Everybody loves the beauty of snow, and we always welcome an inch or so to make the mountains truly feel like Christmas.
But when the snow hits a foot or so and still counting, it turns our Southern lifestyle upside down.
Inn on Main Street, and much of the Asheville area in general, was without power for two days this week as 20 inches of wet snow snapped tree branches onto wires. On top of that, the inn filled for a night with travelers who got off of I-26 before it turned into a virtual parking lot of cars trapped behind jackknifed trucks. Instead of anniversary couples away for romantic cocooning, our bed and breakfast rooms were havens for entire families with children sleeping on the floors. We even allowed pets inside for the first time (not even our dear Tasha came into the big house) so they wouldn’t have to spend the night in freezing cars.
All arrived haggard, upset but essentially grateful to have a warm bed, hot shower and the prospect of breakfast. Then the power went out. We have gas water heaters and gas fireplaces in most rooms, so all the comforts other than electricity were taken care of. But everyone made do with flashlights and conversation and early bedtime.
Among all these refugees were a couple here to see their daughter. They checked in before the blizzard for a four-night stay.
Sandy and Mitchell, from Memphis, not only put up with the adversity, they embraced it. They had fun with the lamplight lifestyle, enjoyed the snow, enjoyed the company of the stranded folks and their stories. When they left, they said it had been their best B&B visit ever, an adventure to savor.
We tried not to cut back on amenities. The first day without electricity, we cooked on the barbecue grill, dishing out pancakes, a tropical fruit topping, turkey bacon, and coffee made by pouring grill-heated water through our coffeemaker filter.
That morning, I got a generator (I had sold the one I bought for Y2K to a Florida hurricane refugee a few years ago), so we had a couple hours of lights, music and civilized wine-and-appetizer time before bed.
The next morning, we fired up the generator again to work the furnace blower and cook breakfast on the griddle. The stove and oven drew too much current, so Nancy made scones on the griddle. They resembled fat pancakes, but tasted great. We also made herbed eggs with German potato pancakes, topped with some of our daughter’s homemade apple butter. All was good, and those haggard travelers were in a great mood for the journey home.
Times like these are not just an adventure. They are a learning opportunity for us. Taking in stranded travelers and dealing with a loss of power forced us outside our comfort zone. We had to make allowances, we had to work extra hard to make folks comfortable. Most of all we had to go above and beyond in service, using our 4-wheel-drive to pick up standed guests, shoveling cars out of snowbanks and pushing them free, sharing our dinner with a guest who got here after the one open restaurant closed for the evening. It was a good refresher course for us, sort of an advanced Innkeeping 201. We’re still processing what we did or didn’t do, and how it affected the lives of others, and how it affects our response to future “normal” guests.
We hope we never fail anyone in need.