As incoming state legislators, Mike Dudgeon and Steve Gooch didn’t know what to expect this week as the 2011 General Assembly got under way.
But after snow and ice, canceled and delayed events and some help from four-wheel-drive vehicles, one thing’s for certain.
“I’ll remember this in the old-folks home,” said Dudgeon, the District 24 Republican state representative from Cumming.
“All I have in my mind is getting out of my car and walking through the snow and ice to the gold dome,” he said. “I shuttled my parents back and forth to the capitol and it was literally like an ice rink.
"You just drove your car on top of it and hope there wasn’t a hill."
Despite the snow and ice that covered much of the state's northern half, just a few senators and about three dozen representatives missed the swearing-in ceremony Monday.
It certainly wasn’t going to stop Gooch from bringing his wife and sons to watch him be sworn in as the District 51 state senator.
“Having four-wheel drive helps,” said Gooch, a Republican from Dahlonega. “Being a [former] county commissioner, we’re used to these storms like this.
"We’ve been through tornados and blizzards and heavy snow and ice storms. But being down there is different because you’re not near home. You’re in a hotel room and feeling trapped.”
Forsyth’s five state lawmakers made their way separately to the Capitol on Sunday.
While most traveled with their families, or met them in Atlanta, District 9 state Rep. Amos Amerson decided to leave his wife at home in Dahlonega to make sure she was safe.
Driving around downtown Atlanta was difficult, Amerson said, but so was walking.
“I’m staying next door to a restaurant and the restaurant is down a little downhill, and it was all frozen and ice,” he said. “I had a little trouble making it. I held onto the fence and I was able to make it back up that way.”
The weather forced the cancellation of most of the celebration surrounding legislators being sworn in and Gov. Nathan Deal’s inauguration.
However, Amerson said the proceedings went "about as good as we could do given the weather.”
“I thought a couple of the best parts of the whole celebration was Nathan Deal’s daughter, who sang ‘Georgia on My Mind,’ and her husband, his son-in-law, sang “God Bless America’ at the end,'" Amerson said.
"So having family involved and then having his son, Jason, who is a Superior Court judge swearing him, I thought it was a great family thing.”
It was his third time taking the oath, but District 23 state Rep. Mark Hamilton, R-Cumming, said it was certainly the most unusual.
“We did everything we possibly could that if people made it to Atlanta, they were going to find rides if they didn’t have the necessary equipment,” he said.
Hamilton and his wife stayed at the same hotel as Dudgeon. Between their two four-wheel-drive vehicles, Dudgeon was able to take his wife and parents while his two sons rode in Hamilton’s vehicle.
Tuesday was the Hamiltons' 26-year wedding anniversary. The couple decided to celebrate downtown instead of venturing back to Forsyth, as Hamilton had to stay for an assignments committee meeting.
Amerson, who had planned to stay in Atlanta until Friday, remained downtown. Dudgeon and his family made their way Tuesday to the MARTA station, where they reached their vehicle and drove home.
Gooch made the trek back to Dahlonega, and District 27 state Sen. Jack Murphy, R-Cumming, also drove back to Cumming on Tuesday.
Murphy said Monday’s session began at 10 a.m., rules were adopted and other standard business.
“We were going back and forth on the resolutions as to whether we were going to meet the next day or not,” Murphy said. “A lot of family members were down there and they really wanted to get home ... so when the weather worsened, we decided we would not meet Tuesday.”
“We decided when we canceled session for the day Tuesday we’d try to make it home. We did it, but it was pretty treacherous. We were going about 30, 35 mph all the way back, but we made it in alright.”
The session reconvened at 10 a.m. Wednesday before recessing until 1 p.m.
Gov. Nathan Deal gave his state of the state address at 2 p.m.
Following the state of the state, legislators passed an adjournment resolution until Jan. 24. In the interim, appropriation hearings are set for next week.