Frozen Not "Hot" Atlanta!

Frozen Not "Hot" Atlanta!

Frozen Not "Hot" Atlanta! by Claire Wilson of The Mary Ellen Vanaken Team of Keller Williams Realty. 

Frozen Not "Hot" Atlanta! Yes, that is what we are experiencing here in Atlanta and the surrounding areas. Yesterday started like most days in the wintry South - cold and dry. But then it hit. Oh man did it hit!

I am real estate assistant to The Mary Ellen Vanaken Team of Keller Williams Realty and YES I was one of those crazy Southerners who got stuck in what some are calling "Ice Jam of 2014!"  I live in the Cumming, Georgia area and started my day by taking my 87 year old father to an eye appointment in Kennesaw, Georgia. The drive is approximately 40 miles and takes a little over an hour with mild traffic. The drive to Kennesaw was fine at 11am.  As we reached our destination at noon, the blizzard came down like a kid dumping a bucket of wet sand on the sidewalk. Do I turn around as my husband strongly suggested or do I get my dad to his appointment?  Dad is scheduled to have cataract surgery in a few weeks so I really didn't want to postpone any of his appointments. We quickly finish the exam, tell the nurse we don't have time to watch a video and get back into our car which is now covered in snow. Ice is beginning to form on everything. Really? We were only in the doctors office twenty minutes.

The "adventure" begins with maneuvering the car down a short drive to the main road. The stunning vehicle I am driving is a 15 year old Oldsmobile once owned by my father, who does not drive anymore. Note, I mention we were coming from the eye doctor.

I quickly sense either the brakes are frozen or my tires were not gripping road as we pulled out of parking lot. Not good. My mind is racing. No way can I park and walk somewhere. My dad could never make it.  I choose to ventured on.

Dad lives in Alpharetta at a wonderful retirement community. I know if I can get him there he'll be safe. My mind begins to race. I tell myself "He'll be safe with his own things, with the resident staff and its close to a fire station. I've just have to get him there." Prayers begin. But, Dad, in his helpful way, wants to point out places he's been over the years. "Oh look that's where we took our old dog when he died. Oh there's my old liquor store. I don't remember that building be there." At this point I tell dad I love him but he's got to stop talking as I am stressed to the max. Road are closing, cars are sliding, and traffic is at a standstill. "No! I have an 87 year old man in this car who doesn't walk well, has a heart condition, and needs cataract surgery." I continue to tell myself I can do this. I can get him home. I venture on. Slowly!

I take all the back roads. Clark Howard says the highways are jammed. I glide through Highway 41, into Marietta and onto the I-120 loop. Down the hills I go and gently make a turn to travel the road pass the Chattahoochee River in Roswell. Feeling my brain is freezing over with common sense at this point we make it through Roswell. Up and over Holcomb bridge to Highway 400. Dad's place is just one more one exit. I am super woman, I can do this! Finally I make it up the road to dads retirement community. I am feeling accomplished and relieved that I got dad home safe and sound in one peace. The second step of getting me home shouldn't be bad right? Wrong

It's amazing how with only going a few feet, a block, or to the next light makes you think you can still make it home in the crazy weather of ice. You convince yourself there is no need to hunker down in one of the dozen hotels you pass on the way home. I can do this. I can get home. I am super woman. Well not really. Lots of out load prayers begin as the daylight begins to fade...."god please get me to at least a gas station that has gas, get me around the corner, get me up over that hill, please don't let me get hurt - my dad and family need me." It's just madness. At this point I think my brain cells are totally frozen. It's the only excuse I have for such foolishness.

Gas gage begins to go below a quarter of a tank and my cell phone is dying (no charger in car). Finally, thank the lord and all his angels, I make it to a gas station. I have to use my car key to chop through the ice that has frozen the gas tank door on my car. I fill up the tank and run inside the stations store to look for a phone chargers. There it is right inside the door waiting just for me. Thank you prayers go up again. I buy the cell phone charger from the nice man at the station who has no idea the conditions of the hills surrounding his station but wishes me luck. "Ugh, should I stay here and wait it out," I begin to wonder. No I get back in the car. And no, I didn't buy food nor socks I could have used. See I was not prepared for the ice and snow that day. I was wearing the cutest darn ballet flats with NO socks. Yes, I am a Southerner.

