Monday, November 1, 2010

That Was the Week That Was Seven

Wheeler Peak after the clouds cleared
The end of October is generally the time locals turn on the under the house heat to prevent pipes from freezing. We all try to go longer because of winter heating bills but temperatures falling to 7 F one night let me know how risky that can be. It is also the time the emergency winter box should go in the car.

The clouds of the first "winter is coming" storm finally cleared away from the mountain tops to reveal the first snow on the peaks. Yesterday all this snow on the south side of Wheeler was already gone. That is pretty typical of this time of year. Fall and winter seem to dance around each other into November some years.

Saturday was fall and I went to the spa with Jessica and spent a prolonged period in the outdoor hot tub catching the warming rays of the sun. My sister went off-roading with a friend in the Zuni Mountains. I wasn't even that concerned when she didn't call as promised that evening. I figured they went out to dinner after a fun packed day and it got late. Little did I know, as I fell asleep, that the Jeep had been terminal since 2:30 pm.

Before I get the cell phone comments let me say we do not live in an area that any of the major cell phone companies consider advantageous to erect towers. Sprint never made a "can-you-hear-me-now" commercial out here because you cannot. We all have cell phones, if for no other reason than emergencies, but 9 times out of 10 when that emergency happens you won't have service. The government needs to get back involved with the FCC regulating mandatory coverage areas. But still there are the hills and gullies and canyons. Cell phones have to be line of sight to the tower. Debbie had it briefly after climbing up a hill. Sunspots are on the rise and causing disruptions. Then there was the battery issue. Cannot charge cell phones on cars with major computer failures.

By yesterday morning I was worried. Calls to her cell went directly to voice mail without even a ring - dead battery or broken phone. She was not on chat on the computer. She lives on a remote corner of a ranch and I did not have the telephone number of the ranch owner to check if she got home but the phone didn't. A flight medic with the company Deb's husband worked for determined on a landing pattern that her jeep and the dogs were not at the house. It was not looking good.

Tried the Forest Service to see if there was a search yet. This is hunting season and all sorts of people go missing in the mountains, but due to budget cuts the forest service does not man phones on weekends! Duh? And emergency 911 does not want to hear about it until someone is missing 48 hours. Unbeknown to me people were already looking for my sister. Her group of friends, since she had gotten gps coordinates off the jeep called in to her work, were out traveling the back roads. Since the jeep was in computer failure the coordinates were wrong so my sister and friend, a diabetic, opted to leave the vehicle at dawn and walk 6 hours out. They knew they could not spend another cold night in the car with only two dogs for warmth.

They are both okay no thanks to Cibola County emergency services or the Forest Service. All this brought to mind how casual we have become about things. I am collecting a pile of stuff that goes into my van today: Sleeping bag, old quilt, energy bars, spare batteries for the flash light, snow boots, and paper for messages. Yet to get next time in town: emergency flares, space blankets, bottled water, canned heat, and crayolas.

Crayolas? Yes, because they don't freeze or dry up like magic markers or pens. And you just might need to leave a sign on your abandoned vehicle as to which way you are walking out, etc. And if you think all this is necessary for just those of us that venture out of the normal path think again. Would you be prepared to spend 48 hours in your car during a blizzard? Or do you think someone would come to your rescue in the storm of the century?

I would rethink that.


  1. I'm so glad your sister is ok, and thank you for the reminder that you just never know what might happen. Making a list now, of what needs to go in the vehicles. Warning well made. thanks.

  2. I was very glad to know that all was well in the end but this sort of thing makes one realize that we do just take things for granted, especially when we're doing it on a regular basis. When I think of all the times you two just went off with the fur kids and cameras! I know you had more than that but you know what I mean.

    I am glad you've stocked your vehicle.
    This is a little bit like here. Prepare for the hurricane. They always pass by here but one day one won't and this country is not prepared as you will know from my posts and blogs over the years.


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