Sandro (sandhawke) wrote,

vacation ("OK")

So, last week I took the kids on a vacation to Oklahoma. (If you've followed the news, that sentence should get your attention. If not, imagine serious dramatic music under the word "Oklahoma".)

My dad and step-mom (Margaret) and one of my sisters (Brenna) live there, and my kids had never been there. Most of them have never met this sister. It was kind of a last minute thing; I'd been thinking about it for a few weeks, then got serious about it about three weeks ago.

The best tickets we could find had us leaving Boston at 7:05am (Monday, Dec 10). It's an interesting time to get one's self and four children onto an airplane, but we managed. Each kid had a carry-on with their clothes, snacks, some activities. I had a carry-on with my laptop, books, snacks, etc, and checked a suit-case with my clothes, camera, and various extras like swim stuff. (I also moved B's PJ's from her carry-on to my suitcase, without her permission, to make room for her snacks -- a fact she seems to never tire of harassing me for.)

There are no direct flights from Boston to Oklahoma. This one went through Dallas. By the time we got to Dallas, American Airlines had decided to cancel our connecting flight on to Oklahoma City. They rebooked us on a flight the next day. During the night there had been an ice storm in Oklahoma, coating trees and such with about .4 inches of ice. I don't know why this closed the airport. This kind of ice only forms in perfect conditions so a little salt will prevent it, and the roads (and I assume the runways) were fine. Maybe the plane overnighted at OKC and was coated in ice too thick to de-ice; maybe some of the equipment was too coated in ice to function. Anyway, I called my dad -- he said the power was out, but the roads looked okay except for an occasional downed tree. We agreed I'd rent a car and drive up; it's about three hours, and I've driven it before.

The airline said it was not practical to extract my suitcase and the car seats from the thousands of bags en route in Dallas. They said they could put in a request, but it might take five hours and they still wouldn't find it. So I borrowed car seats and figured my suit case would show up on the flight I was supposed to be on. As it turns out, the car seats did -- they were at baggage claim the next day when I went to exchange rental cars -- my suit case is still enjoying an extended tour of north america.

Driving north in I35, about 25 miles from our destination I suddenly noticed the trees and grass and cattle fences looked odd. They were all coated in ice and laden with icicles.

We arrived safe and sound mid-afternoon. The power was out for several blocks around their house, closing nearby businesses. There were some branches down, but not as many as I expected. I saw something like this once in upstate NY, and the forests there looked like they had been through a blender, with branches and twigs and whole trees ripped the shreds and scattered across the landscape. This was not like that (yet). Instead, everything was simply covered in ice. Smaller trees and plants were bowed down, at odd angles. (You could tell, because of the angle of the icicles, that the icicles came first, then the additional weight on the branches bowed them down, making the icicles end up horizontal.)

Margaret is a landscape architect. Her garden, as we arrived, looked like a fairy tale scene where there's a castle that's been abandoned for 100 years and the briars have grown up to be impenetrable wilderness. In this case, I gather, it was all about the weight of the ice. A grand archway of plants over the path to the door had collapsed. Other tall plants were laying down, or just splayed on the ground. Some branches had fallen from the trees above.

Inside, there was a nice fire going, etc. Ironically, they had just converted from purely wood heat (as they'd used for 25 years) to electric (heat pump) and hybrid -- a fireplace with a system which forced air through it to heat the house. Alas, without electricity, the fireplace was much less efficient. With that and a wood stove in the back bedroom it was possible to heat the house, but it wasn't cozy. With no long johns or sweaters or anything, I ended up keeping my coat on most of the time. (The kids had more clothing options, but a chilly house doesn't seem to bother them anyway.) As it turns out, electricity didn't come back until just after we returned to Boston.

Margaret was making a stew for dinner over the fire (it has a swinging hook for hanging a pot!) but the general preference was for going to a restaurant, so we went out for Indian. It was good.

Of course, the nice aerobeds they planned for us to sleep on use electric fans to inflate. They also had a couple of normal camping air beds, which turned out to be fine.

(That's about it for my writing energy right now. Maybe I'll post more or expand this later. Short version is: flights back delayed a day by weather elsewhere in country, my luggage arrived in Oklahoma after I got back to Boston, and kids & me got a stomach bug [carried from Boston, presumably] and there was considerable vomit cleanup work.)

(The whole 'State of Emergency' thing makes sense for financial reasons, but the basic sense there was that this was all just an incredible nuisance and/or a fun adventure and/or a trajedy for the trees. The only talk of real danger was from people doing foolish things to keep warm, like bringing their charcoal grill into the house. It was rather a bit like Pennsic. Similarly, as I recall, someone died at Estrella once from using a propane heater in a tent.)
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