Tag Archives: Weather

D.C. Road Trip – A 70% Chance of Sunshine and a 100% Chance of Hills

24 Jul

In the days leading up to this trip, my wife was obsessed with the weather. She was always looking at the weather app on her iPhone and trying to figure out what climate conditions we were going to face. I reckon this was because it rained a lot when we were in Cancun.

As my wife scanned the weather, she kept saying that it was going to rain. When I asked the percentages, she said that there was a 30% chance. I replied that it meant that there was a 70% chance of sunshine. This became a running joke on the trip, but, honestly, that is the only way I know to look at it. Now, if it had been 70% chance of rain I would have been worried.

I write all of that to write this. My wife decided that the weather was too shaky to make the drive to Virginia Beach. After all, the beach is no fun if it rains. Of course, it had not rained since we left Tennessee, but that did not seem to be the point.

With that decision behind us, we proceeded with the day’s activities. We got our vehicle and took a short drive across the Potomac to Arlington National Cemetery, a place that was high on my list to visit. I had been there many years ago with my parents and remembered how inspirational it was and wanted my family to experience that feeling. I also remembered that the popular points in the cemetery were on hills. I just did not remember how steep those hills were.

After a nice little hike, we found ourselves at the Tomb of the Unknowns, the place that contains the remains of soldiers who died in battle and were never identified. They represent all of those who were lost in a similar way. While the tomb should be the focus, many people go to the site to see the changing of the guard.image-19

The monument is constantly guarded by a lone soldier, and the changing of the guard is a regimented and symbolic ceremony. As we watched the guards go through their routine, I could not get over the precision of their movements. I could also not get over the fact that someone is guarding the tomb at all times and in all kinds of weather. No matter what is going on around them, the guards never break their routine.

That made me wonder what happened on September 11, 2001. Did the guard flinch as a plane streaked toward the Pentagon just over the hill? What did the crowd watching the ceremony do? What was going trough his mind as smoke billowed over the horizon and the rest of the country was in chaos?

After the ceremony, we made our way to the grave of John F. Kennedy, which sits on another hill. This spot is also inspirational to many people, but I must confess that it did not affect me as had the Tomb of the Unknowns. Kennedy’s assassination was tragic and one of the darkest days in our history, but I have never held him in the esteem that others have. People view him as a great president, but I view him as someone who never got the chance to determine where he would rank. Would he have been a great president, or would he have had a bad second term? We will never know. I think people who go to his gravesite mourn what might have been or a lost innocence more than anything.

As we stood at Kennedy’s grave, I looked up the hill at the home of Robert E. Lee.image-22

When Lee chose to fight for the Confederacy during the Civil War, the United States military seized the property due to its commanding position over Washington, D.C. To punish Lee, they buried soldiers around the house, and that is how Arlington National Cemetery began.

Walking through the hills and dells of the cemetery was tiring, but we had one more place to visit before returning to the hotel. Along the way, we drove through historic Alexandria, Virginia and could immediately sense that this was a high rent district. The homes were well-manicured. Shops and restaurants lined the sidewalks. If we were going to eat, then this was a good place to start.

We found a place called Society Fair, and I immediately knew what this place was all about. It is one of those “lunch lady” places where women of leisure eat sandwiches and cake for a couple of hours. Of course, it does not take that long to eat a sandwich and a piece of cake. That means the rest of the time is filled with idle chitchat. The food was fine, but I could feel the testosterone dripping out of my body by the second.

Finally, we got out of there a arrived at Mount Vernon, home of George Washington. This was also a place that I definitely wanted everyone to see. Washington accomplished a lot, but nothing was more important than his management of the colonial army against the British. Walking in his footsteps is a must for anyone visiting the area.image-21

We watched a short film that had a guy from one of my stepdaughter’s vampire shows playing Washington. Then, we walked up the hill to his house. Did I mention that these guys liked living on hills? I guess it was a way to look over their vast holdings.

Anyway, Washington had a beautiful home with the Potomac River flowing behind it.image-20

The docents presented a great history of  Washington’s family and their home. However, I have a complaint about Mount Vernon, Monticello and most other plantain home I have ever seen. They still have a hard time dealing with slavery. Obviously, it is a tough subject, but, in these times, they need to go ahead and talk about the reality of it.


Spring Has Sprung

22 Mar

Birds are chirping. Trees are blooming. Grass is getting greener. The signs of Spring have arrived.

