OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — A friend of mine pointed out last month, "You are the only person I know, given these weather conditions, that's going 'toward' Washington, D.C."
What weather conditions, you ask?
On June 29, triple-digit temperatures toppled historic weather records. The Washington Post recently reported heat-related deaths in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia climbed to 31.
On June 29, gale force winds in the same region also toppled thousands of trees.
The widespread destruction was caused by a derecho, a powerful storm system associated with briskly moving bands of showers or thunderstorms.
The ferociously foul weather forced 250 road closures in Virginia alone, and left more than 1.3 million homes and businesses without power in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.
We found out about the June 29 power outage from a D.C. resident who was dining at the same restaurant as we were in Lexington, Ky. He drove across two states in pursuit of petrol.
The next day, we received a phone call from the family members we were planning on visiting in the nation's capital.
They reported no electricity and estimated that it might be a week before power could be restored.
In fact, as they were speaking to us, they were carting $400 in groceries purchased for our culinary pleasure to the house of a friend who hadn't been dejuiced.
Apparently, no rhyme or reason exists with respect to the power grid of Potomac Electric Power Co., known as Pepco.
We were amused by stories of folks who employed the last percentage points on their cellphone batteries to post "my power is out" on Facebook or Twitter — but the crisis was no laughing matter for millions.
We figured we could hole up at a motel for the duration — one with a pool and AC, of course. What we hadn't figured was all those Virginians, Marylanders and Washingtonians who sucked up the fuel within a 300-mile radius. Our gas tank indicator was screaming "extreme thirst."
Fortunately, we were able to fill up in Lexington, Va., after visiting something like six different stations that had either run out of gas or lacked the power to pump.
The whole situation, as we sat in a line that snaked along for six blocks, was more than faintly reminiscent of the Jimmy Carter days.
When we finally arrived at our destination, we were able to enjoy both cool air and home-cooked meals. We also found that broken branches (which were littering literally every highway and byway) had been raked into neat piles for the trash truck.
Actually, other than having to deal with cranky crowds still suffering the blistering heat, we had it pretty good.
The International Spy Museum, which topped our must-see list, also taught us what might happen if the entire country lost electrical power.
In addition to examining how microdots, invisible ink, buttonhole cameras, lock-picking tools, dead drops and bugs operate in the wonderful world of espionage, we were also warned that the most devastating and destructive terrorist attack on the United States would probably involve the national electric grid. It's the one spot the United States is most vulnerable.
The American electric grid is a complex network of independently owned and operated power plants and transmission lines.
According to the Spy Museum video, if the entire grid goes down, food and water supplies in any given city would disappear overnight.
If the power grid across planet Earth went down for 12 months, the video predicted, 90 percent of humanity would perish.
Fortunately, the recent storm that made life temporarily unmanageable for millions of Americans was a local event.
Workers arriving from outside the region were able to repair the damaged lines in Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland. If the entire country ever gets shut down, experts warn, energy might never be restored.
In addition, you can't fool Mother Nature. When she unleashes her fury, not only do massive trees bow down and break, but human beings are also systematically stripped of their electricity-dependent creature comforts — including residential heating/cooling, communication, media, transportation, food and water supplies.
We Americans haven't taken the Boy Scout motto ("Be prepared") seriously enough. Even here in California, where earthquakes are always a real possibility, how many of us store enough food and water for a month? How many of us own gas-powered generators?
Most of us trust that all we have to do is to dial 911 and the government will come out and make it all OK. Isn't that why we pay taxes?
Maybe hubby and I were mentally deficient to be driving toward Washington, D.C., given the weather conditions on June 29, but we did it for love. When we return home from vacation, we are going to get our emergency closet in order.
For exactly the same reason.