Copyright© 2017 by Ernest Bywater
On the Road Again
All of David’s summer semester classes are over: the last exam is done, the last assignment is handed in, the major project is finished, he’s all packed up and ready to leave. The staff check his room and sign off on it being correct, so he hands in this last piece of paperwork before heading to the car park to leave the university and Albuquerque. Four weeks ago he visited Window Rock to transfer his vehicle registration and driver’s license back to Jason’s address. While there he picked up his concealed carry permit, and he was surprised it was done so fast. It was issued by Arizona because his long-term residential address is still with Long Arrow in Window Rock. It also has endorsements by the states of Texas and New Mexico, plus the Federal Department of Justice. The last means he’s legal in all of the other states.
A few minutes after leaving the university car park David is at the local police station signing out the 9 mm Beretta M9 pistol plus his .22 rifle they have in their gun-safe for him because he didn’t want to keep them on the university grounds. The pistol slips into the cross-draw holster on his belt and he puts his rifle in the car’s gun-safe.
It’s still early morning of a Wednesday in late July and he has no set destination because he just wants to see a lot more of the country. His initial direction is east to Amarillo so he can see another part of Texas he hasn’t seen yet. From there he plans to go to Dallas, then south to Corpus Christi, and back along the gulf coast to Florida. David intends to make many stops along the way.
David has some sandwiches and drinks on the seat beside him when he leaves Albuquerque, so he sees no reason to stop until he’s tired of driving. He cruises along at or just below the speed limit, only leaving the right hand lane to pass the few vehicles going a bit slower than he is. The traffic is light enough he can safely look around at the countryside a lot, and he likes what he sees. Interstate 40 is a good road to drive on, compared to the local roads he’s used to driving on near Window Rock, and a lot less traffic than what he’s seen on the roads in Albuquerque.
A few hours later David turns off Interstate 40 onto South Mountain Road on the south-eastern edge of Tucumcari to have a hot lunch. There are two truck stops here with one on each side of South Mountain Road. He chooses the one on his left simply because he’ll be able to make an easy right-hand turn out of the parking area when he leaves. Although he still has plenty of fuel he stops to fill up first, just to be safe, and it only takes a few minutes. David moves to the main car park, pulling through one bay to park in the one behind it. This way he’s facing out without him having to reverse in or out of it.
Once parked David stands, takes his large Thermos and rubbish into the back, rinses out the Thermos, and puts the trash into a bag. With the Thermos and trash bag in his left hand he opens the back door, gets out, and stops to make sure the door locks properly. As usual he looks all around him before he starts to walk across the car park. There’s a sedan with the motor running and a driver in it parked in the spot closest to the building entrance, so it’s obviously waiting for someone to come out.
David takes two more steps then stops when he hears two gunshots. He drops to a squat while putting the things in his left hand on the ground at the same moment his right hand draws his pistol. He’s quick to have it up and in both hands, but the three men charging out of the restaurant’s front door are fast too. The men are armed and scanning the area around them. One sees David and he starts to raise his pistol. That’s as far as he gets. David rapid fires two rounds into his chest, using what Long Arrow calls a ‘double tap,’ switches to target and do the same to the other two gunmen at the same time as they look at him and raise their guns. All three are down, so David looks around for further dangers.
The idling car pulls out of the parking bay to race toward the exit. It isn’t a threat to David so he simply notes the license number. After a full check of the area David puts his gun away, gets his carry permit out, clips it to his shirt pocket, collects his Thermos and bag, and he walks over to the restaurant just as two men walk out the front door.
One of the men is on the phone, so David calls out to the other man and asks him, “Anyone inside hurt?”
The man shakes his head no as he replies, “No, the people were fast to hit the floor, so the shots missed them.” The two of them don’t have much time to chat before some Sheriff’s Deputies arrive. Then both are very busy giving statements. The car David saw is found abandoned a few miles away, it was stolen shortly before the robbery.
Two hours later David leaves after giving his statement, paying for his fuel, dumping the rubbish, having a hot meal, refilling his Thermos with hot chocolate, and getting four cold roast beef sandwiches to eat while on the road. In the early evening he reaches Amarillo with no further problems and he spends a couple of days looking around the town, just like any other tourist.
Note: In a search of the places where the deceased robbers lived the police find evidence of their involvement in over a dozen other armed robberies in the area. The driver of the getaway car is never identified well enough to charge anyone. However, the number of armed robberies in the area has a significant drop.
