Over the last 48 hours I’m sure you’ve seen images of hundreds of vehicles stuck on I-95 in Virginia. Monday’s storm brought enough snow and ice to the mid-Atlantic states to shut down a 50-mile stretch of the highway (along with others not widely reported), stranding some motorists longer than 24 hours in temperatures that fell into the teens.
I’ve been in that situation myself — same time of year, same state, I-64 east of Charlottesville, 25 years ago. I pressed on as heavy, wet snow kept coming down, collapsing trees and partially blocking the Interstate in many places.
I managed to stay just ahead of the road closures and made it to Williamsburg about the time that I-64 was shut down completely. It didn’t reopen for two days.
At the time I was driving a full-size two-wheel-drive pickup truck. Good tires, no chains. Between a northeast-Ohio upbringing and 15 winters in southern New England, I knew how to drive in snow. Slowly and deliberately, I kept moving.
That section of I-95 closed on Monday finally reopened around 8:30pm last night. Now — and we could’ve predicted this — comes hue and cry that government somehow is responsible for the strandings, that government needs to do something to prevent this sort of thing from happening again.
And, believe it or not, some on the Left reflexively are blaming Virginia’s incoming Republican governor — even though he won’t take office until January 15th. Seriously, people?
Obviously, at least to me, a situation like this calls for personal accountability, awareness and a mindset geared toward readiness. That storm was predicted — and even if it hadn’t been, crissakes, it’s winter.
It takes zero effort to stay abreast of the weather and not much more to prepare to travel in it. Fuel never below a half-tank. Food and water, blanket, small shovel, phone-charging cord, all that stuff.
Sure, spending a bitter-cold night snowbound in a car will be uncomfortable, but it’ll be easier with knowledge and the right gear. Choosing to drive into weather like that — and it is, for almost everyone, a choice — is one thing, but there’s absolutely no excuse for being uninformed or ill-prepared.
Deb and I arrived in each other’s lives with that mindset. We’ve practiced preparedness together for years, and we taught it to our boys. What we do goes well past what most folks are willing to undertake, I’ll grant that — then again, our above-and-beyond approach served us well when, for example, we took to the road. And when the “pandemic” nonsense descended on us all, this family plowed right through it.
It’s not that hard to do.
There’s a bigger picture worth considering, while I’m on the subject, another facet to preparedness. Every day that I’m alive and awake, experiences unfold in front of me — full of practical lessons begging to be learned.
Some lessons stuck with me by accident, or I didn’t discover their value ’til much later. Looking back I see that my bushcraft skills are rooted in my Scouting experience over 50 years ago, thanks to patient instruction from a Scoutmaster who was a consummate outdoorsman. I learned to pack light in the late ’70s, backcountry-trekking in and around Glacier Park. While traveling by motorcycle and camping as I toured, most of it in the ’80s and ’90s, I developed a minimalist approach to living outdoors and learned the value of quality gear.
Most of what I know about electric traces to my first college roommate, watching him hook up car stereos and the like.
Four years of heating my home with wood brought lessons on choosing, harvesting and processing firewood. When Deb and I fell on wrenchingly difficult times, right after we married, I learned to get by with almost nothing.
Time working in the knife business spiked my appreciation and passion with actual knowledge. A subsequent four-year stint behind the counter of a gun shop taught me more than I could’ve imagined it would.
Camping (glamping) for a season in our Bumper Bunker laid the foundation for virtually everything we’ve done during our odyssey aboard Ernie — communication and navigation, understanding an RV’s systems, keeping a maintenance routine, thriving in a small space, living this nomadic life.
As we turn our attention now toward The Mountain, I know I’ll be mining every one of those experiences and many more. Deb and I believe that our American Life has brought us here, readying us for this moment.
That said, every day I’m reminded that I don’t know shit. I’m confronting so many things that I’ve never done, or don’t do well, or am completely unfamiliar with.
I have more to learn, and I don’t have decades to wait for the lessons to stick. That’ll require humility and presence.
Which brings me back to the subject of preparedness.
Whether you’re in your 20s or in your 80s or somewhere in between, your life experiences inform who you are — what you value, what you know, what you can do and what you seek to accomplish. You’ve learned countless lessons along the way. Some of them stuck.
Every bit of that has the potential to feed a preparedness mindset. All that’s missing is commitment and a willingness to never stop learning.
Suppose you got up tomorrow morning and made that your purpose — learning, I mean. Imagine being consciously present in the experiences of the day, each moment, task and interaction. The lessons would be inescapable.
Naturally, you’d be smarter. Even better, you’d be ready.
That’s how it works. Life is formal education. Get on with it.
Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.