Surviving The Atlanta “Snowmageddon”

Lisa and I had heard about the possibility of snow here in central Georgia over the weekend. Most of the forecasts were predicting very small amounts which we paid little attention to.  Our concern (as it has been since arriving here at Stone Mountain Park) has been the temperatures.  Having already survived six degrees and below zero wind chills in early January and surviving our water leak this past weekend that was nearly catastrophic – we were both just wanting warm temperatures.  The Mohave Desert was sounding very good.

By Monday evening (1/27) the snow event was a near certainty but Lisa, thinking two inches of snow was no big deal, headed on to work Tuesday morning.  The temperatures throughout the morning stayed in the high twenties and my thoughts were that the snow event would be minor.  I stopped to talk to a friend here in the campground (Roger) who was from North Dakota and we laughed at the near panic reaction of most here in the area.  Many of the school systems had cancelled classes for the day while others were shutting down early.  Around two in the afternoon I began to see traces of a few flakes and very quickly the snow began to fall – heavy.  Uh-oh!  It looked like the kind of snow that was going to set in for hours and I began to fear Lisa could be in trouble trying to get home.  Maybe this event was actually going to be worse than anyone had predicted.  Was it ever.

Lisa had called me earlier laughing at the reaction of her co-workers who, she said, were in absolute panic mode.  These people in Atlanta had not seen much snow in their lives and as schools and businesses began shutting down – the interstate and highways in the area began filling up.  By three o’clock all major thoroughfares in and around the city were in absolute gridlock.  In the midst of all that commotion – Lisa was trying to get back to our cabin in the woods.  This was not good.

Her trip from Southern Regional Medical Center in Riverdale to our campground at Stone Mountain requires her to utilize three major roads – Interstate 75, the 285 By-Pass, and Highway 78.  The entire trip is thirty-three miles and only four of those miles are on interstate 75.  Those four miles would end up taking Lisa over two hours to get through.  We talked on the phone as she inched along and gave me the play-by-play of the idiot drivers who had no idea how to drive on dry pavement let alone two inches of snow which was very quickly to ice.  She finally made it to the 285 exit and was very excited to hit thirty miles per hour for some of that stretch.  Finally – after three hours and a lot of pacing on my part – she arrived back at our RV where we would spend the next day and half watching the news and counting our blessings.  As the night dragged on traffic grew much worse all around the city and many, many drivers would be stranded for up to twenty hours.  Cars were abandoned and people slept in grocery stores and hotel lobbies.  School buses were stranded with freezing students that would have to be rescued by the National Guard. Some students had to spend the night at school since parents could not get to them. This two inch snow had shut down Atlanta, Georgia. In fact – by six o’clock the entrance and road leading to our campground closed to traffic so we were stuck – but very, very lucky.  The fact that Lisa got home in three hours was due to God’s grace and her decision to leave work at the moment that she did.  Had she waited another thirty minutes – she may have been one of those sleeping at Home Depot.

Will this winter ever end?  We are sick of fighting this weather here in our RV and are hoping the forecast for temperatures in the sixties by this weekend are accurate.  Lisa and I have learned one thing about RV living – it is easier to live in an RV in hot weather than in cold.  We would have never said that back in June when we first arrived in Kingman Arizona and were dealing with 115 degree heat.  But as difficult as it was to keep the thing cool in the Mohave Desert – it is a nightmare trying to deal with harsh winter conditions – RV’s and winter just don’t go together – I don’t care how much you pay or how thermal they declare them to be.  We have fought frozen water lines, water leaks, empty propane tanks, snow, white ice, black ice, white idiot drivers, black idiot drivers, no bread, no milk, no patience – and that was just this morning.  Lisa did make it back to work today and it looks like things will soon be back to normal – we hope.

While all this was going on – my friend from Las Vegas (JC) called saying he had been watching the news about the disaster in Atlanta and was wanting to know if we were surviving.  I appreciate his concern but it really was not necessary for him to tell me the high temperature there yesterday was 70 degrees with a low in the mid-fifties.