When he tells Jason about the incident David is told to replace the barrel, which he does at a large gunsmith shop in Amarillo. He gets a good deal by buying a set of six barrels in a pack.
A few weeks later David gets a phone call from the headquarters of the restaurant chain. A week later he collects a card as a VIP customer sent to a store he nominates as it entitles him to a discount at all their stores.
David changes his mind on his travel route so he leaves Amarillo on Interstate 40 to go east to Oklahoma City. He spends a few days there before going south on Interstate 44 to Lawton for a few hours then down to Wichita Falls for the rest of the day. His next stop is Dallas to see what he didn’t see last time he was there, and to visit with Pauline. After talking with her he makes further changes to his travel plans to spend a day in Austin, two days in San Antonio, two days in the Houston area, with a short visit to Galveston, then along Interstate 10 to Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
It takes David three weeks of regular stopping at points of interest to get from Houston, Texas, to Tampa, Florida, by driving along Interstate 10 to Tallahassee, Florida, before cutting off it to go down through Perry on US 19 to Port Richey. It’s now the last week of August.
David is coming up on a set of red traffic lights when they change to green. He continues to slow down while the traffic in front of him moves off from the lights. There are four lanes with the left hand lane being a left turn only lane. He’s in the middle straight ahead lane with a dozen motorcycles ahead of him in six rows of two motorcycles each, they’re moving away from the lights and there are four cars in the two lanes on either side of him just starting to move. The left turn lane is empty until a car enters it to zip up the lane then cut back into the straight ahead traffic in the middle of the intersection after using the left turn lane to queue jump at the lights.
There’s plenty of space between the queue jumper and the car in the lane right beside him when he cuts back because the car is slow off the stop line. Although against the law there’s no actual danger in the actions of the queue jumper at that point. But he cuts back right so hard he slides a little into the middle straight ahead lane. If it had been a car in the lane he would probably have got away with it. However, the bikes are fast off the line and are quick to accelerate up to speed. The queue jumper clips the front left bike and knocks it over. The bike goes down and slides across into the bike beside it with one of the riders in the next row laying his bike down too. The rest are able to go around the downed bikes.
The other motorcycle riders go around the three bike pile-up and stop in the lane. David drives up to just before the downed riders and bikes, stops, puts on his hazard lights, turns the engine off, and goes into the back of the truck. Opening his paramedic cupboard he gets out his paramedic vest, slips it on, puts his paramedic ID on, grabs his two main kits, and goes out the back door. The driver behind him honks their horn, and David ignores the car while he jogs around the truck.
Within seconds of the bikes going down David is there checking the injured. The last rider down isn’t hurt as his clothing protected him from any road rash. The other two aren’t so lucky. David applies a bandage to a bleeding thigh while thinking, Looks like a clean cut to the outer thigh. It could’ve been bad if it was the inner thigh. He says, “Call for an ambulance. This one needs to go to a hospital to see a doctor.”
Another rider says, “I called it in. They’re on their way.” David nods his understanding of the report while he finishes with the bandage and starts to cut open the jeans to get a better look at the broken leg.
It’s a simple fracture so David says, “Don’t move. I need to check on your mate, then I’ll splint this if the ambulance isn’t here by then.” The injured man nods agreement. David moves to the other downed rider, cuts his pants leg open, and checks his simple fracture. No visible blood on this one, also both men have good colour and are breathing well so he thinks they don’t have any serious internal injuries, but the hospital will check that. He gets out the gear he needs and he starts applying a splint.
He’s so focused on what he’s doing David isn’t aware of the traffic sounds, beyond noting cars passing them in the other lanes. Then he jumps when a woman’s voice asks, “Right, what have we got?”
David glances up to see a woman in a paramedic uniform kneeling on the other side of the man he’s working on. He says, “Simple fracture on this one. The other has a simple fracture I’ve not yet put a splint on and a deep cut in his right thigh I put a compression bandage on. Can you start on the other splint while I finish this one?”
She grins as she says, “My partner has that in hand. Who are you?”
“I’m David Jones. Take my ID lanyard to get the info for your forms. I’m a qualified AEMT on holiday and I saw this. So I stopped to help.”