I venture on. Made it down a slippery hill and feeling quite proud of myself. And then, there it was. Another multi car back up. Just one more hill would get me to higher and flat ground and just six miles from home. I've already made it through 36 miles of bumper to bumper traffic. I can do this! But then the cars in front of me begin to slide back down the hill and people begin to abandon their cars left and right. Fine! I am done. I slowly turn the car around praying again it doesn't go into a ditch or get stuck sideways. But I make it. Back up that hill I had just maneuvered down. Yay! I am going to do this. I'm picturing the Marriott Courtyard I passed two miles back and how I'm going to get a king size bed to myself and how I will eat all the snacks out of the vending machine. One more hill. Slowly, slowly I crawl up it. "Wait what are you doing mister, don't pass the car that's trying to come down the hill" I say out loud.  I put pressure on the brakes. Not a good idea! Then more on the gas. Worse idea! And then it happens. Tires spin. I am stuck in the middle of a hill. Fear takes over. Am I going to slide down hill into a ditch, hit a car, hit one of the people that's walking the streets, will the car flip? Help!

What happens in the next thirty minutes was like a story out of the movies or what I envisioned was going to be a bad news story the next day.  Cars continued to come down and up the hill. More cars sliding off to the right and left. People yelling at each other for their bad driving skills. Really? Do you not see the sheet of ice covering the roads? No one has the skills to do this without all wheel drive, chains on tires, or sand on the road. Strange men try to help by putting dirt under my tires for traction. It doesn't work. I slowly try to back up and over curb to just abandon car. Doesn't work either. I break down and call 911. But, like the radio stations report, the police will only come to you if someone is hurt.

Then it happens. A guardian angel appears. Someone really was listing to my prayers. A large man tells me he and his friends are going to pull my car around and than I've got to go back down the hill. "No I don't want to go back down the hill, I want to go to that hotel I passed and eat vending food snacks." He says there is no other way. I have to do this so he can pull the others out of this mess. His big arm sticks itself in my window, turns the steering wheel towards him and the other men begin to push the car. It was like "Toads Wild Ride" as I slid back down the hill I had just so proudly maneuvered an hour ago.

At that point I gave up. It was time to hang up the keys and call it a day. Fearing I may have to walk in my ballet flats back up that hill to the gas station was not making me feel so good. But, I slowly pull into an apartment complex and into a parking spot by the sales office. Phew! Made it! Now what?

I call my husband for the millionth time. Poor man has been listing to my ranting off and on all night. He hatches the only plan we have left.  He's going to walk the six miles from our home to me and then we will have to walk six miles back. It's now dark and everything is frozen over. Thank goodness I just got a full tank of gas and bought that phone charger.  "Honey bring my boots, socks, long coat and scarf."  Remember I'm in ballet flats!

As I wait for my husband to rescue me, I spend the time talking to friends on the phone who offer encouragement and prayers. Then I start posting on Facebook my frustration and fears. Got to love Facebook because that is how I got rescued. A friend saw my post that my husband was going to walk 6 miles to me. She looked up from her computer and read my post to her husband. He said that was nuts and jumped in his suburban. He was going to also rescue me. Along the way he picked up my husband and they began their super hero adventure of rescue together.

As I wait and am conversing with others on Facebook a women knocks on my window. She too had parked her car in the same apartment parking lot and was stranded. I offered her my warm car and said she could be a part of the rescue that was coming. She lives only 2 miles away. Quickly I found out she was an attorney and had just finished a day in court. Tired and frozen she too was at a breaking point.

The men arrived. My sweet husband was in the warmest clothes he could find. A confederate gray wool coat that comes down to just above his ankles and has a short shoulder cape with red lining on the underside. I swear he looked like a confederate officer's ghost. No, he did not inherit this from an civil war ancestor. It was his part of his high school military uniform from the late 70's. "Wow, honey I'm impressed it still fits."

The friends suburban has all wheel drive and drove up and down the icy hills with not one incident. As we passed cars littering the sides of the road I just couldn't believe he was getting through on these icy roads. We dropped off my new attorney friend. As she gets out of the car she passes us her business card and makes us an offer of free legal help if we ever need it. Bonus!

We wind our way through the last streets to home, passing police, abandon cars, wreckers and blocked roads. Never have I ever been so glad to walk through the front door of my home. Ten and a half hours later the frozen adventure of 2014 ended with a big bottle of wine and warmed up plate of southern Bar B Que. As I crawled into my warm bed I prayed one last prayer for all who were still out in this weather.

It was a terrible adventure but it remined me what I love about the South. First, events like this don't normally happen here like they do to our friends and family up North. I have a new sense of sympathy for my northern friends and family.  Second, it is in situations like this that good old "Southern Hospitality" reveals itself. People offering to push your car out of a ditch, offering their home, handing out hot chocolate to those waiting for a ride, calling to offer support and prayer is what I love about the South. Strangers become instant friends and friends become family. 

Yes, the North might be better prepared for winter storms, but I love the South and the Southern Hospitality of strangers. There is no place like Frozen Not "Hot" Atlanta!

Frozen Not "Hot" Atlanta!

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