I don’t like him anymore.

Thawing Out!  Steve and Lisa





Crying Next to Jesus

While at home in Kentucky this weekend for our son’s birthday, I received a call from the campsite back in Georgia that our RV (at the Stone Mountain Campground) had water pouring from the bottom and that a maintenance man had gone over and turned the water off.  They just wanted to let me know.  Well thanks!  Here we were six hours away ready to return to Georgia the next day and we had no idea what we would return to.  My mind immediately imagined water spewing all over the inside of our RV from some busted water line that had probably frozen over the weekend.  Now I was faced with how to fix the problem and where we would live in the meantime.  Over the next twenty-four hours I would eat very little, sleep even less and worry myself into a certain ulcer or near heart attack.  Lisa (on the other hand) slept like a baby with a big grin on her face while visions of sugar plums and a brand new RV danced in her head.

I will finish that story in a moment.

I have learned something about myself.  I am a worry-wart.  At the age of fifty-four I find myself worrying about things far more than I ever have in my life.  What is going on with me?  It was always my understanding that retirement and growing older came with sage wisdom and a relaxed demeanor that should never allow little things to be given a second thought.  Not me.  I am becoming a basket case when things like this happen.  But – I am learning.

As a Christian whose faith is shaped by the foundational creed to rest in the Lord and rely on God to see us through all things – I am actually embarrassed about this worrying problem.  All the scriptures I have learned in my life have little impact on me in those moments of crisis – something in my brain just seems to switch on (or off) and I can’t think of anything but complete disaster.  And what is most shocking is that everything always seems to turn out fine – in the end.  You would think I would have learned this by now.  Everyone at home said things would be fine.  My son said I should not worry about it.  My brother and sister in law (Paul and Donna) said everything would be fine.  My daughter said it.  I think my grand-son, Conner Jack, was saying it and he can’t even talk yet.  Everybody said I should not worry and that everything would be fine.  But that just did not help – I worried on.

There are different interpretations of scripture and Bible stories and I would like to share one of mine that some may disagree with but one that has helped me better understand my worrying dilemma.  In the story of Lazarus you may remember that “a certain man named Lazarus was sick” (John 11: 1) and would later be declared dead by Jesus himself.  In the story we learn that Lazarus sisters sent for Jesus before he died asking him to come and save him.  But Jesus delayed – on purpose, I believe.  From that point on in the story Jesus continues to tell the people Lazarus will rise from the dead – that Jesus would “awaken him”.

Now fast forward to Lazarus grave.  Here the scripture says many were with the sisters to mourn “their brother” at his tomb when Jesus finally arrived.  Jesus then tells the sisters, “Your brother shall rise again.”  It is important to understand that Jesus knew what he was going to do – raise Lazarus from the dead.  But all around him people were crying and mourning the loss – apparently either uninterested or simply not believing what Jesus was saying.  Common interpretation of what happens next is that Jesus cried due to his being moved by everyone else crying and the sad situation he was witnessing.  I disagree.  Here is why.

Lets pretend that I am multi-millionaire (I said pretend).  I am told that a family is about to lose their home and everything due to financial troubles.  I then decide to give them enough money to bail them out of trouble and set them up for the rest of their lives.  So – I go to them and find them crying and worrying and mad and upset and blaming me and others for their situation.  All the while I know I am about to present them with the money.  Why would I cry seeing this knowing what was about to happen?  That is my dilemma with Jesus and Lazarus.  I believe Jesus cried because they would not believe Him.  Let me repeat:  Jesus wept over the fact the people there would not take him at His word – not because he was simply emotional about the situation.

What does all that have to do with me?  Everything!  I am the person crying with Mary and the others at Lazarus tomb.  I am the one that does not hear Jesus in times of trouble.  I am the one that does not take Jesus at His word and believe Him.  I am the one crying next to Jesus as he stands declaring resurrection.  I am the one Jesus cries over.  I am the one.