People are coming out of their mental hibernation and becoming comfortable active in the outdoors. People are jogging in shorts and t-shirts. People who do not usually exercise are taking walks. People are examining their yards. People are getting their boats out and preparing them for the water. People are walking their dogs.

I saw a couple of people sitting on a small bridge in our neighborhood. Their dog was in the middle of the street spinning on its butt. It seems that every creature gets happier when Spring arrives. Even the flies are starting to buzz around.

However, all creatures, both two-legged and four-legged, should be cautious. Spring may have officially arrived, but the hand of the dead Winter may emerge from its grave in one last attempt to remain.Grave Hand

Later this week, it is supposed to snow.

A Storm Is Coming

21 Feb

Bad weather is on the way, as a line of thunderstorms is barreling down upon us. That happens during this time of year when winter is giving way to spring. It is unseasonably warm, and that always brings this wrath of nature.Lightning

This afternoon, I walked onto the deck to feel the calm that comes before such things. The trees were rustling. The animals were restless. I think those were frogs that I was hearing. The calm before the storm is a cliché, but it is one that I like. For some reason, I have always liked that time. The feel of the air. The haze in the sky. The realization that something is coming.

Storms have always fascinated me. I am not sure why. Maybe it is the power of nature on display. We humans have learned to control a lot of things, but storms remain beyond our reach. Growing up, there were several occupations that I dreamed about. One of those was being a storm chaser driving a fast car and watching a tornado off in the distance.

Storms are dangerous. They cause a lot of damage, and many people are afraid of them. That causes a conflict for me. I do not want to see people get hurt or property get damages, but I am fascinated by the power that sweeps over us. Thunder. Lightning. Wind. Rain. Something about that calms me.

I was in Atlanta when it was struck by a tornado. It was like being in the midst of the apocalypse. However, I was calm. I made rational decisions. In the end, I along with everyone else got through it. I wrote a post about it and have linked it here.

Hopefully, the storm that hits us tonight will not be as catastrophic as the one that hit Atlanta on that night.

Making Sure It’s Safe to Hit Send

6 Dec

When operating in a social media driven world, there is a dangerous thing called the Send button. It’s dangerous because of its permanence. When the Send button does its job properly, the information it transmits is out there forever. Sure, something can be deleted, but it has been exposed to the world. You might say that the Send button is the modern version of Pandora’s Box.Send

That’s why I am not going to write what is really going through my brain. I may hit the Send button before I realize, and Pandora would be doing her thing. Instead, I am going to play it safe and throw out a few things that are going on.

The weather is a mess. Yesterday, we woke up to 70 degree weather and saw that plummet throughout the day. Last night, it was in the 30s with heavy rain, thunder and lightning. There was a mini crisis at my house when the lights went out before the end of Scandal.

Today, the rain continues, and ice is in the forecast. I don’t think ice is going to make it to my town, but the land to the west will definitely get something. If you ever wondered what Tennessee weather is like, then I have just given you a good description.

This is Friday. Everyone knows that. However, you may not know that a group of us have been meeting every Friday for lunch for the past 20 years. It’s me, my dad, my brother and an assortment of other people. Politicians and other guests show up on occasion. We have a table at Gondola, a local Italian restaurant. If you want to know what’s going on or how to fix the problems of the world, then you need to see the Gondola Mafia. We will make you an offer you can’t refuse.Don Corleone

After lunch, I have a faculty meeting. Those are always entertaining. Despite the best efforts of our dean, they usually devolve into gripe sessions. I don’t know everything that’s on the agenda, but I know someone will find fault with all of it.

The rest of the day will be spent waiting for the ice and setting up for tomorrow’s Open House at Beauty Boutique.Beauty Boutique Logo

My wife is having a celebration at her business. There will be plenty of food along with the usual offerings at the store. Stop by if you are in the area. Eat food and spend a lot of money.

109 in the Shade

29 Jun

The thermometer on my car registered 109 degrees a few minutes ago. As the old folks around here say, it’s hotter than blazes, with blazes being the Bible Belt term for Hell.

It’s hot in the South during this time of year, but this is way out of the norm. Add the fact that it has barely rained in a month, and things are getting a little parched. Local boy, Al Gore, must be jumping for joy. With the mercury hitting 109, I figured it would be a good opportunity to honor that important number. So, here are all things One Zero Nine.

109 – the atomic number for meitnerium. However, I am not scientifically-minded enough to tell you what meitnerium is.

Highway 109 – a state highway that runs from the Tennessee/Kentucky border to my town. Along the way, it passes through such places as Portland and Gallatin. Once, I went on a date with a girl who lived on this road, but she wouldn’t return my calls afterward. I wonder what happened.

