Thursday, December 16, 2010

Bonding on Bains Gap

This was an email I sent out to some friends on December 16, 2010, explaining what happened the night before on Bains Gap Road, located near Anniston, AL.

Well, I've had quite the adventure yesterday and just want to thank those who helped out a few folks stranded on Bains Gap Road.

First, I would like you to know that the report I'm about to tell you is not fiction. I lived through it and it involves a magazine editor, a school nurse, a school bus driver, a school aide, an emergency room nurse, two school transportation workers, two Anniston police officers, a state trooper, two guys in a tow truck and a crew of county transportation workers, plus a host of AT&T cell phones which were useless and a few good Verizon cell phones with low batteries. 

Somewhere along the way a hunter was seen in our midst but he went back into the woods and was not seen again during this adventure on Bains Gap

On my usual trek across Bains Gap Rd to White Plains yesterday I had no worries. It was around 2:10 p.m. and on the top of the mountain, I pulled off the side of the road to talk on my cell phone. I hung up, waved to a Calhoun County Sheriff's Deputy car as he drove by, then watched as he slowly drove down the mountain. I pulled out to make my way down the mountain and immediately hit black ice. 

Now my mini-van endures quite a lot on a daily basis but when it hit that ice, the poor thing was sliding towards a guardrail. I happened to notice that on the other side of the guardrail was a rather steep incline that closely resembled a cliff. I really was not in the mood to die, so I turned the wheel of my mini-van to the left and decided the ditch was better than the cliff.

A few moments later, a big burly SUV drove up the mountain and attempted to pass me. The ice would not have it and so, the SUV slid back, slightly embracing my mini-van, then came to a halt.

It was at this point that I started to seriously hate AT&T. As I sat in my mini-van, in the ditch, my finger was tired of dialing the Anniston PD and getting no signal. So, I was lucky enough to have my son's cell phone with me, which is with Verizon. I dialed Lt. Stemen with the Anniston PD, my old buddy from the Crime Bulletin days, and he said that he would have a car sent our way. Meanwhile, I notice that the driver of the SUV, Allison, is a dear friend from high school and a nurse with the Calhoun County school system.

Allison and I notice a school bus coming up the mountain. The bus driver, Kim, stopped the bus when she realized that the SUV and I were not merely hanging out on the top of the mountain for the fun of it. Meanwhile, a truck came up the mountain and he didn't see the ice. His truck slide back and almost hit the bus. Then, he came to a halt. We later find out that the driver, Chris, was on his way to work at Stringfellow ER and he was pulling around the bus to see if we needed any help.

So, there were all were, on the top of Bains Gap Rd waiting on the Anniston PD. Then, cars started to show up and we had to get out and direct traffic. It occurred to me that Bains Gap Rd needed to be closed. So, I walked around in circles staring at my two cell phones until I had service on the Verizon phone. It was so cold that my eyelashes are frozen. I called Robin Scott with the McClellan Development Authority and told him that people were coming up Bains Gap Rd, we were all stuck and someone needed to close the road. He probably thought it was a prank call, but needless to say when I called my husband he said that he heard Bains Gap Rd was closed.

Long story short, the Anniston PD arrive but are not sure who has jurisdiction because it was US Fish & Wildlife owned property. And, as luck would have it, the local office had been shut down in recent months. They wait and wait and are finally told it is the state's jurisdiction. So, then we wait for the state trooper. 

We realize that we need sand. The Anniston PD are trying to find out how to get sand but are told that no one is sure who controls the road and if Fish & Wildlife will allow the Calhoun County road crew to get us sand. We sing Mr. Sandman while waiting on the school bus and all of the stranded passengers bond. We talk, we wait, and we dig into our purses for candy. We stare out of the window as it begins to sleet. Very hard, cold sleet. We laugh a little and then we begin to wonder why on earth no one is sending sand.