I am ashamed and sorry for my worrying.  Who knows?  Maybe all this will make me better able to handle the next crisis in my life.  Perhaps my recognition of this problem is the first step in recovery.  My name is Steve McFarland and I am worrier.

Now back to the RV.  It was a long six-hour drive for me back to Stone Mountain.  Lisa hummed and sang and talked about the new RV while I ran over and over in my mind what we may find when we returned.  The image of frozen Niagara Falls came to my mind.

We finally arrived back at our campsite and opening the door realized water had saturated the carpets.  The big question was what caused it and how to fix it.  After turning the water back on – we found a gushing fountain flowing from a spot very near our door and following the flow and sound discovered the problem was in our water filtration system – something I had not even remotely considered.  The filter canister had broken and water spewed into our living room area causing the carpets to become saturated.  I was relieved – Lisa was disappointed – and after a good carpet cleaning and repaired water filter – all was well with the world.

In our travels – we have faced different crisis situations of one sort or another.  It just seems to come with the territory.  This crisis is over – but another one is on the horizon.  In the meantime Lisa is still looking for that new RV and Jesus is still asking me to chill out.  Today I find myself dealing with both of them.

Peace!  Steve and Lisa

The Hobbit and Home

For probably the tenth time in my life I just finished reading “The Hobbit” and it has made me think about going home.  That’s it!  I understand the story is about this great adventure of a certain Hobbit named Bilbo Baggins (who happens to have the same birthday as me – September 22nd) and his many escapades recovering the stolen treasure of his ancestry.  But really – I think – it is a story of him going back home.  Forever changed by his time away – Bilbo, in the end, returns to the place he calls home and to the people he calls his friends.

In order to go home – Bilbo had to leave home.  In order for Bilbo to sing poetically at the first sight of his birthplace after his year-long adventure – he had to know fear, danger and experience being treated as an alien in a strange, foreign land. Something in his simple and structured life had to be challenged and even threatened in order for him to know the joy of going home.  In some ways – Bilbo’s story is our story – is everyone’s story.

I have written on different occasions about the feeling of going home after being away for several months.  After our extended time in Arizona – I wrote about the excitement Lisa and I felt to finally get back to our Kentucky family.  Traveling with Lisa’s job has been and continues to be a great adventure for the two of us – one we will cherish years from now as we sit around telling stories of people and places long after our traveling days are through.  But our stories of traveling will always conclude with the joy of returning home.  As in “The Hobbit”, ours will be stories of great fun and exciting places – but in the end – a story about home.

Lisa and I know what it is like being (as scripture calls it) aliens and strangers.  She is now working in a setting in which she is really a minority in terms of ethnicity.  The people she works with have been wonderful to her and she feels a kindred spirit for her co-workers even though they are mostly of a different skin pigmentation.  She has had to adjust to the way medical terms are expressed.  For example – some of her co-workers describe fainting as “falling out” and it took her a while to understand that.  Where Pennsylvanians laughed at our southern accent, here in Georgia we are really not “deep south” enough.  So we are again in a strange (though beautiful) land and we are learning to adjust.

Who knows how our traveling will change us.  I really doubt it will cause any great disruption in our values or personality.  We will have, perhaps, good stories to tell and maybe advise for other would be travelers.  But in the end – I am certain we will be the same people we always have been.

Having said all that – maybe there will be some changes in us.  At the end of “The Hobbit” and upon his long-awaited return home, the wizard Gandalf remarks to Bilbo:

“My dear Bilbo!  Something is the matter with you!  You are not the hobbit that you were.”

Perhaps that will be true for Lisa and I.  We will certainly be older.  I hope we will be wiser.  I really doubt we will be much richer.  But I am fairly certain we will be really, really glad – to be home.

