Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Serious Storm & Staunton

On Friday evening, Emily, Huggy and Richard turned up for a BBQ and to stay the night before we all set off to go exploring in Staunton over the weekend. It was hot and muggy and a serious effort on my part to turn on the grill let alone to stand over it and cook. So I didn't. Stand over it, that is. I left the chicken and salmon to fend for itself and went back inside to chat with the others. I'd noticed the sky was getting pretty dark and knew a storm was on its way but when I went back out on the patio to check the nearly cooked food I was a little alarmed. I could hear a roaring through the mountains and called the others for help, extremely grateful that I wasn't on my own. They came out with plates and formed a wall behind me while I grabbed the food from the grill; the wind had slammed into us suddenly and was throwing leaves and branches everywhere. We managed to get inside just before the heavens opened and got the food served up before the power went out. We sat down with candles flickering, thoroughly enjoying our meal as thunder crashed above us and lightning split and crackled across the sky. And then it hit the roof. I was actually glad that it happened as I had wondered whether they'd believed my last episode yet here we all were experiencing it again.
The storm eventually passed yet the power remained off which surprised me as previous outages had always been short. I remained confident but as the evening wore on and we got hotter and hotter, I suspected we'd all be sweltering tonight without fans or AC. Eventually we succumbed to the heat and decided to turn in, leaving windows and doors open.
 The next morning Richard and I were up early and we drove up to the 7-11 to get coffee and see what was happening. At the bottom of the hill, looking left and right revealed trees and power lines down for as far as we could see. This wasn't going to be a quick fix. We zig zagged down the road until we got to the village, stocked up with coffee, doughnuts, ice and news that most of Marshall was OK and drove back, glad that we wouldn't be staying the weekend at Meadow House. Especially as once we returned we discovered the water was out too. We sat on leaf and branch littered patio, demolished breakfast, stocked the fridge and freezer with ice, then got into Stuart, heading out of Marshall without a backward glance. Kota and Rosie could have the place to themselves for a couple of days...
 We stopped later at New Market to grab lunch at a nostalgic diner. There was a very creepy mannequin on a porch which fitted my mood since after seeing storm damage and desecration everywhere we went I was feeling that at any moment we'd see zombies walking across the road or around a corner.
I'd discovered on the internet that there was an abandoned plane on the way to Staunton so we stopped to find that.
 With the help of some locals clearing up their own fallen branches we finally found it. Had kinda hoped it might be a bit bigger than this...
We also came across an old country store and some old cars.
The sun beat down as we struggled for inspiration and creativity. The owner of an old Mercedes came over to chat and we did our best to appear enthusiastic. Sure hope we pulled it off. Eventually we got to Staunton and mustered up some excitement as we spotted the hospital which we'd been so desperate to gain entry to.
It looked splendid in its vacant majesty looming up against a brilliant blue and unfortunately cloudless sky. We had to cross a field of tall grasses with thistles and thorns hidden amongst them meaning our footsteps had to be high. Our poor exposed calves were scraped and ripped by the time we got to the building and seed pods were stuck to everything we wore. We looked at the building with its boarded windows then slowly walked around the perimeter looking for one that wasn't barricaded. No luck, but we did find a few that would be easy to get into if we had a screw driver. And we could see a Lowes less than 100yds away. We looked at eachother and shook our heads. We simply had zero energy left. We were cream crackered, (knackered, (bereft of a piffling puff of energy)). You get the picture. We gave up, walked back to the car and then went to another part of the hospital which was supposed to be easier to get into. It wasn't but we heroically walked around the grounds, tugging on door knobs and trying windows, with some sitting down in between efforts since now there were patches of grass available. We managed to get into one building but once again, a serious lack of motivation meant we shuffled from room to room and watched those that did manage to set up a shot with undisguised respect.
We found a nice graveyard out the back and while Huggy walked off to check out a barn and Richard checked out some of the older stones at the back, Emily and I sat down and leaned back. Bliss. And I noticed while sitting in the cool grass under the shade that I could take some half decent photos from my relaxed position.
 But eventually enough was enough and we decided to head into town and find beer. We did come across a decent bar but it was crowded with people wanting to eat who had no AC or water at home. So after a couple of beers we got back into Stuart and decided we'd better find a hotel room for ourselves. This was a lot harder than we thought. It took 2 hours of phoning and driving around until we called and found a motel that sort of had electricity but no AC. We took it, we had no choice. Thousands of people in the region were without power and were looking for hotel rooms. This link shows how the storm, a derecho, hit us.
Richard's directions took us every which way and I was alarmed at one point when we drove out into bleak countryside on a gravel track as the sun set. But we got to the motel and after changing rooms, found one that had lights. We had no dinner but we had plenty of beer, cheese and bread from the previous evening so we dined on that, thankful that we had somewhere to rest, even though it was going to be  another sticky night.
The next day was again hot and humid but we decided to walk around Staunton. It was an interesting place but many of the shops were closed as it was Sunday, a now quaint and infrequent custom, but one I respect.
We pottered around seeing strange folks and stranger shop windows. Richard had been spotting hobos the whole weekend and saw plenty more here. We saw a lonesome orange tumbling down a street, some cool stained glass windows, a glass blowing studio, a giant watering can and other wonderful things.
We stopped at an old antique shop which was lovely and cool inside. Emily immediately found a chair while the rest of us ambled around enjoying the AC.
  It had some wonderful antiques and crafts inside. Richard and Huggy spent some time talking to the old owner wh in turn sent us a few blocks away to one of his friends who owned a hotel and would possibly know of any abandonments in the town.
We walked over and eventually found ourselves at a counter where he kept us on our toes with shaggy dog stories, tales of wonderful old factories that were abandoned and we learned the history of them all, only to be told at the end of each lengthy rendition that the buildings were now used for something else. We also learned the wonders of micro fiber towels from him and finally managed to escape when a potential guest showed up. We fled.
So we left Staunton not really having explored any abandonments properly but we'd had an interesting time regardless.
We passed through Charlottesville, noticing plenty more storm damage, and stopped at this food store to stock up on our favorite goodies. I got a HUGE jar of Marmite and Richard insisted I photograph these. I have no idea what they are and no desire to find out.
Another quick stop at Fleetwood church and we came across a farm with zebras and camels, which means I have to go back and investigate that further at a later date, but for now all we wanted was to get back. I was apprehensive about this, thinking I'd be carrying buckets of water to my house and finding more candles but as we came up the hill, the patio lights twinkled across the meadow and we all cheered. Those wonderful Dominion men had repaired the lines and it was with relief and great delight that I turned on the AC and went to sleep that night with the fan blowing in my face.

1 comment:

Ex Machina said...

I'm just now seeing this, look alike you guys really did have an adventure!