My Verizon cell phone battery is almost dead and my AT&T phone, like everyone else’s, is useless. Allison has a Verizon phone so I call Sherry Sumners, my dear friend at the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce. Trying not to laugh so she won't think I'm pranking her, I tell her that I'm stuck on the top of Bains Gap Rd and need sand. Could she possibly call someone to find out who controls the sand and who can get some to us?

The state trooper is now on the scene and he attempts to pass the school bus and the truck. He slides back. His car has now joined the group of cars stuck in black ice. He does his duty of filling out the accident report. He bonds a little with everyone on the bus and he leaves us to bond with the Anniston PD. My husband had called a tow truck and now they show up. They park behind the bus. They only slightly slide. Jason and Mr. Hammonds with Howell Body Shop now join the wait for the sand. 

Finally, we are told the sand is on its way but the truck couldn't make it up the mountain. Cause of ice on the road. We are beginning to wonder if perhaps we are part of a psychological experiment. From the warm school bus, we wait more, we eat more candy, we bond, and we watch Trooper Putman, the Anniston PD and the tow truck crew freeze in the elements.

The EMA is also keeping in touch to make sure that everyone is ok. At one point they called to tell us to stay on the bus and not go out in the cold weather. They ask if we need anything. We tell them sand. 

The Calhoun County transportation crew finally arrives. Their truck slides, pours sand, and slides some more. Conversations get a little heated, we hear, because the county does not wish to hand shovel sand. Cause it is sleeting and you can't wear a Snuggie and shovel sand. It's really cold!

We kind of feel bad when it's reported to us that the trooper tells the police that he will "take in" anyone from the crew who does not assist in hand shoveling sand. We are not sure what exactly happened but the sand truck puts more sand on the road and they are all working hard. Then, they run out of sand. The truck travels back down the mountain and comes back. Eventually the men are shoveling sand and are able to move the SUV and the truck belonging to the ER nurse. My mini-van sits alone and will be towed. I leave with Allison in her SUV. The school bus, the wrecker, and the trooper are still trying to figure out what to do.

Allison and I feel extremely guilty as we drive down the mountain, go through McClellan, back to Oxford and get something to eat through a drive-thru window. We feel as if we've deserted our new friends, the bus driver, the school aide, Howell Body Shop, Trooper Putnam and the road crew. We discover that Allison's husband, John, has called everyone trying to find out why no one can get us off the mountain. He tried to locate my husband so they could get on four-wheelers and drive up to Bains Gap Rd to get us. Bless his sweet country heart!

By the time we get home, it is almost 9 p.m. We still can't stop laughing because we were stuck on Bains Gap Rd for six hours. I'm just glad that my eyelashes have thawed.

So, through it all, I learned there still are knights in shining armor, or perhaps in this case, knights in four-wheelers. It also pays to keep cell phone numbers of people who get things done. On behalf of the Bains Gap Posse, I want to thank Sherry Sumners, Lt. Rocky Steman, Robin Scott, the Calhoun County sand crew, the Anniston PD, State Trooper Putman and Howell Body Shop. Also, Mr. Fincher with the Calhoun County school system who made sure to keep in touch via the bus cb and the EMA. 

I'll never forget my six hours on the school bus with my Bains Gap Posse: Kim and Melony, who normally transport a group of special needs children everyday and kept us all entertained by feeding us candy; Chris Smith, the ER nurse who would have saved us should we have needed medical aid; Kevin, who we renamed Ricky for some reason, who works for the school system as a mechanic and deserves credit for all the work he does to keep the school buses in top shape; Mr. Hammonds with Howell Body Shop who might want to consider a job in stand up comedy; Jason with Howell Body Shop who took action when everyone else was trying to figure out who was in charge and Allison, my dear sweet friend from high school who made sure that everyone laughed more than cried.

Note: I learned a few days later that a special meeting was called by the Calhoun County Commission and that Bains Gap Road can be monitored by the county. Also, Howell Body Shop had to tow my van and had to pull the county truck out of the ice.

Hug someone you love today!