“Right, I’ll start the paperwork,” and she moves behind him to lift his ID over his head. A moment later she’s back to ask him questions about what he saw of the cut and what he did. David tells her while he finishes putting the splint on this man. A moment later David sits up, reads the forms when she holds them out, signs where he has to sign as a treating paramedic, and makes a note of the treatment form numbers. She helps him pack up his gear and take it to put away in his truck. She says, “I see you’re well equipped.” She hands him his ID lanyard and a business card with the address of the hospital, “Go to the hospital and tell them what you need to replace in your kit.”
“Thanks. I’ll go there when the cops say I can.” She smiles, and leaves to help her partner load up the injured.
David walks over to where a Sheriff’s Deputy is talking to some of the riders and asks, “Got a moment, Deputy?” The deputy turns to look at him. “I was behind this group when it happened, let’s see what my car’s cameras caught. I’ve got full high definition coverage.”
Another voice says, “That’ll make the reports a lot easier.” David and the deputy turn around to see a deputy with sergeant’s stripes. “I’ll look at the video while you continue getting information from the riders, Bo.” The first deputy nods agreement, and he turns back to the riders.
While they walk to the back of his truck David says, “I can copy the video to a DVD or a USB drive for you. Which do you want?”
“I think we’ll take both. The DVD will be a good permanent record while the USB drive will be easier to pass along.” David nods yes while he opens the back door. They get in and move up to the seats. While he opens the video software the Sergeant says, “Before we start the video give me your verbal statement, please.” David smiles, gives his name, then starts to tell him what he saw and did. The Sergeant writes it down at the same time as the recorder he put out records the verbal report.
There’s not much to say, so David’s statement is short. However, the video records are interesting and David ends up copying all of his cam recordings for several minutes onto a DVD and a USB drive. The rear camera shows the driver involved was speeding, came up to the lights in the same lane as David, cut left, zipped around, cut back, hit the bike, and took off at high speed. The quality of the recording makes it easy for David to freeze a few frames to get the car’s number, which the Sergeant writes down before putting out an alert on his personal radio. David also makes two more copies on DVD. He puts one away in his safe and he takes the other with him when they leave the truck.
The remaining bikers are busy putting the two damaged bikes in the back of a pickup truck while the third rider is checking his bike over, and he often nods his head to confirm some aspect is working right. The bike is right to go, so he’ll ride it away. The Sergeant shakes David’s hand and leaves with the other deputy in his wake.
David walks over and asks, “Who’s in charge of your group?”
One of the riders turns to him as he says, “I am, at the moment. Thanks for treating our guys.”
Holding out the DVD David says, “Here’s a copy of the video. You may want to give it to a lawyer to sue the car driver for damages. The Sergeant has a copy and he’s already put out an alert for the car.” The man takes the DVD and nods his thanks. While holding up the hospital card David asks, “Can you tell me how to get to this hospital?”
“We’re about to go there. Just follow us when we get started.”
“Good. I also need to know of a decent cheap mobile home park I can stay in for a few days. I can camp out, but the cops don’t like me to camp in the streets. Also, a park is better for getting washing done.”
“We know of a good one over in Lutz. If you wait while we check on our people in the hospital we’ll take you over and introduce you.”
“Thanks, that’ll help. I’m David Light Arrow Jones.”
The rider introduces himself while shaking David’s hand, “They call me Mouse.“ David looks at the man, and estimates him to be about six and a half feet tall with shoulders three and a half feet wide, solid build with little fat. He has to be the biggest mouse in the world. David opens his mouth, and is told, “Don’t ask, you don’t want to know why.” David simply nods to him and goes to his truck, chuckling at the man’s name.
The amount of time David spends sorting out the paperwork to get replacement bandages and splints is close to the same amount of time the bike riders spend waiting for and talking with their friends. All of them are ready to go about the same time. The time David had planned to spend checking out St Petersburg and the beaches he’d heard about was spent with the crash and its follow-up events. So instead of looking for a place to stay in St Petersburg or Clearwater he’s following some bikers to a place called Lutz he’d never heard of before.
The Mobile Home Park
When they get to the mobile home park they’re stopped by a guard at the gate. The lead biker stops to talk to the guard, and one rider rolls his bike back to beside David’s window. The rider says, “Hap will be here in a moment and he’ll introduce you to the manager. Thanks for seeing to the Prez for us.” He moves forward again before David can reply.
A man arrives in a golf-cart and talks to Mouse for a few minutes. Then the bikes turn around to leave while the man walks over to David. He bends over and says, “Follow me, I’ll introduce you to Mattie.” He also takes off before David can say a word. But the golf-cart doesn’t go far, just over to a building with the word ‘Office’ on a sign outside of it.
