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Sunday, April 27, 2014

OPERATION FETCH: 26 April-4 May 2013

Steve Cole writes:

Plans for this mission (to rescue Jean from North Carolina and bring her to Texas) had been in the works for at least three years. Looking back, the whole idea seems insane, and only Divine Fortune brought all three of the expedition members to Amarillo safely.    
The problem was Jean's unpredictable ex-boyfriend who would have tried to stop her from leaving if he had known about it. Everything had to be done in secret and in a way that he would not notice. (He kept close tabs on Jean, meaning we could do nothing he might notice until it was too late for him to intervene.) What that meant, however, was that once the plans were locked in (during January) they could not be changed, no matter what happened. Steve Cole broke his leg in February and spent the entire expedition on crutches while Steven Petrick was in a knee brace due to a sports injury in April. Frankly, neither of the Steves had any business going on the trip, but it had to happen when it was scheduled, or it might not happen at all.
FRIDAY 26 APRIL: Jean worked her last day at the library, although the ex-boyfriend thought she would keep working for several more days. After work, Jean drove three hours to visit her mother, keeping out of the way of the ex-boyfriend. The two Steves left Amarillo headed east in a rental car. It started raining when they passed Oklahoma City and rained for a week; they reached Little Rock, Arkansas, for the night.
SATURDAY 27 APRIL:  The two Steves drove across Arkansas and Tennessee, then turned south across the tail of North Carolina and entered South Carolina. It was pouring rain the entire day. They had lunch with SFU staffers Tony Thomas and his lovely wife Evey near Nashville.
SUNDAY 28 APRIL: Jean spent the day with her mother. The two Steves toured the battlefields at Cowpens and King's Mountain in a pouring rain, then drove on to meet Jean for dinner in Lumberton, North Carolina.
MONDAY 29 APRIL: Once the ex-boyfriend was on his way to work, the two Steves surveyed Jean's house and storage lockers to calculate the size of truck that was needed. It rained on and off for much of the day.
TUESDAY 30 APRIL: It had been planned for Jean to take the Steves to see the USS North Carolina, but the trip had to be abandoned due to their leg injuries. They did turn in the rental car and pick up the biggest rental truck available.
WEDNESDAY 1 MAY: Jean, the two Steves, two of Jean's local friends, and two SFU friends (Howard Bampton and Chris Sanchez) emptied Jean's storage lockers into the truck. A secret plan made sure that the ex-boyfriend did not have the chance to make a surprise random inspection of the storage lockers. It rained and/or sprinkled on and off; the loading crew had to stack up stuff by the door of the storage building and dash to the truck whenever they saw the sun. Meanwhile, back in Amarillo, Leanna officially rented Jean's apartment and picked up the keys.
THURSDAY 2 MAY: This was D-Day for Jean. The two Steves, Chris, Howard, and two local friends arrived at Jean's house and spent eight furious hours loading everything she wanted to take with her into the truck. They left just minutes before the ex-boyfriend got off of work. (They left behind a map marked with the wrong route back to Amarillo.) Mercifully, there were only a few sprinkles and showers now and then during the day, but it did start raining that evening. After hours of driving in dark and rain, the truck and Jean's car reached a motel in the Great Smoky Mountains. Meanwhile, back in Amarillo, Mike Sparks moved dozens of boxes of stuff Jean had shipped ahead over to Jean's apartment.
FRIDAY 3 MAY: Awakening to a decent hotel breakfast, the three members of the expedition drove north for two hours to Knoxville, then turned west on I-40. (Conveniently, this highway continued from Knoxville all the way to Amarillo.) They had lunch with Mike Curtis, Tony Thomas, and Evey near Nashville. It rained during alternate hours. Steve Cole drove the truck for one hour to give Steven Petrick a break, but everyone agreed that (despite his previous experience with even larger trucks) his injured leg made it too dangerous for him to drive this one. This condemned Steven Petrick to drive the truck all the way home. Home base was notified that we might not get home until Sunday, a day later than scheduled, due to the inability to rotate drivers. Steve Cole spent the trip as the navigator and communications officer in Jean's car. (Jean did not let him drive because of his injured leg. In retaliation, Steve assigned Jean the radio call sign "Swamp Rat" which she found amusing.) The plan had been to drive to Little Rock, but the expedition had to stop an hour early due to exhaustion. After trying two hotels that were full, an exasperated Jean sprang for the cost of an expensive hotel rather than sleep in the car or drive another hour. We expected as we went to sleep that we could not possibly reach Amarillo on schedule Saturday night.

SATURDAY 4 MAY: The expedition arose to more rain but a wonderful free hotel breakfast. Steve Cole voted to stay there for the day to rest and give the rain a chance to stop, but the other two insisted on pressing on. They drove west across Arkansas and Oklahoma, finally reaching clear skies at Oklahoma City. This (and a lunch break) brightened everyone's outlook considerably, and they decided to press onward. After another hour-long meal break, they were only three hours from Amarillo and (brains addled by food and exhaustion) decided to "go for broke." They reached Steve Cole's house safely at 11pm.
SUNDAY 5 MAY: A glorious clear sky awakened the travelers, who took the truck up to Jean's apartment to help her officially move in.