Our plan has always been to pack and ship our items now and then take off for my dad’s in California, where we would meet up with all of the kids and all of Thom’s relatives for the holidays. Then, on January 4th, Thom and I, along with Ozzie (the Great Dane) and Buddy (the Westie-Poo) will fly LAX to London, have an 8 hour layover, and then fly London to Lusaka. British Airways is supposed to have an excellent doggy center for traveling pets so we felt like this would be the least stressful routing for all of us. Kala (the Rottweiler) will return to her owner (our oldest son Alex) when he meets up with us in California. Alex lives on the West Indies island of Dominica so he has made all of the arrangements for her to join him there when he leaves California on January 1. (Yes, the logistics are complicated!)
Because the air freight shipment is supposed to take about two weeks, our hope is that the arrival of that shipment in Zambia will coincide with our arrival. The maximum weight for the air freight is 500 lbs so we packed only the essentials — some pots and pans, dishes, towels, linens, two camping mats (our beds until our sea freight arrive), clothes, medicines, etc. Sea freight takes about 3 months though everytime we tell someone that they tell us their sea shipment took 4.5 months, 6 months, 9 months, fell overboard in a storm, was burned in a dock fire, or was hijacked by pirates. So, if our sea freight arrives sooner than 4 months and/or without being burned/lost/hijacked, we’ll be grateful. Check back with us on January 6th to see if our best laid plan of having our air shipment arrive about the same time we do worked.
So, we commenced with phase 2 of our plan (after the packing/loading phase) and left Wednesday morning just as the sun was rising on our road trip to California. In our big white conversion van we had seven suitcases, two guitars, two dog crates, one backpack, one computer bag, a box of food, a Great Dane (Ozzie), a Rottweiler (Kala), a Westie-Poo (Buddy) , Thom and myself. Our first stop was Starbucks for massive injections of caffeine and sugar (and chocolate in the form of mocha for me), then our mechanic for windshield wipers, and finally for gas.
Each dog claimed his or her special spot and seemed content with a water and potty break every 2-3 hours.
We had planned to make it to Tulsa, Oklahoma, or at least southwestern Missouri (maybe Joplin?), but at about 7 pm the taillights started flashing ahead of us. We thought there must have been an accident and that the traffic would ease up soon, but quickly it became apparent that an ice storm had hit with sudden ferocity and treachery and we soon learned exactly what “black ice” was.
Our big white van fishtailed at just 30 miles an hour and for a good 50 feet, drove up hill at a slight angle. Fortunately, it straightened out and the vehicle behind us had the good sense to drop back several hundred feet. As we passed pile-up after pile-up (all on the other side of the freeway) Thom suddenly said, let’s stop now. We were lucky in that all of the accidents on our side of the freeway were slide-offs, including cars facing the wrong direction and two semis on their sides. The other side had at least three major pile-ups where whole stretches of the road were completely blocked and vehicles were now parked on the freeway for a good five-mile stretch of road. Because we were in a very rural, hilly area, the exits were 5-7 miles apart. Later, the news spoke of “hundreds stranded in the cars overnight due to ice storm.” (It’s hard to tell in the photo below but all of these vehicles are parked at the side of the highway with their parking lots on. This is where they spent the night.)
What was amazing was how quickly the roads turned treacherous. One moment it was raining and I was complaining how our windshield wipers always left a big blur right in my field of vision and no where else (yes, they’re out to get me) and then next moment the road was a solid sheet of ice. I’m glad Thom made such a quick decision to get off now because a couple of hours later there were people begging at the front desk of our hotel for a room, and there were no more rooms anywhere for miles around.