After spending a week in Oslo at the beginning of my Norwegian Odyssey, I took the train from Oslo to see my Norwegian relatives in the Sorlandet region of Southeastern Norway. I had spoken to my distant cousin Anne Cecile's husband Jon Aksel Mathiesen by telephone from the hostel I was staying at and made arrangements for Jon-Aksel, Anne-Cecile, her mother Turid, and her husband Tore to come and get me at the Arendal train station.
The beginning of my train trip from Oslo to Arendal went pretty smoothly except I hadn't grasped the concept that Norwegian trains have assigned seats, and I had taken the wrong seat. No problem, the kind conductress took me to my correct seat, and I enjoyed watching the scenery of southern Norway pass before my eyes.
A couple of hours into the trip, we entered the Telemark region of Norway, which is full of rich forests and mountains everywhere. It had been a dry spring and summer in Norway and usually that brings forest fires, and the forests near Skein (SHEEN) were egulfed in flames and the train engineers had been warned about these fires beforehand, but we were in for an unexpected roadblock when we were notified that the tracks ahead were in flames, and we would have to evacuate the train and take the bus into Kristiansand. YIKES!
Now I had been witness to my then-hometown of McCall and Donnelly, Idaho go through the worst forest fires in that area's history the year before. Mom was working for the forest service for the summer, and she earned her paycheck that year from taking the phone call from Colorado breaking the news that two of our McCall Smokejumpers had died fighting a fire there along with acting as a chauffuer for several fire fighters and volunteers coming and going from fighting the fires. One young lady crammed herself and her gear into Mom's Mitsubishi hatchback with me and young Mr. Loki in tow. It must have been the ride of her life!
Now cut to June 1995, and I am being taken off a train that can't move through Telemark because of forest fires, and it's as Yogi Berra said, "Deja vu all over again!" I chatted with a couple of the conductresses to see what was going on and told them we had been through similar fires in Idaho in 1994. They were pretty interested in my stories, and it made the evacuation to the busses a smooth one.
Everyone piled onto the busses provided by the railways, and we were on the way to Kristiansand's bus station where everyone's loved ones and friends were told to go after getting news of the fires. After a couple of hours of bus travel, we pulled into Kristiansand where I met my Norwegian family for the first time.
After two weeks of sightseeing and exploring the Sorlandet, I left for my final week in Norway to be spent in Oslo. The trip back to Oslo was uneventful, and the experience of evacuating a train because of forest fires has never left me 14 years after it happened.