See you soon! Steve and Lisa

Gone Fishing

We live at the Stone Mountain Campground at the base of the enormous granite mountain.  Very near our RV is a lake that practically circles the mountain and provides a beautiful setting for our campsite.  One day while hiking around the area I walked to the water’s edge and was suddenly overcome with a strong desire to do some fishing – something I had not done in years.  Unfortunately I had no fishing equipment with me and was forced to take a trip to Wal-Mart to pick up some supplies.

I soon realized that fishing has become way too complicated.  The fake worms, lures, hooks, bobbers, strings, weights and other more sophisticated equipment was almost overwhelming for an amateur fisherman.  Two complete rows of fishing supplies invited me to open my wallet and invest a few hundred bucks – just for the chance to catch a bluegill or two.  I finally decided on a mid-priced ‘Zebco’ rod and reel featuring the “Wide-range, Power Train Drag” – but really I bought it because it was red.  The package also came with a few yellow and orange rubber things that must be lures for catching the really big ones and some hooks, weights and bobbers.  It just did not seem right though for me to leave the store without some other things and I settled on the “Outdoor Angler” Lizard bait designed to attract fish from thick weeds, brush and around fallen timber.  If my memory serves me correctly – I seemed to always end up in brush or trees whenever I fished in the past – so maybe these things would at least help me catch a fish while I was hung in the tree limbs.  I also grabbed a bag of “Luck ‘E’ Strike” Purple Fire Twirl Tail” artificial worms and some extra weights that proved to be way too heavy for the small bobbers and could probably be used to anchor a boat if need be. But now I felt like a real fisherman.

Of course the last thing on my list would be the most important item of all – a Georgia fishing license.  I was interested in just a one month (really cheap) license that would keep the game wardens happy.  My options were not what I expected.  A three-day fishing pass would allow me just three days of fishing for $28.  The only other option was a $48 year-long pass that would allow me to fish every day we were in Georgia – but about $43 more than I expected to spend.  It was, unfortunately, the best option and so I left Wal-Mart ready to fish – but nearly a hundred dollars in the hole.  Better get to fishing and soon.

I have now fished about a half a dozen times and have yet to catch a fish or even get a bite from one.  The “Wide Range Power Train Drag” rod and reel that I invested in can only cast about ten feet from the shore and stays in a tangled mess most of the time.  Furthermore there does not seem to be any interest from the fish in the “Outdoor Angler Lizards” or any of the other bait yellow, orange or purple.  While standing on the shore with my line just a few feet from me after yet another powerful cast of six feet – I get the feeling the fish are under the water laughing at me.  Now and then I get excited thinking that I may have one on the line only to realize the bobbing came from another gust of wind or I had snagged yet another tree limb.  If nothing else I am doing my share in keeping the water clean of debris.

While sitting on the bank the other day I began thinking what I could have done with the hundred or so bucks I spent on this fishing thing.  I could play golf three times; take Lisa out to eat at least four times; watch maybe eight to ten movies,; buy a new pair or shoes – maybe a couple of pair; or give it away to the starving children in Africa – do something that would make me feel good.  But here I sit freezing on the muddy shore of Stone Mountain Lake hoping no one is watching as I cast my pitiful line no farther than the old man down the way using a cane pole – all while being mocked by the stupid fish down below.

Somewhere fishermen are hauling in twenty pound wide-mouth bass and catfish the size of Volkswagens.  They are using specialized bait that has been engineered to draw certain fish at certain depths in certain water temperatures.  They know what depth to fish and what fish to fish.  They win prize money by the thousands for their huge catch and proudly cook up their haul for their impressed family after a long day of successful angling.

I just wish I could get a bite.


Surviving Winter

Admittedly we have not experienced every situation possible while living in our RV during Lisa’s travel assignments.  But in just a year and half doing this – I can tell you that list is growing shorter and shorter.

