Thursday, August 23, 2012

Goodbye Montana, RIP Ethel, Hello SC

This is going to be a long post. There is a LOT to be covered.

So go ahead and make to that trip to the bathroom you've been thinking about.

Also, better get that drink you wanted too.

Are you ready? Okay...

So I finished my service year in Montana July 22. I was heartbroken to leave Deer Lodge. I never thought I would become so attached but I can honestly saw that, aside from being a little chilly, everything about Montana grew on me. The small town way of life. The long road trips to get anywhere. And definitely the people. I was surprised with a wonderful going away party. I knew something was up, but I had no idea how many people would be there or to what trouble some would go through to make me feel so loved. But it taught me a few things:

1. So far, I have never left a place because I WANTED to leave. I have always moved on because it was time to go.
2. God will always provide no matter where he sends me. So why doubt the place, the time, or the reason?

With that in mind, I continued to pack through my sadness. Many people helped make the process as easy as possible. I had friends volunteer to carry things down from the apartment, pack the car, clean after everything was out, AND let me stay with them the night before my big drive once my apartment was empty, all the while knowing I would never be able to return the favor from my new home across the country. Can you see why I would be so disappointed to leave?

All packed up and ready to go.
Off I went into the wild blue yonder back across the United States to start a new chapter of life in South Carolina. Fortunately, I got to stop and visit friends again along the way back which made the drive SO MUCH better. I meet Mom in SC so we could find an apartment and hope to get settled some before heading to Florida for a visit. After a lot of sketchy areas, we found the perfect place in the form of student housing. Then I popped in to my new VISTA position for a bit before heading down for a quick visit with the family. We are fortunate to have wonderful friends in the area that let me unload most of my stuff so I didn't have to take it to Florida with me, even though I could move it into the apartment yet.

It was great to spend some time with everyone in St. Pete. I was able to visit with a few wonderful old friends and lots of quality time with Mom, Dad, and Brenda. Ethel got an oil change, a bath, Dad cleaned the headlights, and most excitingly, a brand new bumper to fix the damage from the tire that had blown my tail light months earlier. I am proud to say I had all my ducks in a row and paid Ethel off completely 6 months ahead of schedule. No more car payments for me!  I'd already gotten to see the office in SC briefly so I was excited to get back up there and get a move on.

Sunday came. I re-packed the car with everything I had kept with me, plus the goodies I found at home,  kissed the family good bye and went on my way with my paid off, newly repaired and serviced vehicle. It wasn't nearly as hard to say goodbye as it's been in the past because I'd only be 500 miles away this time. Besides, I had a brand new adventure waiting for me the next morning! I was about 2 hours away from home, in traffic, traveling in the slow lane at 70 mph, when the car directly next to me abruptly swerved into my lane. I didn't have time to do anything but move out of the way. When that happened, I had to move so far over so quickly and try to get back in to traffic just as rapidly that my tires got caught on the edge of the road and blew. Ethel fishtailed several times before suddenly rolling down the side of the interstate that was slanted up to become an overpass. After 3 rolls, Ethel finally came to a stop on the driver's side in the median between the interstate and the exit ramp. I had closed my eyes when I realized the car was about to roll to try to keep anything from getting in my eyes. When I opened them, I had no idea what I was in for. Many people stopped to help. I was trapped in the car, but only because the car was on it's side, not because I was pinned. Stuff had flown out of the car all over the interstate. But I was okay. I felt soreness. But I knew I could feel everything, and that was a good sign.

This is the side the car landed on. These pictures were taken the next day when we went back to Ocala to the impound yard to collect all of my stuff out of the car. 

Every window in the car broke except for the front passenger window: the one that would have sent glass shattering down right on top of me, but didn't. 

The hood and trunk absorbed most of the impact from the roll, leaving the front half of the cabin basically untouched. My soft cooler somehow found it's way from my passenger seat, to between me and the broken window on the driver's side. I landed on a squishy cooler instead of a mound of broken glass. Tell me that's not more than coincidence.  
As you can see, poor Ethel is "destroyed" as the insurance appraiser put it. But solely by the will of God I was able to walk out. Through the windshield once the firefighters removed what was left.

They took me by ambulance, tied to a board wearing a terribly uncomfortable neck brace just in case there were injuries I was not feeling. No one could believe I was basically fine. They did x-rays, a trauma scan, and all kinds of checks on my vitals. All came out normal. No bone damage. No internal bleeding. No head injuries. Heck, no broken nails. My family came to get me and we headed back the two hours back home. South Carolina would have to wait.

I can't say I was untouched. I felt pretty rough for at least a few days. I looked like someone used me as a punching bag. But almost all the injuries I had were sustained from the seatbelt holding me in as it was intended to.

Are you ready for the funny story in all this? Because there is one. So rewind to the part where the car goes rolling off the side of the interstate and I close my eyes. I slowly open them and survey the surroundings. I take a deep breath. I don't know weather to cry or throw up. Then, somewhere off in the distance, I hear my trusty GPS (named Dee) say "Recalculating." ... .... ....Yes Dee, we were going to have to recalculate. So I laughed. Somehow not only was I kept safe in all this, but the first thing that came out of it was actually laughter. It all has to be part of a greater plan.

After a brief recovery period back at home, and a frustrating search for a new car, Brenda actually found the perfect thing. Meet Betty:

Betty and I exactly 2 weeks after the accident.
I loved Ethel. And I will always be grateful to her for helping keep me safe. And finding a replacement was an awful challenge. But so far Betty and I are extremely happy together!

So in the span of about a week, I moved into a new apartment, in a new town, with a new (to me) car, starting a new job. Talk about a NEW adventure!  It's a lot of change all at once but at least I know through it all the love and support of friends and family will never change, and neither will God.

Betty and I are in South Carolina now, getting settled and getting to know people. There will be a lot more to report in coming weeks I'm sure. Plus I have to come up with a new blog name now! I think we all know what this means...