I didn’t sleep well last night. My husband didn’t come to bed until nearly three a.m. and then the puppy was fitful, so my five hours of sleep that I did get was not uninterrupted. The shower was restorative, and I felt pretty good when I picked up the rental car. It was a beautiful sunny day in southwestern Ohio, until I arrived just north of Cincinnati, and the heavens open, pouring down buckets of rain. Since I’d missed breakfast and I couldn’t see ten feet in front of me on the highway, I decided this would be a good time to exit and see if I could find some quick breakfast.
By the time I had Egg McMuffin and coffee in hand, the skies had cleared and I was on my way again. But they didn’t stay clear for long. All the way down I-75, intermittent thunderstorms rocked our world. Most of the time they were over in a few minutes, and I quickly developed a routine: increase the wipers, turn on the flashers, slow down and turn off the radio. All at the same time. (Headlights were already on.) But when I got caught in Williamsburg, Kentucky– near the Tennessee line– it was bad enough that I again left the highway– as did many other drivers. The water on the streets of Williamsburg was ten inches deep and rushing. But after about ten minutes, it too eased off.
And so it continued throughout the drive. As it happened I was in the midst of this while on the Knoxville interchange of I-640 and I-40, which is something of a corkscrew arrangement. My knuckles were something beyond white. You can’t stop, but going forward doesn’t seem too smart either. I saw numerous cars pulled way off on the side of the road and seemingly disabled– perhaps they’d been waterlogged? Can that happen to a car?
By the time I got to Knoxville– some 300 miles past breakfast, I was pretty hungry. There wasn’t much choice, and I stopped at Wendy’s on Strawberry Plain. The storm had abated while I walked inside, but when I got inside, water on the floor was an inch deep. The whole scene in the kitchen was so haphazard and disorganized, I decided to give it a pass. By the time I reached Newport, Tennessee (another hour down the road through downpour after downpour) I was shaking from a combination of low blood sugar and adrenalin.
I had a sit down lunch in a pleasant restaurant with cloth napkins, and thought grimly about the rest of the highway ahead of me, I-40 through the Smoky Mountains to Asheville. For my friends in Montana, let me describe it this way: 90 miles of Homestake Pass. But narrower. High and winding and very narrow going with giant tractor trailers rumbling along beside you– supposedly confined to the right lane for most of the run, but I wouldn’t bet money on that one. I couldn’t imagine what it was going to be like to try to deal with that road in zero visibility.
I paid the bill, took and iced tea to go, took a deep breath went out to the car and promptly stepped in a spit-out wad of foul-smelling chewing gum. With a few choice expletives for the child that let it drop out of his or her mouth, I scraped it off the shoe. Over the mountains the clouds looked ominous, but overhead, for the time being the sky was blue.
In the canyon that the interstate cuts through the Smoky Mountains, the effect of the clouds was dramatic. I wanted to stop and get a picture, but the sky directly above me was still blue and I didn’t want to push my luck by stopping, so I pressed on. Once in a while a few drops fell. Two enormous banks of thunderheads flanked the highway, one on each side. It would look like we were going to drive into the area under the clouds, but then the road would turn and the blue sky stayed right above me. All the way through to Asheville, it was a brilliant blue ribbon above our heads. At times I could see heavy rain falling in the near distance, but it never extended over the highway.
Was this divine intervention for safe passage? Was it just a whim of the fates, or a phenomenon known to meteorologists about rain and I-40 from Newport to Asheville? Whichever it was, I don’t care, I’m just grateful to have arrived safe and sound. Exhausted, and grateful.
Target number 55. Steps today. 1682. (I’m at my mother’s for a few days, so my routine is going to be totally upended again for a while.) Breakfast: egg mcmuffin and coffee. Lunch: green salad and chicken quesadilla, unsweetened iced tea. Dinner: 8 nacho chips, two tablespoons guacamole, two tablespoons pico de gallo, three fish tacos with grilled tilapia.