by lightning striking darkness
followed by thunder,
Gulf Coast toad shivers
drips falling on the threshold
of an unknown door.
When wild winds blow
and rain falls sideways,
and new directions appear. ~ms
Considering everything that I have been through in the past few months, when I opened the door the other night during a thunderstorm and saw a wet toad sitting on the threshold, trying to avoid the pouring rain—I immediately saw myself in its tired eyes.
My journey from Virginia to Texas began on the morning of March 16. I had never driven such a long distance by myself before, but I thought I could do it—IF I stopped every hour, got out of the car, and walked around for a few minutes. However, there were challenges on the way that I didn’t foresee.
Only 20 minutes after I left home, my windshield got hit hard by a rock that was kicked up by a passing truck. I couldn’t believe it. I wasn’t even out of the state of Virginia, and suddenly there was a annoying ding on the right side of my windshield. I didn’t have time to get this fixed and I didn’t want the crack in the glass to spread any farther, so I simply smashed some gum over the area. Seemed like the thing to do at the time…made me feel better anyway.
With a sticky wad of gum firmly affixed to my windshield, I made it through Virginia and crossed over the state line into North Carolina—my first milestone!
I walked around for a few minutes enjoying the beautiful scenery, before I continued on to South Carolina.
I began to notice, as I drove farther south, that winter was magically morphing into spring right before my eyes. By the time I entered the state of Georgia later in the afternoon, the trees there were already blooming with warm and vibrant spring colors.
The landscaping at the Georgia Welcome Center was soothing, so I wandered around for a little while enjoying the face of spring. In just one day, somehow I had left the cold Virginia wintry weather far behind.
After about 8 hours of driving and numerous breaks, I was too tired to keep going. So I decided to stop and stay the night at the Comfort Suites in Commerce, Georgia (about an hour away from Atlanta). The quality of the hotel was impressive and the price was very reasonable. If anyone is planning to pass through that area, it’s a great place to stay.
The next morning, I awoke to find that life was about to push me in an unexpected direction. The front desk receptionist said the route I had planned to take was no longer viable, because I-10 had been closed between Louisiana and Texas due to bad weather and severe flooding. The possibility of encountering hail and high water along the way was something that I had not taken into consideration.
After looking at a map though, I felt I had found the perfect solution. I could get through Alabama, Mississippi, cross into Texas, and avoid the flooding on I-10 by taking I-20 instead (which would take me a little farther north). I thought it was a great alternate plan. So I got back into my car, and it wasn’t too long before I entered the state of Alabama.
I totally agree with Alabama’s motto “We Dare Defend Our Rights.” That is something we all should be doing!
As I stood there in Alabama, admiring the blue skies, green grass, and flowering trees, the flooding that I had heard about in Louisiana and Texas almost seemed like an impossibility.
I was making great time. Didn’t take me too long before I was crossing into the state of Mississippi. Although the spelling of ‘Mississippi’ gave me problems in elementary school, I love the way all of the S’s curl around on this welcome sign.
As I was passing through Mississippi, the weather started to subtly shift. Random clouds were gathering together in small groups, as if contemplating rain. However, when I crossed into the state of Louisiana, most of the sky was still crystal clear.
The first thing that I noticed about Louisiana was that all of the land was incredibly flat. There was not a hill or valley as far as the eye could see.
I didn’t get that far into Louisiana before the weather dramatically changed. The sky that had been so crystal clear began to fill with thick dark clouds. Thunder rumbled in the distance and occasional flashes of lightning danced on the horizon. Oh no! It was apparent that the sunny, happy ride I had been on was about to take an ominous turn.
I have no photos of the thunderstorms that I went through after that, because I was too busy trying to drive. There were periods when the rain was so intense, I could barely see. In many areas, the road was level with fast-moving water from creeks and rivers that were quickly rising. There was no safe place on the side of the road to pull off and rest, so everyone kept driving in spite of the lack of visibility. Water everywhere! The truck in front of me was only driving about 5 miles per hour and its hazard lights were flashing. Afraid to stop, I did my best to follow those flashing red tail lights that kept appearing and disappearing through the pouring rain. Gripping the steering wheel and shaking with fear, somehow I made it into the next city before the water got too deep on the road.
I parked the car as soon as I could—at a McDonald’s in a town called Monroe, Louisiana. I desperately needed a break! I asked the lady behind the counter if she had seen the fast-moving water rippling over the sides of the road right outside of the city of Monroe. She said (rather nonchalantly), “Oh yeah. That area was closed for a few days because the road was completely flooded. It was just opened again this morning. Where are you from?”
“I came from Virginia and I’m trying to make it to Texas.”
“By yourself?! You’re driving this far by yourself?”
“Oh you poor thing. Have you ever seen high water like this before? Probably not! Here—have a cup of coffee and sit down for a while.”
I certainly appreciated her kindness and understanding. She was absolutely right. I had never actually seen flooding like this before, except on the news. I was definitely scared. My hair must have been standing on end!
I stayed there for a while, until the sky started to brighten up a little. Then I got back in my car, even though I really didn’t want to, and continued on my journey. Originally, I had wanted to keep driving all day until I crossed the border into Texas. But, a few hours later, I decided to stay in Louisiana for the night. I don’t even remember where I was when I decided to stop, I just stopped. Too much stress! Give me a pillow and blanket, and let me go to sleep and escape this frightening flooded reality for a few hours.
So many people around this area lost everything they had. This website shows how a compassionate group called “Samaritan’s Purse” stepped in to help the people in Louisiana and Texas recover from extensive water damage caused by all of the storms. It is very sad that the media and the TV news broadcasts don’t put more focus on wonderful people like this who care and put their helping hands to good use.
The next day when I looked out of the hotel window, I saw that the weather was still quite stormy. Sigh. I had to get where I was going by a specific date though—so I reluctantly got back in my car again, and endured several more thunderstorms in order to make it across the Texas state line.
When I arrived, it was obvious that another storm had recently passed through the Texas Welcome Center parking lot. I decided to put my raincoat on, because the temperature had dropped and random drops of rain were still drizzling out of the sky.
The sign on the door kindly said, “Welcome to Texas.” In spite of everything, I made it! I knew then that I was definitely going to get to my destination on time. However, Mother Nature wasn’t done with me. About 15 minutes after I entered the state of Texas, I was welcomed by the biggest thunderstorm of all—complete with hail and more high water.
I’ve been in Texas now for 3 months and I have been hailed on three more times (in addition to other things—but that’s another story).
Anyway, just wanted you to know, I am still standing (even though this is the first time I have written anything since February). May God continue to bless us all as we travel through this unpredictable adventure called life!