David parks in the marked visitors spot, gets out, and joins the man in the office just in time to hear him say, “Got a man here for you to look after real well, Mattie. He’s done a favour for some friends, so I want you to do right by him.” He stops, turns to David, and says, “This is Mattie, she’ll fix you up with a place to stay. I’m Hap. If you need anything ask for me and I’ll get it for you.”
David holds out his hand while saying, “David Light Arrow Jones, Hap. Glad to meet you, and thanks for the introduction to Mattie.”
“I’ve got to get back on patrol. I’ll see you around. Enjoy your stay.”
David says, “Thanks,” to the retreating back, turns to Mattie, holds his hand out, and says, “Good afternoon, Mattie.”
She shakes his hand as she asks, “What do I call you? What are you after, and for how long?”
“I answer to both David and Light Arrow. I’ve a camper to sleep in but I’d like a spot close to the showers where I can park for the night. I don’t know how long I’ll stay yet. I want to look around so I need a few days, minimum, after that depends on what I find to look at. This is my first time in Florida.”
She smiles, moves to look at a plan of the park she has on the counter, and David looks at it too. He can now see the park is much bigger than he thought it was. After a moment Mattie taps a spot on the map as she says, “It’s not really a vacant spot now, but you can park here. The power and water connections are there and it’s close to the showers. They don’t get used all that much now because we don’t get many vans in. Just about everyone has a mobile home or a big bus-like recreational vehicle. Both of those types have built-in showers. Another tenant has a large mobile home on the next site and he uses most of this site too. However, he doesn’t use the end near the road and it has the connection for the second site there. So just park right at the end, just off the road, and connect up. You’ll be OK and I can let you have it real cheap. I’ll let the other tenant know you’re there.” She looks around, pulls out a bunch of brochures, and hands them over, “Here’s a lot of information about what to see in and around Tampa.”
David takes the offered paperwork while handing over his ID as part of the registration process. He says, “Thanks, Mattie. I’ll read these and work out what I want to do during the day. Is there anywhere you can recommend I go for a good hot meal?” She tells him of some places while completing the paperwork and processing his credit card payment. The paperwork is done and David picks it up while saying, “I’m a paramedic and I’ve a good kit in my car. If there’s an urgent need while I’m in the park just get me and I’ll see what I can do for them.”
“That’s good to know. But I hope we never have to call on you.” She hands over a map of the park marked with the location of the lot he’s to use and where she wants him to park on it.
A couple of minutes later David is parked where he’s been told to, he has his baskets of dirty washing, and is walking to the building with a sign saying ‘Laundromat’ on it. Before leaving his van he activates the Wi-Fi he has in the van and he puts his tablet in his pocket. Once he has the washing on he opens his tablet, notices there’s a few Wi-Fi hotspots, logs into his own Wi-Fi, and starts reading the next chapter of a story he started reading last night on storiesonline.net. It’s about a retired soldier buying a farm in Kentucky to retire on, but it appears he also bought a ghost too, since it comes with the farm. David hasn’t done his washing for a while so it takes a couple of hours to get it all done, but it flies by while he enjoys the story. David stops to chat with the few other people who come in to use the facilities, but there aren’t many of them.
When the washing is all done he stacks it in his baskets, places one on top of the other, lifts them both, and walks back to his van. He chuckles while thinking, I should settle down and give it a name of its own. Depending on my mood I call it a car, a truck, a van, and a camper. It’s all of them. I’ve got to think of a nickname for it. He can see school age kids all over the common areas of the park, and smiles while thinking, This is clearly a family park. A couple of kids going by stop to look at him, so he smiles and nods at them while he keeps going, the washing is a big and heavy load. He’s soon back at his truck and he puts it all away.
David grabs a change of clothes, towel, and washing gear. He exits the truck, locks the back door, and turns to walk to the showers, but he has to stop when a female sheriff’s deputy asks him, “You got a permit for that gun you have?” He nods yes and he moves slow to get his wallet out to show her the permit. She looks at it, calls it in over her radio, listens to it being confirmed, and hands it back while asking, “Are you a Federal Officer of some sort? We don’t see many DoJ endorsements here!”
He grins as he replies, “No, Ma’am. Just a citizen. I don’t know why I got a Department of Justice endorsement as I didn’t ask for it. Mind you, I was told to apply for the permit by the Texas Rangers and the police.”
