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travel

KN, p.187 “On the Road – Get Ready for the Blizzard”

 

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“Blizzard? What blizzard? It’s 70 degrees outside!” That’s Sheila talking as she looks over my shoulder.

 

I’ll have you know that there have been several snowfalls in the USA already. Montana and Colorado had measurable snow in October, no less. In mid-November, Minnesota had so much of the white stuff that there were cars and trucks stuck on the roads for a while.

 

I never think about being prepared to get stuck for hours because I live in one of the most densely populated areas of the country. If traffic stops for any length of time, people have been known to get out of their cars, leave them on the highway and walk to the houses close by. That can cause a LOT of headaches when snow plows come through during the blizzards.

 

But, it’s not an option to leave the car in the middle of no place during a blizzard when you might be miles away from help. It’s usually warmer inside the car, plus it’s a shelter until help does arrive.

 

What do you do when you get caught traveling to a vacation spot or a storm moves in more quickly than the weatherman predicted? It is possible to die if help is a long time coming or your car gets buried in snow, so how do you avoid that?

 

To borrow a phrase from the Boy Scouts, Be Prepared.

 

If the weatherman isn’t sure about the path of the storm and you need to get somewhere a couple of hours away, follow these tips:

 

  1. Make sure you have a full gas tank.
  2. Let someone at your destination know your predicted arrival time.
  3. Charge your cell phone.
  4. Travel with snacks and several bottles of water for each passenger.
  5. Toss a couple of blankets in the car, just in case.
  6. Always travel with flashlights, but before the trip, check the battery power.
  7. Keep kitty litter in the trunk, in case you get stuck and need traction to get out of the slick spot.
  8. Buy a short shovel (available in auto supply stores) and leave it in the trunk.

 

If the storm hits unexpectedly while you are on the road and you can no longer see to drive (or the roads are hazardous) stop the car and pull over if you can.

 

  1. Stay inside the car.
  2. Run the motor for ten minutes every hour.
  3. Open the windows just a crack to avoid carbon monoxide buildup inside the car.
  4. Make sure the exhaust pipe is not blocked
  5. Tie a colorful scarf to the door. During a white-out, this will help the road crews find you more quickly.
  6. Make sure to stay hydrated.
  7. Exercise to keep warm – swing arms and legs as much as possible for a few minutes out of every 30.

 

 

Be smart about it and travel safely this winter. Better yet – stay off the roads until they are clear.

 

*Photo by Patti Phillips

 

 

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KN, p.172 “On the Road: Don’t lose your ID!”

 

AmericanTermBDSCF1241 copy

Almost anyone that travels via commercial airlines has a story to tell about lost luggage, flight delays, or the latest TSA rules. It was such a hot topic among my buddies right before one of my trips that I did a little research and posted, “What does the TSA really do?” Read it here.

 

Just recently, Sheila and I got to experience first hand the TSA techniques for handling undocumented travelers. Yup. Undocumented. Sheila misplaced her official photo ID (her driver’s license) and had to not only prove who she was, but go through a very thorough search to boot.

 

Here’s how it played out:

 

We took the hotel shuttle van to the local airport, ready to fly out on a commuter leg that would get us to a major hub. Something told me to take an early shuttle van, so we arrived three hours before the flight. We had checked into our flight while still at the hotel and already had our boarding passes, so we rolled our suitcases up to the baggage check-in area, expecting a quick handover of the lightly packed bags.

 

Sheila took out her wallet, but couldn’t find her driver’s license, so she waved me ahead. The airline agent checked mine and took my bag. I stepped away and looked over at my wife. She was frowning. The agent wasn’t busy yet, so he stood there, watching. Sheila took every single piece of paper and credit card out of her wallet, but could not find the license. She had grocery cards, office supply cards, medical ID cards, but no license. Gulp.

 

“Is it possible you put it somewhere else for some reason?” he asked, so very kindly.

 

She took apart her briefcase and her tote bag, piece by paper by book. She turned everything upside down and shook it.

 

“The last time I remember seeing it was when we checked into the hotel.” She sounded a touch panicky.

 

The agent walked away to take care of other people and we called the hotel. We were put on hold for fifteen minutes while the hotel manager looked in the safe. No ID.

 

Sheila took everything apart again. I called the agent over and asked what would happen if she couldn’t find her ID. Would Sheila be able to board the plane in this post 9/11 world?

 

“Does she have a passport with her?” (We weren’t that far from the Canadian border, so that was a reasonable question.)

“We weren’t planning on leaving the country, so, no.”

 

He called a TSA supervisor, who explained that they would have to establish Sheila’s identity through the Homeland Security Office and after that, conduct an extensive search, a process that could take up to six hours. We would probably miss the flight – the last one of the day.

 

Anyone that flies in the United States knows that photo ID is required in order to buy an airline ticket and to board the plane. It is usually a driver’s license, but can also be a passport or an official non-driver’s license photo ID. Mom, who no longer drove and whose license had expired years before, had to get one of those in order to fly.

 

Photo ID is also required when checking into a reputable hotel – not the fly-by-night or rent-by-the-hour type.

 

Sheila and I had just finished a great weekend at a Police Academy training site – yes, she had fun, too. She shot an AR-15 for the first time and even had a tight grouping on the target.

 

As the flight time loomed closer, Sheila decided to give up digging for her license and undergo the search and questioning. The officers made a call to the regional Homeland Security office and agreed to accept her business card photo (the card also had her name, website, and email address) that she did have in her wallet. Since several people with their legitimate driver’s licenses had vouched for her, as long as she could pass the questioning phase and go along with the search, she might be able to board. I think it helped that there were cops in the group who vouched for her.

