I immediately collapsed on the bed in the air-conditioning, and set about to pulling up my email/twitter/facebook on my computer (I'd been out of touch with the rest of the world for almost 15 hours at this point!), dad was settling in watching TV, and grandma and grandpa were in their room next door.
And that's when this "dream trip" became a nightmare...
Without warning, we were all sitting there in the dark - the only light coming from my computer that was operating on battery backup at this point. It was also suddenly very quiet in the room as the TV and air-conditioner were no longer running...and that's when we heard the wind that had picked up outside. Drawing the shades open, there were trees bending in the wind...not swaying ... BENDING. Rain was pouring from the sky in sheets, and debris was flying all over the place from who knows where! Lightning, thunder...you name it, it was happening out there. We opened the door to take in the cooler temps and watched the storm roll by as we waited for the electricity to come back on.
And we waited....
And waited some more...
We checked with management at the hotel, thinking maybe they had been in touch with someone from the electric company and could give us an idea of what we were in for.
But they did offer us candles for light!
Or rather...a candle. A single little tea light candle...that had already been partially burned. Eh...thanks, but no thanks. I had a flashlight in my car. (Wouldn't that be a major fire hazard anyway??)
We soon learned that the power outage was fairly wide-spread, as in the whole town was out. And from the number of sirens and emergency vehicles that were passing by the hotel, gut instinct told us that this was not going to be a quick fix, so we decided to play the part of our ancestors, and go to bed with the sun. There was nothing to do, nowhere to go, the evening bugs were starting to attack...so we got ready for bed.
Obviously sleeping with the door wide open was not a safe or secure thing to do, and when I looked at the windows to open them...the window cranks had been removed! On top of that, they had been sealed shut from the outside with screws. Anyone bring a toolbox on this trip? aackk. Door closed. Windows closed. 85 degrees at 9:00pm. It was going to be a long night with little sleep.
I'm not a morning person...at all. But it was pretty easy waking up the next morning at 6:30 with the sunrise just to take in some fresh morning air after sleeping in our hot, stuffy room all night.
Next problem. The power outage was not only town-wide...it was two-thirds of the state of Ohio AND into West Virginia (across the river from us) which was in a state of emergency. Think this through. No electricity means no restaurants to eat at. (I had crackers and warm Mt. Dew in my cooler if it came to it!) No electricity also meant no gas could be pumped at the gas stations. I knew my car was nearly full, so pretty quickly in my own my mind I decided that my car was not going anywhere unless it was on it's way home.
Our plans to go over to Huntington, WV that day were obviously scrapped, but we decided to take in the country-side there in Gallia County and visit the family cemeteries that were on our list before we parted ways and headed home. We purchased breakfast from a convenience store that was running on a generator ...powdered donuts, bottled juice, and coffee, and we set off on our next adventure...
The previous night's storm had left a mess. Trees - LARGE trees were down everywhere!
We came first to Mound Hill Cemetery - not really on our list, but we were told the view from the top was amazing. The first thing we saw made my heart drop a little...
Trees were toppled here as well. But we found "the view" that we were looking for.
The town of Gallipolis on the banks of the Ohio River.
After leaving Mound Hill, we had 4 locations to visit...I had 5, actually, but that 5th one just wasn't going to be an option anymore given the current state of things. But we made it out to Hulbert Cemetery first... If our family has any kind of a family cemetery...this one is it. Not that any of us want to be buried there - although the idea is running in the back of my head. Anyway....
This cemetery is located on land that was once owned by my 4th great-grandfather, Lester Hulbert, so I feel a sense of ownership with this place...But having the Cochran Family name on the sign kind-of annoyed me...Don't worry, I'm working on reigning those emotions in and being thankful for their generosity.
Two more cemetery stops, with grandma complaining the entire time about how my family had lived "way out in the boonies" and "what were they thinking living out here in the wild?" It was country-side, pure and simple. The roads were all paved for us...well, except for that one...that wound up and around and dead ended at a gravel road that went up...and around. But we made it just fine and without running into any copperheads or rattlesnakes that we had been warned of the day before.
Finally we headed back into town....which was still dead with no power...and cars were beginning to line the street of the only gas station that had a generator. It was time to cut our losses and head home. The park that I wanted to photograph was still being cleared of debris, restaurants were all still closed, none of us wanted to spend another night in a hotel without working windows or air-conditioning and honestly, the lines at the gas stations were starting to scare me into wondering if I really did have enough gas to make it far enough north to where there wouldn't be a 3 hour wait to fill my car. Yep. It was definitely time to get out of Dodge.
This was not how I anticipated this trip turning out. Not a complete waste of time, but it was incredibly disappointing all the same. Traveling 800 miles in 36 hours was exhausting, but I can at least say that I have been there...I've seen the town where my ancestors lived and I've walked in their footsteps.
And it's all good.