Nothing crossed for a long time. 

I'll skip the boring part.  We were there over 3 hours.  The fire chief was concerned because of the amount of fuel in the tank.  The bugs bit us. Eli, who WILL NOT pee in the woods, was forced to pee on the side of the road in front of the line of traffic.  He screamed and screamed.  He was  also upset he didn't have hand sanitizer, but a firewomen came through with some, but not early soon enough to spare us some screaming.

Pat and her fellow dude (I'm not even sure they were a couple, but probably were), stayed with us for a long long time, and helped us manage the kids.  Having an interim 'grandma' was wonderful.  The kids could go on talking to her about everything, and she took interest in them, which is an awesome form of entertainment for them.  But eventually, they had to leave because it was getting dark and they, like everyone else on the NH side, was blocked from their destination because of us.

Speaking of that.  We found out later, my uncle, who was heading to the funeral, was in the line of cars, and turned around.  I wish we would have known.

Anyway, after the couple left, the fire winding down.  We were allowed to load our car seats in a police cruiser and warm up in there, away from mosquito's.  He said it's not normally allowed, but since we were two hours from any taxi, they made an exception.  Once the fire was out and clean-up was underway, we asked the firepeople to recover our stuff, particularly the laptop and the bag with teddy bears.  That's when we found out how much of our 'saved stuff' was damaged.

The entire laptop bag had caught fire.  This picture was taken later, but that metal thing poking out of the laptop there is our hard drive :(

The bag with the kids teddy bears had melted on one side, so we had warned them that there could be damage.  Isaac's teddy bear was in the middle, unharmed and dry so I gave it to him right away. Eve's bear was on the melted side and his hat was stuck to the bag, but the body seemed salvageable.  Eli's bear was on top, and had some soot and burn spots, but also seemed reparable.  I was able to show the big kids, who were in and out of tears at the news of damage, the surviving parts of their lovies by holding up the whole bag, and they felt much better.

I snapped a picture about a month later - again to NY, this time a wedding!
So once we had gathered up our stuff, we loaded ourselves into a police car and our singed stuff into a firewomen's truck. We were dropped off at "Dot's Diner", who were more than accommodating for us.  The kids were hungry and full of energy, and they were given toys to play with and food (their meals were on the house).  Then we just waited until my Mom came, which was only a few minutes after we got there.  My step dad was just a few minutes behind her.  We ate our meals and it was time to figure out what to do from there.

If anyone actually made it this far down the post, I'd say I think it's gotten long enough, and it's time for bed... so I guess there will be a part II!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Praise the Lord, you all made it our ok!