109 Department Store – a shopping destination in Japan that was designed to attract 30-something females. Instead, it became a haven for those in the Gyaru subculture. I don’t know what that is, so I Google-imaged it. Looks like girls trying to be living Anime characters.

Starbase 109 – I am not sure how to describe this, so you might want to check it out here.

109th Congress – This bunch, led by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, was known as the “Do Nothing Congress”. Damn, I wish the Washington crowd would start doing nothing again. An inactive politician is a lot better than a proactive one. That way they can’t mess anything up.

109 AD – Kush was under the rule of King Teqerideamani.

109 BC – Spartacus – leader of rebel slaves; inspiration for a Kirk Douglas movie; inspiration for a cool television show with lots of sex and violence – was born.

That’s it. Hopefully, the temperature hasn’t climbed as I have been writing this.

Terror on the Plateau

8 Mar

I recently wrote about my battle with the forces of nature while supporting my favorite basketball team. That event took place in 2008, but another event just as terrifying took place the next season.

In January 2009, I headed out with my friends, Jeff and McDonald, to watch the University of Tennessee play basketball against South Carolina. Being a night game, we got a late start and knew that we would have a late night return. We didn’t realize that we would be lucky to get home at all.

After a victory by the home team, we walked out of the arena and into a night that was damp but not cold, the type of night that we had driven through many times. Jeff, who was driving, hit Interstate 40 while we listened to the post game show on the radio. We were all hungry but decided to drive until the show was over. Having done this many times, all of us knew that this would get us to the Rockwood exit and a Ruby Tuesday’s.

We had a great meal before driving off into the night. As we walked out of the restaurant, it was impossible to ignore the fine mist falling from the sky, and I, without realizing it, made a fateful decision. I told McDonald that I would sacrifice and sit in the cramped backseat.

Traffic was heavy as we drove westward toward home, and the mist continued. It was a tricky drive, but something was happening outside that we didn’t realize. Between Nashville and Knoxville sits a geographic formation called the Cumberland Plateau that is higher in elevation that the two cities on either end of it. The higher we climbed, the colder it was getting. The fine mist was turning to black ice on the road.

The first sign of trouble was a pickup and a trailer that began swerving in front of us. We thought he just didn’t know how to pull a U-Haul and passed him. That’s when Jeff realized that we were on ice, and the vehicle was out of his control. For me, the next few seconds went into a mental slow motion. We were sliding along with other cars, and Jeff was trying to steer toward the guard rail to get us stopped. The mist was coming down, and fog had descended. That’s when the headlights hit something that no one could ever suspect. A wall was sitting across the road. Not a real wall, but an over turned tractor-trailer lying in our path.

Idiotically, I was not wearing a seatbelt and knew that I was in trouble. Without thinking, I laid down in the backseat and closed my eyes. From the back of my mind came the idea that I needed to stay limber. Maybe I heard it while watching a NASCAR race. Whatever the reason, I forced myself to stay loose on impact.

After that, I heard Jeff say, “I believe we’re gonna hit her, boys!” McDonald replied, “No shit!” Then, there was impact, and my head hit the back of the seat. Almost instantaneously, another vehicle, the one pulling the trailer, hit us. We sat stunned until someone from the outside yelled, “I smell gasoline!” The doors would not open, so we crawled out the smashed back window; climbed over the other truck; and, jumped over the guard rail.

I had the foresight to grab my cellphone as we escaped the carnage and called my parents when I knew that we were out of harm’s way. As I told them the story, I could hear crashes in the distance. Before it was over, we were car number one in a forty car pileup.

However, the night was just beginning. Jeff’s face smashed into the steering wheel, and he was losing blood and teeth at an alarming rate. McDonald couldn’t climb over the guard rail because his arm was broken. Luckily, I only had a scratch on my forehead. Immediately, people started scrambling. A woman was trapped in her car and under the truck. The TV announcer for the game was in the wreck as well. Truckers were climbing out of their cabs and trying to help. The air was getting colder by the minute, and the road was getting slicker. Now, we jokingly call it “Terror on the Plateau”, but it wasn’t funny that night.

I got Jeff into the cab of a truck for warmth and called his wife. I also called our friend Larry and asked him to call McDonald’s wife. That’s when I got a call from a friend caught in the traffic. He asked, “Are you caught up in this wreck?” I replied, “We are the wreck.” He sat in one spot until daylight.

