I am about halfway home, but this section of the highway seems to go on and on. You know what I mean; it's the point in the trip when it feels like the next town you're headed for picks itself up and moves further on down the road. Yes, I have already been driving for 6 hours and the whole trip would take over 13 hours but this was the last time. In fact, the trailer was only half-full; over the last year I had moved all but a few items to "My Retreat" as I refereed to my new home.
I am over fifty but in good shape.
Six months after my wife of 28 years died, I started planning this move. I have worked the last two summers building my home, which is just over the Colorado border in northern New Mexico. It took me three months just to locate the property. It's 300 acres adjacent to a national forest and consists of an L-shaped box canyon with about 150 acres in the bottom.
Before building my house, I bought a used D8 dozer and cut a road down into the canyon. Later I used the Cat to increase the size of the pond at one end of the canyon and to push sand and gravel down onto the top of my house from the canyon rim. Even if I use the Cat to clear my driveway out to the county road, which is a gravel road, it is another mile to the nearest neighbor's driveway. The county road is only cleared after everything else in the area has been cleared. In fact, during Christmas break last year I missed a week of school because I was caught in a snowstorm and couldn't get out.
The house itself is in the corner of the "L" and faces the southeast and only has one wall of the house exposed to the weather. Except for the garage area, a glassed-in porch runs the length of the house. The house consists of three bedrooms with a large great-room, good size study, and large kitchen. Heat is supplied by a wood-burning stove on the porch, which is ducted into the rest of the house. It took me a while to figure out the right amount of wood needed to heat the house. In fact, it is very easy to over heat the house and cooling it down then becomes a problem.
The rest of the house runs on electricity. I installed a rather large wind turbine to supply the electricity I need. The turbine cost me as much as the house but I have no worries about power outages. I placed the turbine and tower on the ridge about 200 yards from the house above the canyon and the power cable is buried. The way the valley and the box canyon is situated; the hills naturally funnel the wind up or down the valley and over the ridge on the north end of my property. I have had only one day I know of when it did not produce enough electricity to supply all my needs.
I was going to make this move in the spring after school let out for the year, but halfway through the fall semester I decided that my heart was not really in teaching and I needed to move on. I turned in my resignation and now on the 22nd of December I was making the final trip. I started to see snow flurries about five hours into the trip and it started sticking pretty well right away. When I was three hours from home, there was already two inches on the ground and it was snowing harder. The only good thing was that there was only a small breeze so visibility, although restricted, was not impossible. I still had to slow down to about 45 MPH, which was going to add an hour to the trip.
As I drove through the last town nearest "My Retreat" I stopped for coffee and fuel. I talked to Dale, the owner of the service station, and he said, "It has been snowing since mid morning and they had just post a winter travel advisory for southern Colorado and northern New Mexico." He added, "I am going to close down early tonight."
I told him that as soon as I finished the next 20 miles I was going to hibernate until the roads were cleared. He laughed and said that was a very good idea and not to push it. He had already been out twice this evening to pull people out of the ditch. I filled my coffee mug and paid for the gas and coffee.
I went out and started the truck. As I pulled onto the state road, I noticed the trailer slid to the side so I kept my speed down. This stretch of the road is definitely not straight and I did not want to be pulled off the road backward by the trailer. About three-quarters of an hour later I was about two-mile from the turn off to the county road that led past my property when I saw a small car stopped halfway on the shoulder with its hazard lights blinking.
I pulled to about 50 feet behind the car then turned on the headache rack lights bathing the car in bright light. As I climbed down I pulled on my parka and slipping my pistol into the right hand coat pocket. In this weather, a person just might be desperate enough to try something stupid and I wanted to be prepared.
I approached the car slowly. No one was opening the door or windows. I thought that maybe the car had been abandoned when I noticed a head leaning back against the seat. I thumped the rear of the car hard and the head jerked around. I could tell then, that it was female and I felt a little more at ease but still approached the car by moving up the side taking quick glances around and into the car.
Once I reached the door I had to pull it open the woman was sitting curled up holding her knees. She had on a medium weight jacket and jeans, no hat or gloves. I asked her why she was sitting there and she said that she had been here for couple of hours. She was lost and had run out of gas or at least the car would not start. Did I have any?
I told her the truck was diesel and that while I had some at the house once I got to it I doubted that I would be able to get out again in this weather. She then wanted to know about a phone. I explained I had one but it was in need of a charge. Then I mentioned the nearest gas station had already closed for the night, beside which even if we got gas for her car I doubted that she would be able get too far in this snowstorm. With this news, she started to cry.
It took me a couple minutes to get her calmed down and she agreed to allow me to push her car the rest of the way off the road. I went and climbed into the truck and set it in four-wheel drive for the first time that day. Four-wheel drive does not help with stopping but I wanted the extra traction in pushing her off on to the shoulder of the road and pulling the trailer back onto the road when I was done.
I had to get out and remind her to pull at least two feet off the road so that she wouldn't be hit by the snowplow when it came through. She said that she was worried about getting out again. I told her I could pull her out but if the plow didn't see her not only would she end up in the ditch but her car would also most likely be quite banged up. This convinced her, and I pushed her over and within a couple minutes the front door of the cab was even with her door.
She opened the door and asked if she could bring a couple items with her and I said that would be fine; did she need help? She said "no." then handed me a fairly heavy brief case followed by a knapsack, which felt extremely light. I put both on the rear bench of the cab.
I was able to see her as she climbed in. She appeared to have some Oriental blood gauging by the facial features. She was rather slender but had to be between 5'5" or 5'7" because she did not have much trouble climbing into the truck. Once she was in I took off my parka and climbed back in. I was going to put it on the rear bench when she asked me if she could use it to warm up.
While she was tucking the parka around her, she asked what was in the pocket and I said my pistol; would she like me to remove it. She turned pale, and nodded her head not saying anything. I took the pistol, put it back in its holster, and placed it back in the side of the door panel.
She then asked me why I had a gun and I said that not all people were as pretty and well mannered as she was and it was normally used for protection from snake and other varmints. I left the headache rack lights on and about five minutes later pulled off onto the gravel county road. Three miles later, I pulled into my driveway and came to a stop so I could open the gate. I do not keep a lock on the gate since the neighbor checks on the cattle once a week. I popped out of the cab, pushed open the gate, pulled the truck forward and then re-shut the gate. By the time, I got back into the car I was shaking with cold and was gently scolded for not taking my parka.
At a crawl, it seemed to take forever to travel the half-mile to the top of the canyon. I knew what effect starting down would have. I had build a small coffer dam to keep water from running down my driveway so as you climbed up it the road just disappears under you and it looks like you are going to fall into a void. The first time I did it at night it spooked me too. I was right; I heard and audible gasp come from my passenger and I could not help but chuckle a little. I was informed, that it was not funny to scare someone half to death, but she had a smile on her face for the first time since I found her.
As I approached the garage, I used the remote control to open both of the doors and I pulled in until the front of the trailer was just out of the snow under the eaves. I disconnected the trailer. I then pulled the truck forward before backing the truck into the other side of the garage and parking it. I used the winch on the trailer to pull the trailer the rest of way into the garage. Once that was done, I shut the garage doors and connected the truck oil heater in so it would be easy to start.
.... There is more of this story ...