In Amarillo, Texas we experienced (what felt like) hurricane force winds that shut down the highway and had Lisa and I huddled in the middle of the bed.  While in Arizona we lived through the famous Mohave Desert monsoon season and record high temperatures that could fry an egg on an ice chest – delightful.  While in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania we survived thunderstorms so severe that one blew our awning into a nearby tree and had granite civil war soldiers running for cover.  I am fairly certain that particular storm washed away a good portion of “Little Round Top” – a famous battlefield location that we happened to be visiting when the heavens decided to open.  Now we are in Georgia and have lived through the coldest temperatures seen here in Stone Mountain in nearly fifty years.

Six degrees with a  wind chill of eight below zero and we survived.  After wrapping our water hose with everything short of mud and leaves and after burning through nearly all our propane in two days – Lisa and I survived the coldest night we have experienced in our RV.  But – it was not easy – at least not for me.  I was a basket case all night long.  Every few hours I would wake up and shine a flashlight on our sink faucet to be sure it was still dripping and then lay back down to listen to what sounded like pipes bursting below.  Lisa could not have cared less if our RV made it or not and I am certain she was secretly hoping and praying it would completely freeze up so we would have to buy the new one she has been wanting.  While I sat chewing my fingernails down to the bloody bone – she slept like a baby.  Fortunately – we had water and heat the next morning when the long, cold winter night was finally over.  Another RV adventure in the books.

Now we find ourselves in balmy 40 degree temperatures and hoping that the worst is behind us.  Lisa agreed to extend her contract to work here through February – allowing us another month to enjoy the beautiful scenery here at Stone Mountain and to be afforded the opportunity to drive home on weekends – if we choose.

Another first occurred for us this week as we experienced our first separation during a traveling assignment.  We went home for a funeral and to spend time with our family this past weekend and I stayed back a few extra days to work on some things at home while she returned to the RV and work.  Needless to say I was on pins and needles thinking that she would never be able to manage without me – but she did just fine. Dang it!  Actually I was relieved that she did as well as she did and it is good having good neighbors willing to do good things for you when you need them.  That is a good thing.  She did (finally) admit she missed me being here and I (yes) missed her.

Stone Mountain is a gorgeous place and we are hoping the weather will be to our liking as we work through this assignment for at least the next six weeks.  Lisa has now managed to be extended in every assignment she has worked – a credit to her and her abilities.  Maybe somewhere in all that I can take some credit.  I do take great pride in my ability to watch a dripping faucet.  Now that takes skill.

Stay warm and keep calm!  Steve and Lisa

The Atlanta 285 Death Race

Lisa and I are on the road this week traveling to Atlanta Georgia for some required training Lisa is needing and we are looking forward to stopping at home in Kentucky on the way.  Going to Atlanta is not our favorite trip and this post, originally published Jan. 9, 2014, will explain why.  Here is a funny look back at our Atlanta driving experience. 

People ask Lisa and I to contrast the various places we have traveled with her job in the past year and a half.  Their questions are typically, “What was your favorite place?” or “Where did you have the most fun?”  And our typical answer is that everywhere we have been has been great for different reasons.  But it occurred to me this morning while driving Lisa to her job in Riverdale, Georgia that the greatest contrast in locations can be explained in terms of driving to and from her work.  Here is what I mean..,

Her first assignment in Hanover Pennsylvania required us to drive thirty miles each way to her job from our campsite in Gettysburg.  The two lane road would have been the perfect Sunday drive in the country.  Rolling green hills and farms dotted the landscape and often our conversations would include comments like, “I love those barns!”, and “Look Steve – horses!”.  We would meander our way each morning not really needing to hurry as the traffic was always light and speeds on that road were no greater than 45 MPH. Amish buggies would occasionally slow down our travel – but the pastoral setting had a calming impact and just enjoyed the moments.  Ho Hum!

Then there was Loma Linda California.  We were scared to death that driving in California would be a nightmare.  We had heard the stories of traffic tie-ups in southern California.  But it was really not bad.  In fact – our apartment was within walking distance of her workplace and was just a five-minute drive.  California drivers can be crazy but generally they seemed to have a kind of “Cheech and Chong” – “sure come on over into my lane, man – I don’t care – have a nice day and roll one for me” attitude.  California was laid back and living easy!

