Sunday, January 3, 2010

Winter Storm 2009

The hand of God clashed with our best laid plans of getting to Illinois the night of Dec 18.

The previous few days we kept getting calls from the parental units with ZOMG THE STORM and I was seriously getting annoyed. I mean, I get it. There's a storm coming. There will be precipitation and lowered driving speed and anarchy, oh my.

I wasn't that worried because I've seen snow. Heavy snow even. I may be from Houston, but I went to Penn State. I cut my ice driving teeth with about 10,000 of my closest out-of-state classmates.. A crash course in defensive slip'n'slide driving, if you will. Picture Pennsylvania streets clogged with 13mph cars, emergency lights flashing all around like Christmas time, every vehicle containing a white-knuckled Southerner, bracing for impact. Good times.

When I finally saw the radar on the Weather Channel for the WINTER STORM 2009 (ominous booming announcer voice), I was all "okay, yeah, that's a bitch of a storm" but we're still going because the Gramma is waiting and by God I need some baby free time dammit!

We packed and left like 5 hours late, as usual. As we were leaving Williamsburg, the rain started. Not too bad. Then a few flurries. Still not too bad. Then it started getting crazy. The heavens opened and before we knew what had happened to us, we were sludgin' through mashed potatoed roads and watching cars and trucks and SEMI TRACTOR TRAILERS slide gracefully off the road like Olympic figure skaters. We trudged along, speedometer getting lower and lower, until finally we cracked and gave up.

I got on the iPhone and Googled "pet friendly hotels" please. Everywhere I called was booked. Eventually I got a cheesy motel room booked in Charlottesville, VA and then we just had to make it there alive. Nineteen miles.

Nineteen miles of a blasting heater to keep the windshield thawed, dumbass drivers being reckless and a white knuckled husband, bracing for impact. Which doesn't seem that long until you factor in the driving 18mph part. And the town was buried in snow. And abandoned cars littered every inch of local roadway.

An hour and a half later, we eventually arrived. Frozen. Tired. Seven hours into a trip that should have taken maybe two. We unloaded the back of the truck (God bless you Ford F-150 with 4x4!) and passed out.

When we woke up, we were stranded.



 

We holed up, abused the free breakfast bar and waited.....


 
 
... and waited...



...and waited...

It just kept snowing. It was un-bee-LEAVE-able! We started to get hungry but we were afraid to get out of our parking spot and get stuck somewhere in a town we knew nothing about. After all, we had a PERFECTLY GOOD ROOM full of heat and television and a bathroom. Cookies and water and Hot Tamales candies from home would be just fine, thank you very much.


 
 
1793423764 hours later, the snow finally stopped, the plows started clanking around in the parking lot and we braved the streets for supplies. Well, Stephen did most of the work. He brought forth the truck from its wintery hell-cocoon. I was grateful. It looked like horrible work, it took him an hour and he came in wet and angry.



We needed food.

We went to Wal-Mart.
Closed.
We went to Target.
Closed.
We went to K-Mart.
SCORE!

Supplies were bought, including a gigantic jug of water and some granola and other "survival" gear, just in case. Then we headed back. Nothing else was open. Not a McDonalds or a Starbux or ANYTHING. Well, except for a Waffle House. But still.....

Huge chunks of the interstate were still closed so we just renewed the room and slept another night in safety.

The next day was a bit better and the roads were starting to thaw out so we got the hell out of there. As we were leaving, we passed so many abandoned cars and trucks, wrecks galore. I felt bad for everyone who didn't reach safety. Friends of mine drove 43 hours from Va Beach to St. Louis, including two 8ish-hour dead stops in freezing snow. With a three-year-old. Crazy.

I wish I had some good pics of E in the snow but it was just so horrible out and we didn't have proper baby snow-immersion gear so I just played it safe and kept her inside.

 



 
 

We ended up editing out GPS directions to avoid the entire mountain-pass-infested state of West Virginia altogether. That's where our friends got stuck. Twice. We went south to Tennessee and then went back north again to I-64. We arrived safely in Illinois and laughed nervously about the storm. 

Definitely one for the record books.

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