“Sounds like someone wants to recruit you.”
“I think that’s what they want, but it isn’t going to happen as a full-time job. If you’ve got a moment I’ll show you why they want me.” She nods yes, so he unlocks the door, sets it to stay open, then walks in, puts his gear on the counter, takes another pace, and points to the display of his shooting medals whose displays are now set into the cupboards.
The deputy looks at them, turns to him, and says, “I see you’re a top hand with the gun and a rifle. What did you use for the sniper work?”
“My guardian for my last three years of high school taught me to shoot and let me use his three three eight Lapua Magnum Barrett M ninety-eight B. It’s a nice rifle. Long Arrow told me it’s the gun he used in the Marines when he was a designated marksman, which is a fancy term for a sniper.” She goes to speak, and he adds, “I only have a pistol and a twenty-two rifle. The rifle is in my hidden gun-safe and the pistol is on me, except when I lock it up to go where I can’t legally carry it, which isn’t many places.” She nods to him, shakes his hand, and leaves. David picks up his gear, locks up the van, and goes to have a shower.
After his shower David doesn’t feel like going out again so he calls for a delivery of Chinese for an early dinner. While waiting he sets up a table and chair beside the van then he sets out plates and cutlery before sitting down to read some more of the story on his tablet. He often stops to chat with the many people passing by.
During his meal David chats with some kids who are obviously related, and they look like they don’t get all they need to eat. The shop had a minimum order value for delivery, so he ordered a lot more food than he needs for one meal as he figured he can eat warmed up leftovers. Now he thinks of a better use for the food and says, “I ordered way too much food and I’ve eaten all I can. I don’t want to pack this up to put it in my small fridge. Do you mind finding someone who can eat this for me, please?” He watches while the eyes of the three kids grow big, the eldest nods yes, thanks him, and they’re quick to help him pack it up so they can take it back to their mobile home to share with their other two siblings while it’s still hot. He smiles while watching them run as fast as they dare with the bags of hot food.
A voice behind David says, “I bet your fridge has plenty of room in it, doesn’t it?”
David turns around to see Hap standing beside a man old enough to be David’s father, or older. David shrugs as he says, “Their need is greater than mine.”
The man replies, “Yes, it is! Hap, I know they’re new here, but find out more about them so we can see what we can do to help.” Hap just nods yes. The man says, “I’m Steve, David. The fellow who taught you to shoot, was that Jason Long Arrow Lewis?” David nods yes. “I served with him. He’s a good man. What are you doing here?”
“I just finished college and I’m taking a short vacation before I head back to Australia to organise my full-time career.”
Steve laughs as he says, “Be careful. I stopped here for a vacation a long time ago. It was going to be a couple of months, but I’m still here.”
“If I get to liking it I may come back. But I have responsibilities I’ve got to finish in Australia. So I have to go back there, regardless. There’s no urgency, but my obligations do have to be met at some point in time.”
“Well, good luck. When you next see Gunny Lewis tell him Steve Sharp said to say hello.” David nods yes, and the two men walk away.
David ends up spending several weeks in Tampa having a good time enjoying the sights and activities in the area before he moves on in mid October. He stops in Miami for a few days, then he goes up the east coast. He has many short stops while heading north.
Note: David isn’t called to appear in any cases about the traffic incident, so he never does learn what happened to the car driver.
David stops at an approved photographer’s studio for photographs on his way out of Tampa. They’re for the paperwork he downloaded off the Internet and filled in the night before. The woman is fast to take the photo with a digital camera and to print several copies of the photograph for him as well as a CD with an electronic copy. David attaches the required number of copies to each set of documents and puts them in the envelopes he has ready. He’ll have to stop to lodge the applications in person, which will mean some delays. Luckily the website for both say how long it’ll probably take to process them, so he makes appointments to lodge the paperwork in New York in early January next year.
David spends several weeks going north while stopping to visit many places he’s heard or read about. For this trip he decides to stay east of the Appalachian Mountains, but he’s often travelling east or west to get to the many places he wants to go. Typical of his travel is to drive up along the Atlantic coast to Charleston, South Carolina, then turn to head west to Macon and Columbus in Georgia, followed by Auburn, Alabama, before heading north-east to Atlanta, Georgia, then up to Charlotte, North Carolina. From there he cuts back south-east to Myrtle Beach, then goes up along the coast again to Virginia Beach, Virginia. He stops at many of the places in between because he’d already planned to or because he was taken by something he saw while in the area. Due to living in the camper he has a lot of flexibility in where he stays, sometimes just pulling off the road into a rest area to sleep for the night.
