Thursday, April 14, 2016

20th Baylor Girls (and families) Reunion ~ Part 2

In an effort to finish what I started, here's part II of our BU 20th reunion ~ from last year. Much more current stuff going on, and I recognize that about four people are going to be interesting in this specific account of our reunion last year, but it's worth it to me to chronicle the event. A memorable weekend with a very memorable road trip!

 ~ The Road to Reunion ~
As I mentioned in my previous "Part 1" post...

Last May we gathered as families for our 20th Baylor Girls reunion at Kristin's family's WenBar ranch near Vanderpool, TX. As we traveled the roads  toward Texas' Hill Country, we would never have dreamed that this Memorial Day weekend would bring such tragedy to Texas through storms and floods. But for our group, even with the drama of intense weather and storms, it was a more-than-we-could-have-dreamed-for weekend.

Our crew started the party Friday evening with the Brogdons and Parkinsons coming to stay with us in Fort Worth before driving another five hours (or so we thought) to the ranch Saturday. The Lawrences met up with us early Saturday morning and we left our house with happy spirits ~ the four moms in one car with a couple of daughters, and the rest of our thirteen kids mixed and matched in different cars according to age groups. After an hour of situating who was riding with who, literally mapping it out with pencil and paper, we got on the road and stopped several hours later for burgers at Storms Restaurant in Hamilton (a little ironic...) for a late lunch.
Playing at our home Sat morning before getting on the road
Lunch in Leaky, TX. All fun and games before the storm.
We drove through Comfort, TX when the rain began pounding. I said, "Wow, look at how high the water is on these streets," having no idea of our ordeal ahead. A couple of our husbands about ten miles ahead called and told us to turn around now, that they were trapped just past Comfort. We made a U-turn and headed up towards Kerrville, where we got another call to push forward and just get to the ranch as quickly as possible.
This happened time and again - no matter how many times we re-routed our path, the swollen Frio river blocked all the crossings throughout our Hill Country travel

To keep this brief, let me just say that our crazy, stressful journey of precariously meandering through flooding small-town roads towards the ranch that sits half-way between Leakey (more irony) and Vanderpool, ended in a Hail Mary, two-hour midnight re-route south to San Antonio. We ventured south on (thankfully - non-flooding) I-10, landing at several hard-to-find $175 motel rooms -  evidently the only rooms available in all of central Texas. We arrived in the pounding rain, tearfully greeting our our exhausted husbands and children (who engaged in similar journeys) after thirteen "unsuccessful" hours in the car.

These cuties in the back of our car with four (mostly not hysterical) moms
A few memorable things about that travel day ~

- "Well here we are in Comfort... again."

- "Isn't this the same gas station we stopped at, say, five hours ago?"

- Esther propped in the backseat of the Lawrence's car, my phone in her hand (which meant I did not have my phone throughout our adventurous ordeal), reading all of the weather alerts to Jeff as he drove a car full of little kiddos.
I found about 30 of these selfies on my phone. Snapped at a less-than-worried moment.
- From another mom in my car, "TJ, thank you for driving in this mess!" To which I responded, "Nan watched flooding the roads for me, navigating, and it was a group effort ~ we had all seven eyes on the road."(Aimee!)

- DubSmash entertainment circulating from car to car... think I give the award to Molly's solo chihuahua interpretation. But the kids cracked us up with their cameo songs.

- Saturday evening, separated from all the guys, and after several failed efforts to get across the Frio River and the "Little Dry Frio River" (!), we headed back to a little Mexican restaurant in Leakey, hoping the water rushing over the roads would subside. They would not. During dinner all four of us moms responded with a little surprise that margaritas were not an option because we were in a dry county, but it was the responses from the pastors' wives in our group that ended with 1) a reprimand by the young waitress, "That would be illegal, M'am" and 2) being begged by her daughter to please not end this very-hard day by getting us all thrown in jail.

- Aimee, "Are they even worried about us? They're all (8 other families) at the ranch house, just sitting around and eating and drinking margaritas, and do they even know what we're going through? All I need is a text, just saying they are worried. Is that too much to ask??"

- On the phone with Kristin from the ranch home phone. While she was sympathetic to our travels, we heard plenty of raucous laughter in the background. When Nan asked Eric if they were the least bit worried about us, he immediately replied, "Yes, we're fasting."

- Amidst road closings and watery dead ends, it became our little fantasy game, "Let's guess what they're all doing at the ranch??" We realized later that our visions of that evening at the ranch house were through rose colored imaginations - they had a fun but full night with eight families trapped in the home due to heavy rain and flooding of a river on the property. Maybe our twenty-two person caravan was better suited driving around all night than all being crammed into one home with nowhere to go.

- In the pitch-black rainy night we stopped along the side of a two-lane road just outside of Leaky, Tx at 11pm, not knowing where to drive because all of the towns within a couple of hours were booked. All of our husbands had re-routed to Bandera and Hondo, and we had spotty-to-no cell service when Aimee placed an urgent phone call to a friend in San Antonio, whom she hadn't talked with in about fice years: "Hey Casey, it's Aimee... Parkinson. Hey, we are stuck driving around in all of these storms with no where to sleep tonight, and apparently all of the hotel rooms in this part of the state are booked. So I know it's late, and we're still a couple of hours from San Antonio, but I think you have a big house, and could we just come over and sleep in your den tonight? Like, twenty-two of us? Just give me a quick call back when you get this, love ya!" 

- Our pretend tornado, that it took my breath away. Evidence that delirium had set in.

- Jessica driving into San Antonio, perched over the steering wheel and praying she could see the lane markers on the busy highway. Arriving at our motel, Todd greeted us with a wry grin, "So this is what we've been missing all these years?"
Regrouping Sunday morning at the Motel 6. An insanely expensive, price-gouging-in-the-storm Motel 6. 

- We woke Sunday morning in our motel to cloudy skies and sort of renewed spirits. After a quick and necessary Starbucks stop we headed toward the WenBar ranch. The unforgiving Frio continued to swell over roads and spillways. The owner of Lost Maples Cabins called and said, "There's only one way in, and you'll need me to guide you." She graciously drove out to meet us in Utopia, TX to serve as our escort.
Waiting in Utopia for our escort over the still-flooding roads
Travel wasn't getting much smoother
I'm probably glad not to know what they're laughing about
- While we waited in Utopia, she called again, "Well, the roads are blocked. But this time, it's not water. It's a medical evacuation."

- 15-year-old Adeline, my college roommate's daughter, was being airlifted from an ambulance to a San Antonio hospital from anaphylactic shock, the victim of a handful of ant bites. We all looked at each other, feeling more than a little helpless. Careflight was the quickest, and only, way over those swollen rivers that morning. Later we learned that another storm cell had squatted right over University hospital around that time, so Careflight actually landed at an Air Force Base and then another ambulance rushed Adeline (and her daddy Eric) to the hospital.  Those were some downright mean, poisonous, and expensive ants.

Obviously, we made it to the ranch and the to rest of our group. Our not-quite-24 hours together were worth the hours and hours of travel (to most everyone ~ Abagail - ha!) but it was definitely a memory. Our full day at the ranch was followed by a stressful drive home avoiding tornadoes - seriously. But our group made it safe and sound with a few stories tucked away in the process.
Part III to come...