2009-12-09 22:57:39.000 – Stacey Kawecki, Observer and Meteorologist
When I was in ninth grade, one of our English assignments was to write an adventure. The assignment was inspired by reading Odysseus, by Homer. Well, I made up some lame story about having to pay for the beach. At that point in my life, I hadn’t really experienced any real adventures. Obstacles, danger, setbacks, and triumph upon completion are the ingredients for an adventure or an Odyssey.
Every shift change can be considered an adventure. However, today’s shift change was especially reminiscent of Odysseus’s long trek back home after the war between Greece and Troy. It all began yesterday morning, as I packed up my Ford Explorer to head back to Vermont.
I had gone home to NJ to visit family and friends and coworker and staff meteorologist Mike Carmon did the same thing. Being environmentally (as well as monetarily) conscious, we decided to carpool back to Vermont together.
All was going exceedingly well; Mike napped, I listened to my book on CD. I even talked about how reliable my car was, and how I was so happy to have finally chosen a good vehicle (my past is littered with cars that were transmissionally challenged). By the time we got into Vermont, Mike made a comment about how we were making some excellent time.
That was soon to change. About midway between Middlebury and Burlington on Route 7, my RPMs revved up to 4500 RPMs, and then went swiftly back down to 1000 RPMs. I was a little concerned, and Mike convinced me it was merely the hills (there are a lot of them around). Well, the transmission slipped gears a few more times and we thought it might be a good idea to pull over. Considering my tragic past with transmissions, I needed some fresh air. I opened the car door and began to stroll around to the front of the vehicle. Looking at the ground, trying to collect myself, I saw a puddle. I watched my car’s life trickle onto the pavement. My head spun, it became a bit difficult to breathe and I sat down on the ground.
My car was leaking transmission fluid.
We were 16 miles from home and had no AAA. I knew I had to tow it to Burlington and that would cost a not-so-pretty penny. Luckily, a DMV patrolman quickly called a wrecker. Half an hour and two chocolate covered pretzels later, our wrecker arrived to take us and my beaten car to the Meineke a block from the house. Well, the bad thing about living in Burlington (and there aren’t many) is that getting to work sans vehicle would be difficult. After attempting to come up with a convoluted and doomed-to-fail plan to borrow Mike Finnegan’s or his girlfriend’s car, former intern Jeff Wehrwein offered to drive Mike and I to museum attendant Deb’s house. She graciously took us in and brought us to the base of the Mount Washington Auto Road.
That’s where the real adventure began. It was snowing pretty hard and we were anxiously waiting the chained van to arrive. We knew we’d be in the snow tractor, with all the snow and wind. We got to our trusty tractor with no issues, but when we opened the door to unload the contents of the van into the tractor, we knew it would be an interesting ride. Even below tree-line, the snow whipped around and pelted us in the face. After loading the tractor we headed up. Everything seemed fine until we turned onto homestretch, facing almost directly southeast. The wind kicked up snow with a nasty vengeance and Wayne stopped the snow tractor. Visibility became nonexistent and seeing just wasn’t an option. Kevan Carpenter, a frequent visitor to the summit ended up walking in front of the tractor, a mid-marker between posts. It couldn’t have been fun. Meanwhile, the vent in the back of the snow tractor was happily spewing snow onto the backs of our neck as we did the hardest thing, wait.
We finally started to inch slowly forward. After what seemed an eternity, we made it to the summit! We were home, but not home free. We still had to unload and load the snow tractor and get the down-going shift down. After a broken down car, extremely stressful transportation planning and complete white out conditions, I have never been so happy to stand another ten minutes in the bitter cold, biting wind, and blowing snow.
So, even though we didn’t fight a war, get turned into pigs by Circe, have a dangerous encounter with sirens, or unexpectedly meet a giant Cyclops named Prometheus, it still feels like we’ve endeavored on an odyssey.
Stacey Kawecki, Observer and Meteorologist