Eric Herman Blog: Inside the Storm

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It was one of the longest, coldest and scariest drives of my life. On Sunday January 3rd I was making a 1,041-mile journey northward from Santa Cruz, Calif., to our new home in Gig Harbor, Wash. – but Mother Nature seemed to have other ideas.

When I left the forecast was for clear, cold but dry conditions. I was soon to learn, however, that in the peripatetic ways of the great Pacific Northwest climate, predicting the weather is an imperfect science. As I made my way into southern Oregon, a highly unusual statewide ice storm befell my path. In a matter of minutes what started out a pleasant drive was suddenly fraught with anxiety and no small measure of real physical danger.

It was icy, windy, foggy and utterly treacherous. I slowed down, came to full attention and drove as carefully as humanly possible. I was more than a bit on edge. As a Californian born and bred in slow traffic on mostly sunny days, suffice to say the frozen sojourn was unfamiliar turf.

It was also the last place I’d expect to find a reminder of the beauty of the aquatic experience.

By nightfall I had just crossed into Washington when the tough conditions became even more dangerous with streets and highways frozen solid under a violent tempest of flying ice crystals. Genuinely fearing for my safety, I pulled off the highway and more or less fishtailed my way into the La Quinta Inn in Vancouver, Wash. to wait out the storm, just 131 miles south of my new home.

I decided to treat myself to a cup of hot chocolate and unwind by a huge fireplace in the lobby. There I warmed up and chatted with fellow stranded travelers. As I was making my way back to my room, I made a wrong turn and walked by a set of floor-to-ceiling windows that looked over a lovely small natatorium that housed a 25-foot freeform pool and spa.

To my delight, two families with a gaggle of small children were spending the evening having the kind of experience those of us in the pool and spa industry like to talk about and promote. Family togetherness, fun and vigorous play, all in a safe and comfortable setting. Except in this case, that idyllic scene was taking place in the midst of a frigid and violent winter storm.

Taken by the scene and its warm implications, I stopped and watched for a brief moment. As I was leaving, one of the families, a dad and three small kids, exited the space and joined me as we strolled down the hall. I said to a particularly lively young lad, probably about 5 years old, “That must be fun to swim when it’s so cold outside?”

“It’s great because I can swim better than my sister,” he said.

His sister, probably all of 7 replied, “I swim better, I just let him think he does.” Their father just smiled.

The next day, the weather cleared up enough that I was able to finish the drive to our new home on the banks of the Tacoma Narrows. I was struck by the fact that there and then in the midst of winter’s icy grip, I couldn’t wait to get back to the business of writing about the magic that can happen in and around a swimming pool, even in places where you’d least expect it!

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