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Sheila’s suitcases had been placed on the side, away from everyone else’s. An officer opened them up, pulled everything out, and began the questioning.

 

“Why are you here?”

“What was the conference about?”

“What was the best class?”

“What do you do for a living?”

“What hotel did you stay in?”

“How long were you there?”

“Who ran the conference?”

 

The questions went on for twenty minutes. The personal search was conducted in front of the public, but the officer was polite/efficient and Sheila was focused on getting on that flight.

 

We did make the flight – barely. But, still puzzled as to what had happened to the license that she always puts in the same place.

 

It was midnight when we got home, but Sheila pulled everything out again. The last thing she looked at was the only item that she had not bothered with at the airport. The badge from the conference. It has a slot behind the name tag that attendees use to store business cards and hotel key cards. Very convenient. Sheila had helped sell raffle tickets at the banquet, thought that a purse would be in the way, so stuck her license and room card in that slot.

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At least nobody stole her ID, a nightmare both of us had considered.

 

Lesson to be learned:

 

Stick to your normal routines for keys and licenses when traveling. We have those routines for a reason – so that we don’t forget where we put them. Ooops!

 

We had visions of staying quite a while in the airport. We were lucky that we happened to be traveling at the same time as so many other people who had attended the same conference. We were lucky that Sheila had a business card with her photo on it. We were lucky that reason had prevailed.

 

*Photos by Patti Phillips

 

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KN, p. 171 “Visit to Antietam”

 

Dunker Church

Dunker Church

We are a military family and in honor of those who served, Sheila and I have visited several battlefields/military cemeteries in recent years. The 2016 destination? Antietam – a Civil War battlefield in Maryland named after the creek in Sharpsburg.

 

The night before the Battle of Antietam was to begin in the farming town, soldiers gathered in the woods behind Dunker Church. On September 17, 1862, Generals Robert E. Lee (Confederate) and George McClellan (Union) made their stands, determined to break (or hold) the Union front.

 

Antietam is remembered not only for its political importance, but also for being the bloodiest single day in American military history. About 23,000 souls (out of combined forces of about 100,000) were either killed, wounded or lost – a quarter of the area soldiers were out of commission, a devastating toll.

 

A film shown at the Antietam Visitor’s Center revealed that the battle itself was the result of accidentally acquired information about Lee’s plans, but some say that the incredible losses were the result of poorly formed battle strategy on both sides. Communication between the generals was spotty and at times, the enlisted men took things into their own hands after their officers were cut down.

 

The Sunken Road was the center of intense fighting for several hours and when the outnumbered Confederate forces were finally surrounded and killed, hundreds of bodies lay piled high throughout the length of what came to be called Bloody Lane.

The Sunken Road

The Sunken Road

 

 

Burnside Bridge changed hands several times during the day. Whoever held the high ground was able to see the enemy approach and could easily pick the soldiers off, one by one.

Burnside Bridge

Burnside Bridge

 

Eye witness accounts in letters reveal that often, single lines of men walked straight into the fire of the opposition, with little or no cover. Small groups continued to be picked off and there were so many bullets flying that it was hard to keep out of the way.

 

Nestled in a rolling valley in Maryland, today’s landscape is peaceful, beautiful – devoid of any signs of war except for the occasional statue or monument to the sacrifices of the brave men that lost their lives almost 154 years ago. Those rolling hills created several areas of high ground for the 500 cannons employed effectively by both sides.

Cannon with New York

Cannon with New York Monument in background

 

That restful view belies the actual aftermath of the Battle. So many men were wounded

Maryland Monument

Maryland Monument

that every building for miles around – school, home, business, barn – was used as a hospital. Never before had battlefield medicine been so severely tested. While the U.S. Sanitary Commission had been established the year before to help with distribution of supplies to hospitals, the aide was stretched beyond its limits.

 

The Sharpsburg region was devastated by the battle, racked by death and disease, stripped of food and supplies by both armies, and transformed forever by the impact of the fighting. Many local civilians lost their homes and farms to the combat and were never compensated by either side for that loss and destruction, despite their loyalty to the cause.

 

Clara Barton, who would later form the Red Cross, gave aid to soldiers from both sides and eventually organized the practice of giving assistance to civilians after natural disasters.

 

Neither side was a clear winner at the end of the day, but when the out manned and under supplied Confederates retreated back into Virginia, the Union counted it as a victory and Lincoln was able to use that as a bargaining chip to push the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation forward.

 

September 18, 1862 was a day that both sides gathered and tried to bury the dead, but

Antietam National Cemetery

Antietam National Cemetery

it took days to bury the 3,500 bodies. Union soldiers were re-buried in the area now known as Antietam National Cemetery, while Confederate soldiers were ultimately buried in local graveyards.

 

For more information about Antietam, the battlefield, and the museum, please visit:

 

https://www.nps.gov/anti/planyourvisit/hours.htm

 

http://www.civilwar.org/battlefields/antietam.html

 

https://www.nps.gov/anti/index.htm

 

http://www.npr.org/2012/09/17/161248814/antietam-a-savage-day-in-american-history

 

https://www.nps.gov/anti/learn/historyculture/arty.htm

 

Our visit to Antietam was a sobering experience; the exhibits pointing out so clearly  the terrible price that both soldiers and civilians pay for the freedoms we enjoy. If you truly want to understand the importance of what transpired at Antietam on September 17, 1862, read up on it. Better yet, take time to visit the area.

 

*Photos by Patti Phillips

 

 

 

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