Whenever he stops for a meal or the night David spends a little time working on the computer program he started to write as part of his class work at college. The basic code for some parts of it were submitted as his assignments in various courses, but since then he’s been improving them and linking them together. When he’s finished he hopes to be able to sell someone on the idea of marketing the program for him. The way he’s got it planned it’ll be good for people learning to be a basic first aid person through to being an Advanced Emergency Medical Technician. It’ll be easy to update the program with training changes and to add modules of the relevant laws for each state. He figures it’ll be in high demand by a number of diverse groups. He uses his laptop computer to work on the program at each stop, and he thinks about it while driving.
In the middle of December David drives into the Cherry Hill Park in College Park, Maryland. There are places he could stay in Washington itself, but having heard about the gun laws there he decides to stay in Maryland instead. He even went out of his way to drive around D.C. so he didn’t take any guns within the D.C. borders. An Arizona permit isn’t recognised in Maryland either, but he’s less likely to get in trouble for having the guns locked in the gun-safe in the truck in Maryland. He does suspect the Department of Justice endorsement would permit him to carry in both areas, but he doesn’t want to risk being wrong about it. After signing in and paying for a week’s stay he drives to the lot assigned to him, parks, and sets up for a long stay without moving the truck.
David spends a week using taxis and public transport to visit all of the places he wants to see in Washington, D.C., before packing up and moving on with his tour of the country. He spends Christmas in a small town near Philadelphia, and New Year’s Eve near West Orange, New Jersey. On January 2nd he moves to the Liberty Harbour RV Park in Jersey City to stay for a few days while he’s near New York. He chose it because it’s a short walk to catch a ferry across to Manhattan Island. David spends a week at the park while he goes to the two interviews for his new passports and seeing what he wants to see in New York.
Because both of his previous passports were issued while he was a child he has to lodge the new applications in person with a lot of papers to prove he’s who he claims to be. There’s no trouble with them, just a lot of hoops to jump through. At the end of the two interviews he books a return appointment to collect the passports in early February.
David leaves New York going north to Connecticut and Rhode Island. He travels up the coast to Brunswick, Maine, turns inland to go into the mountains near Bethel, and drives through the mountains while listening to music CDs on his sound system. Although he doesn’t stop at any place for more than a few hours it’s late January when he turns off Interstate 91 to head south-east onto a state road on his way to Boston, which he’d skipped on his way north. When he passes through Keene in New Hampshire he notices the traffic is getting lighter, almost non-existent, while many places are already closed for the day, and very early to close.
For the last few days he’s kept on the move because it was nicer to sit in the car and drive than to get out into the cold rain and snow that’s falling. It’s winter and David knows you can expect cold weather with snow and rain, but this is just too constant for his liking. Due to the weather he cuts short his planned tour of northern Maine and Vermont since he’s already seen more snow than he’d planned to see.
The falling snow gets heavier through the afternoon, so David decides to stop in the next town he comes to. Then he takes a moment to think about turning back to the house he passed a little while ago, but decides to continue on. Just after he passes through what looks like a frozen swamp area he comes across two cars stuck in the snow and blocking the road. He stops and he gets out to check on the people in the cars.
Trudging up to them from behind he notices the snow on the road is now halfway up his shins and both of the cars are small city cars. Through the windows of the rear car he can see five huddled forms buried in blankets. When he knocks on the window of the rear passenger door of the rear car all of the people in it jump. The window lowers a little and a girl says, “Please tell me you’re here to rescue us!”
David says, “I’m not, but I will. I’ve got a large camper that’s got to be a lot warmer than this car. Why are you just sitting here?”
A woman’s voice replies from the front seat, “When our lead car lost control in the snow and skidded to a stop we stopped too. Now neither car will start again. We’ve been here about an hour and the battery died about twenty minutes ago.”
He slowly shakes his head while saying, “You’ll be cold for a bit, but you need to get out of the car and make your way to my camper. Take all of the clothes, blankets, and towels you have.” While they get busy inside the car David uses his gloved hands to scoop enough snow away from the door he’s beside so he can open it. It takes him a few minutes but he does get it open, and then he turns to use his legs to clear a path through the snow to his van. He walks down the side of the van so he can open the rear door and hold it open while the five people from the car get in. He says, “Try to clean up the snow and ice you tracked in while I go get the people from the other car.” The woman nods and he shuts the door.