After 1 1/2 hours, the ambulances began to show up. They were behind because seven other wrecks happened at the same time, and they couldn’t make it up the incline to us. It was too frozen. We finally got Jeff into an ambulance, and I waited for another one with McDonald. When it arrived, I stormed my way into it because it was the only ride I had into town. McDonald asked the paramedic if his arm was broke. The paramedic answered, “I don’t know, but it’s deformed.” That made us laugh for the first time in a while.

They checked us at the emergency room in Crossville while we waited for Larry, who had decided to head our way, to pick us up. He had a heck of a time too, as the interstate was closed coming from the west as well. When he arrived, I was sitting in a chair. McDonald had his arm in a sling. Jeff was sitting in a wheelchair and looking like Rocky Balboa after his first fight with Apollo Creed.

We were all nervous on the way home but finally made it at 6 in the morning.

After several operations, Jeff is back to normal, except for some false teeth. McDonald’s arm healed but only after he missed a season of senior softball. I was sore for a while but had no injuries. We have been to many basketball and football games since, and the terror of that night is slowly fading away. However, we still talk about that night as we go down the interstate, and I always look at the spot where the truck created a wall across the road. The spot where we lived several hours in our own disaster movie.

On Top of the Tornado

3 Mar

Storms swept across Tennessee today and left some destruction in their wake. Tornado warnings and watches were all over as the map turned green, orange and red. Thankfully, not much happened around my house, but it reminded me of a time that I found myself on top of the tornado. This tornado to be specific:

In 2008, my girlfriend of the time and I traveled to Atlanta for the Southeastern Conference basketball tournament. We hit the afternoon session to see my favorite team, the University of Tennessee, win a close game. As it ended, fans from all of the teams filed out of the Georgia Dome in anticipation of the night session and more excitement to come. However, we had other plans. Dinner reservations at the restaurant on top of our hotel, the kind that slowly turns so patrons can get a panoramic view of the city. After dinner and a few drinks, we would hit the lobby bar before turning in. As we got dressed and prepared for the evening, we could not anticipate what was really going to happen.

As we left the room, she asked if we should take our phones, and I said no because we weren’t even leaving the building. We took the special elevator to the top and exited into a crowded restaurant with people laughing and dishes clanking. With a little time to wait for a table, we found a seat, ordered some drinks and watched the sky light up in the distance. Lightning was everywhere, but it was miles away. At no point did anyone think that it would have an effect on us. Then, it happened. I noticed a strange haze outside and suddenly saw a large piece of something fly by. I immediately grabbed my girlfriend’s arm and said let’s go. Why?

I could only say one word. Tornado.

As we moved it hit the hotel. Diners screamed and began to panic. Chandeliers swayed, hitting the ceiling with each swing. The building was swaying as well. Not a good feeling when you are 73 stories high.

People immediately began running down the stairs thinking that they could beat the fall if the building collapsed. There was no way I was getting trampled in that stampede, so we stayed behind and rode the elevator down with the restaurant staff. By then, the tornado had passed and the electricity had not gone out. It was the slowest elevator ride ever because we really didn’t know if we would make it all the way down. Luckily, we did, and, when the doors opened, we found a lobby turned into a refugee camp. People who had been on the street came straggling in covered with water, dirt, debris and with haggard looks on their faces. It was a disaster movie come to life.

As people continued to pour in, we learned what happened after the tornado hit. It traveled down the street, wreaking havoc along the way, and hit the Georgia Dome where a basketball game was being played. Fans and players scrambled as the roof was ripped apart and pieces fell on top of them. I realized that my dad would have been watching the game and seen the carnage. I didn’t have a phone and was banned from going to the upper floors. Knowing that my parents were home worrying, I could kick myself for leaving my phone behind, but I got lucky again. Sitting on the floor across from me was a man from my hometown. I used his phone to call home, and my parents relayed what they were seeing on television. It was hell outside, and we were lucky to be alive.

After several hours, we were allowed to go to our room and got there at the same time as the people next to us. When they opened the door, they stood with shocked looks on their faces. Like moths to a flame, we followed them in and saw their entire window blown out. We were standing in an open room 40 stories in the air. Lucky once more, our room was untouched.

We left the next day and, for the first time, realized what we had found ourselves in. Debris was piled on all of the streets, and demolition workers had cleared a path on one street to get people to the interstate. It was like driving through an apocalyptic landscape, and we were scared. The shock and adrenaline had worn off, and reality set in. We came close to death and never realized it.

Lucky has been used a lot in this post, but that is an understatement. It’s been four years, and I still don’t have adequate words to describe it.