Kingman, Arizona was a completely different driving experience.  Although the landscape was starkly different from that of the rolling hills of Pennsylvania, the Kingman hospital was a brief five minute drive.  And in Arizona – you just never knew what you might see driving to work.  People rode horses, mules, golf carts, four-wheelers, bicycles and scooters down the main roads of town along with all the cars and trucks.  In Kingman we saw teenagers gathered at the local Sonic on their horses. We saw people walking cows down the main street of town and motorcycles and antique cars were everywhere.  Driving in Arizona is a lot of flat, straight, roads with occasional canyons and mountains to navigate around or through.  But all in all – very easy driving.

And then there is Atlanta.  We are living in a campground at Stone Mountain Resort and drive thirty-three miles each way to where Lisa is working in Riverdale, Georgia – just southwest of Atlanta.  Where Pennsylvania was a country drive through Amish farms, driving in Atlanta is the Indy 500.  I’m talking white knuckle – wide-eyed – scared shitless driving that warrants wearing head-gear and a fire-retardant suit.  When we leave the exit from our campground at 7:30 in the morning – merging onto one of the three roads we take to get to Riverdale – we better be going at least 80 MPH or we are done for.  Most of the time Lisa and I say absolutely nothing during this adventure – driving in complete silence.  The only comments we make are things like, “Jesus, Joseph and Mary! – what is that (bleeping) idiot doing?”  I have found myself cussing so much trying to get her to work – I swear I have Tourette’s Syndrome.  Words are flying from my mouth I did not realize I even knew.  When you change lanes here you can actually hear the sound of someone twisting a styrofoam cup and then realize it is your anus closing tighter and tighter.  There may be some really wonderful scenery for us to look at during our journey to and from – but we will never know.  Our eyes are glued to the bumper six inches in front of us going 80 mph.  It is my concern that turning to look at the scenery will result in severe head trauma.

So we have nearly completed our first week here in Atlanta.  Lisa loves where she works and they love her (no surprise there) and the campground here at Stone Mountain is fantastic.  But for about an hour and a half each day – Lisa and I bond in a special way getting to and from work.  I cuss the car next to me – she cusses me – I cuss the car next to the car I just cussed – she cusses me – you get the idea.  But we love each other and if not for our ability to forgive and forget – and forgive and forget at least twice a day – we would be in trouble.

Drive Carefully!  Steve and Lisa

This is Georgia?

Lisa and I are a long way from the Mohave Desert.  Back in July when we first arrived there for her assignment in Kingman, Arizona – I never thought I would say I miss 115 degrees.  But right now – here in frozen Georgia – I do.

We have finally settled here at Stone Mountain Georgia and are preparing for what is expected to be the coldest couple of days and nights since 1970.  We brought record breaking heat to Arizona when we arrived and now we come south to this.  If people around the country find out about the type of weather Lisa and I seem to cause – they may pay us stay away.   People from the south are not used to these temperatures – but neither are Lisa and I.  It is one thing to deal with this in a house – quite another in an RV.  We have wrapped our water hoses – filled our propane tanks (I promised Lisa they will work this time) and gathered up all our blankets and covers.  This may be a really long night.

As for this placement – Lisa is working through her first day at the time of this writing.  We have to drive around 35 miles each way to and from her work in Riverdale.  Traffic is zooming at 7:30 in the morning and we will just have to adjust to leaving an hour before her start time.  In Owensboro people can get wherever they want to go in about ten minutes. I really think Owensboro city officials have missed a golden opportunity to promote our community in a little different way.  The new riverfront development is wonderful but how about –  “Owensboro – where you are ten minutes from everywhere”.

We will be here in Georgia until at least the end of January and may go home on weekends.  At this point in this adventure there are too many unknowns to really say for sure.  We are just hoping to survive the next two nights and then we will decide about day three here in Atlanta.

Stay Warm! – Steve and Lisa