Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Road Trip, Part 8: Tornadoes and GPS Woes

Having dodged one twister sized bullet, it was time to figure out how to get out of this traffic and on to Atlanta. Traffic was at a stand still on Hwy 78 and our GPS would only reroute us to the same road.

My dad called the family friend we were going to stay with when we got to Atlanta that night to let her know we'd be coming in late. She quickly advised us to find a hotel in Birmingham for the night because there were multiple tornadoes making their way to the ATL. Even if we had missed the tornado in Alabama, had we not been stuck in traffic we would probably have run into a twister on the way to Georgia. I'd never been so grateful for a ingrown nail in all my days.

We pulled into a parking lot where a 18-wheeler was parked. The driver was also on his way to Atlanta. He said there was a back way to get around the traffic but he wasn't sure of the exact route. We called around to find a hotel with power and found a couple available in downtown Birmingham. Just how exactly were we supposed to get downtown without using the highway in a city we'd never been to before? The hotel attendants couldn't give us any directions over the phone so, we were on our own.

NIghtfall quickly came and so did the rain. We decided to follow some cars into a residential area and see if we could get far enough away from the highway to get the GPS to reroute us using the streets only. Dead end after dead end in a pitch-black city was not only frustrating but frightening. Somehow we came to a road with lots of cars being rerouted away from Hwy 78. The detour was treacherous. Maneuvering around fallen trees in the road and downed power lines in the rain was enough to make one weary.

I worried for my dad. He was already under immense stress from his father's passing, now he had to dodge tornadoes? Would this be too much? I looked for signs of breaking in his face but there were none. I saw only intense focus and determination to get us to safety.

After a close call with a hanging power line coming loose directly above our car, we were able to find our way to the hotel. We even made it just before room service closed. My dad had a Reuben and fries with strawberry cheesecake for dessert. I had a Caesar salad, scallops and spinach risotto. I ate most of my dad's cheesecake. It seemed it tasted better than any cheesecake I ever had. In the midst of a week of death and destruction, this sliver of sweetness was much appreciated.

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