When he gets to the front car he has a similar conversation, and the only difference is it’s easier for him to walk back through the path he’s already made, despite the still falling snow. Before he enters the camper himself he has a close look at the road and the area around them. The snow where they haven’t walked is now closer to knee high, and it’s still falling. He looks at the sky and thinks, It’ll keep falling for a while.
David enters the van, shuts and locks the door behind himself, leans against the door while he removes his boots, and he places them in the bucket he keeps under the sink. That way when the ice and snow melts it’ll be in the bucket and not the floor. While putting the bucket back he notices the floor is mostly dry and one of the girls is cleaning up the last of the snow tracked in by the latest group. The first group have taken off their shoes and the second group are taking theirs off. There are two women and eight mid-teen girls, so there’s eleven of them with David.
He says, “Your cars are blocking the road ahead and I can’t tell if I’ve enough room to safely turn around here. I can’t back up the several miles to the last place I went through, so we’ll just have to sit here until the snow stops and we can move your cars enough for me to get by. It’s now just on dusk on Monday the twenty-sixth. I’ve got enough food and drink to keep us going for a few days, but I hope we aren’t here that long. The down side is I don’t have a built-in shower and there’s only a chemical toilet to use when needed. The good news is this van is extremely well insulated, it has heating, and I can keep us warm for a few weeks, at a minimum. I’ve some important appointments in several days, so I hope to be out of here well before then.” He points at the upper bunk, adding, “I think two of you smaller girls can fit in the upper bed, and when I fold the bench seats out they’ll take two adults each with possibly three girls each. There’s four seats up front and I’ll sit in one. So we’ve enough room for everyone, just try to minimise movement and to watch where you go. Now, does anyone know exactly where we are?”
One of the women says, “We passed Wallace Pond a little bit before I lost control of the car.”
“Good. I know the road I’m on, I’m just not sure where on it. Now I can find it on the map to see how far away from anyone else we are.”
David sits in the driver’s seat, opens his laptop computer, and checks the electronic map of the USA he has. He sees they’re in one of the few places in this part of the country where they’re miles from anyone else. Oh well! He now knows it’ll be a while before he sees any snow clearing going on along here. He closes the computer and puts it on the top of the dashboard, for the moment. He opens the main control panel on the dash, checks the power storage level and drain, sets an alarm for when it gets down to ten percent and closes that window then he opens the engine panel. He sets the engine warmer to stay on to keep the motor warm and ready to start. Over to the heater window to set it on a low level with the minimal fan pressure to keep the air moving. He also sets the system to slowly replace the air in the camper with fresh air so they’ve enough fresh air for them all to breathe properly. A check of the communications systems shows he has no signal on any frequency. David sighs as he locks the control panel before standing up to get out the front window covers. The front windscreen and the windows in the two front doors don’t have the built-in blinds the others have, nor do they have the thermal film, so he has some covers he made to put up to give him privacy and a bit more insulation. David gets the covers from the storage area above the driver side passenger seat and he clips them onto the catches he installed to hold them in place. They’re made from three layers of space blankets, so they provide good insulation while also blocking vision and light. He then goes back through the camper making sure all of the window blinds are in the fully blocked position.
One of the girls asks, “Excuse me, Sir, but won’t we suffocate in such a small vehicle?”
David smiles as he says, “You can call me David or Light Arrow. You probably won’t notice it, but I set the environmental controls to slowly replace the air. The hot air from our breath will rise and be drawn into the air exhaust system, that’s those little holes you see up near the roof, while fresh air is warmed by the heater and fed through holes near the floor. I’ve set the heater to a low setting to conserve power. However, due to there being so many of us with warm clothes on we should be OK. I’ll check the temperature and setting in a couple of hours.”
Another girls asks, “What sort of batteries do you have to provide so much power?”
David smiles as he says, “Normal batteries, just a few more of them than most cars have, and this is a full diesel-electric truck. Just like the freight trains the driving power motors are electric and I have a diesel generator to recharge them. When the batteries get low I’ll run the engine for a while to recharge them. Without the drive motors putting a drain on the batteries they should last a long time before I need to recharge them.” David sits on the edge of the bench and they all chat on a wide range of things for nearly an hour.