Roots in Ripon
1 February 2016
There are moments in life when you are simply caught by surprise in the events or the actions of people. This past weekend Isaura and I were in the middle of one of those surprises.
We had driven to Reno last week to attend the Mid-Winter Barbershop Harmony Convention, held at the luxurious Peppermill Resort Spa and Casino. We had a terrific time with barbershop singers from all over the world. We also ran into friends we’ve known for years, as well as making new friends in this hobby we all love and enjoy. But, alas, it too came to an end late Saturday night. Sunday morning we awoke to find a significant amount of snow had fallen and accumulated on the ground. It was beautiful and brought back fond memories of snow in New England where I was born and raised. But I also remember shoveling the walkways around the house and the sidewalk, and the driveway. And I remember digging my brother’s 55 Pontiac Chief out of a snowbank when I was learning to drive. That’s another story for another time. Ugh!
The question we faced was whether we should leave Sunday in the midst of a snowfall which was projected to last until ten o’clock that evening, or wait another day, driving home Monday. That seemed like a reasonable idea until I looked at the weather forecast for Monday. The temperature was to drop well into the 20s. So, did I want to drive home in falling snow which was building up on Highway 80, our route back to California; or did I want to drive back on potentially icy roads, or at least the likelihood of “black ice”. I prefer driving on snow to ice. So we packed our luggage and set out to find a place to buy tire chains. Finally got the right size at the second Walmart we went to. There was a run on snow chains, which came as no surprise. After lunch at Applebee’s, we headed for home, figuring the early/mid-afternoon time period would be the best time when the temperature would be at its warmest in the day and might be enough to make the roads passable without having to stop and attach the snow chains. In our case they are snow cables. The tires on the BMW are fitted for cables, not chains. Though my thinking was sound in leaving during the snowfall, the weather did not cooperate.
We cruised along heading for Donner Pass, increasingly encouraged as each mile of cleared roadway slipped behind us. But, alas! T’was not to be. We were driving on a couple of inches of snow when it seemed as though everyone pulled to the side of the highway to don their chains. We followed suit. This is when the first surprise occurred.
The vehicle that stopped in front of us was an SUV and had a number of young adults inside; and the car that pulled in behind us had two young Latino men inside. I got out, opened the door to the backseat where I had placed the box with the new snow cables, and began the arduous task of putting snow cables on the rear tires. I no sooner had them in my hand when one of the young men asked if I needed help. I guess my once svelte body and gray hair caused these two guys to think I needed assistance. I said “No thanks” and went about the business of preparing the car for a bumpy ride on cables. I guess I didn’t do a very good job because these guys pulled up alongside of me as we were poking along, informing me that my cables were sliding off the tires. So, off to the side of the highway again to check things out. They stopped as well and joined right in to help reattach the cables. I began thinking these might be guys out to make a fast buck. I soon discovered that was wrong thinking.
Since we were driving the BMW, which is very low-slung, putting the chains on is a bear. Cold hands, pants and jacket wet from lying in the snow wrestling with the cables, all made for a less than pleasant experience for all of us. The two guys took the initiative and completed the job with me basically watching. One of the guys went back to their car, so I chatted with the other guy, discovering he had just recently completed his enlistment in the Army where he had served as a diesel mechanic. As he finished reattaching the cables I handed him a twenty dollar bill. He steadfastly refused the money even when I tried a second time to have him take it. I had planned to also give him one of my personal challenge coins from my time in the military. He was pleased to take that.
Earlier, after we had stopped, a Caltrans worked had told us to stay where we were because snow plows would be coming the wrong way on our side of the highway. So we sat and waited. About ten minutes later, a Nevada Highway Patrolman stopped by our car, asking us if everything was okay. I assured him we were fine, but that we had been instructed to wait before moving until a Caltrans person or Highway Patrolman authorized us to continue.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the concrete divider the eastbound traffic was a mess. A huge pileup of 29 vehicles, which included numerous cars, some pickups, and several semi-trucks, had brought that side of the highway to a dead stop which extended for miles. I had already seen one ambulance go by. Then I overheard the Patrolman mention four more were on the way.
Then the next surprise took place. Several of the big rig drivers had climbed out of their cabs and were walking around chatting with one another. One of them called over from his side of the concrete barrier to me asking if Isaura and I might need some bottled water. We thanked him for his gracious offer, but we had plenty of our own in the car. He then asked the two young men in the car behind us. A total stranger offering a drink of water to total strangers. The Bible says such an action will bring about a blessing from God.
Two fast moving snow plows roared by at which point the Nevada Highway Patrolman had us follow him until we were back on roadway that was cleared of snow. Once again we pulled over to remove the cables. Our young friends behind us did the same, once again offering to help me. As it turned out, they were a big help. Both cables had been somewhat mangled, making it very difficult to remove the offending contraptions. We freed one of the cables at which point I told them I appreciated their help, but they should go on ahead. You see, they had been traveling with the folks in the SUV I found out. Instead, they had stopped three times to help me. I shook hands with both guys, thanking them for their kindness.
I will admit that as I settled back in the car to continue our drive, I was blessed in my spirit, having seen the best in people, going out of their way in a difficult, challenging situation. They could have easily kept right on going.