M. Giant's
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Tuesday, January 13, 2009  

Snowed In

As Minnesotans, it's supposed to take kind of a lot to snow us in. But Trash and I hit that point the other night. Unfortunately, we hit it about 200 miles from home.

Christmas at Trash's mom's house in Iowa had been rescheduled to the weekend after New Year's, and we planned to leave that Friday night. But early in the day we started hearing rumors about ice storms in the area where we were headed. I did some research, but it turns out to be harder than you might think to get a weather forecast for a 260-mile streak of the Midwest.

All I could figure out for sure was that the further south we'd go, the higher the chances of snow. Just snow isn't too scary. I've driven through snow before. Plus it's not like they let it build up on the freeways around here. And the highs would all be below freezing almost all the way to my mother-in-law's town, and no thaw means no rain, and no rain means no ice, right? Trash and I spent most of Friday debating whether to go that night or leave early Saturday morning. We were not to know that the correct option was neither.

The first flakes started drifting past our headlights near the state line, some time before eight p.m. An hour and a half later, we had gotten about sixty more miles, the two-lane freeway had dwindled to a pair of wagon ruts, intermittent streaks of icy pavement peeking out from under the snow, and the view out the windshield recalled the 1980s Doctor Who title sequence. Occasionally the ground blizzards would let up for a few minutes and I felt safe accelerating to forty miles per hour. The snow that was supposed to pass over central Iowa and move on had decided instead to park there. I suspect it was too charmed by Trash to want to leave.

When we reached Ames, which would normally be about an 45 minutes from our destination, we realized that under these conditions, we would still have about two to three hours of driving ahead of us. Assuming we made it at all, of course, which was becoming less certain by the white-knuckled mile. Even though we were pretty motivated to get there, due to the non-refundable hotel reservations that we didn't want to lose, the other thing we didn't want to lose was control of the car, ending up in a ditch in a blizzard in the middle of nowhere. So we got off the freeway to find a hotel. Since the first one we checked was all full up -- not surprising, considering the weather -- I began to worry that we might end up reaching Grandma's house after all, just one hotel at a time. But the second place we checked had a room, and we snatched it up. This marked the first time we ever paid for two hotel rooms for one night. But we figured it was worth it, since by the time I'd unloaded the night's necessities from the car, it had already been buried. And so, almost, had I.

When morning came, the weather people on the TV told us to stay home. So, what, were we supposed to say, "Oh, okay, we'll drive back 200 miles to get there." Nothing for it but to press on. The snow had stopped falling, but it was still sitting -- on the car, on the parking lot, on the street, on the freeway -- but at least now we could see more than a few yards ahead of us. We made the 45-minute drive in an hour and a half, and went to check into the hotel we hadn't been able to reach the night before.

Here's where it gets cool: they had already cancelled our room for that night, and refunded that night's charge back to our credit card. In fact, they were kind of irritated at the hotel in Ames, another in the same chain, for not calling to let them know we were staying the first night there instead.

Best of all, the hotel we stayed at the first night was cheaper than where we stayed the second night. So ultimately, the snowstorm, instead of killing us, ended up saving us some money.

I don't think we'll ever be intimidated by foul driving weather again.

posted by M. Giant 7:03 PM 2 comments


Hubby and I had an eerily similar experience once that involved driving home to upstate NY from NYC, where we'd spent the weekend visiting his mother. About 30 minutes outside of the city, the weather started getting bad - ice everywhere. I kept suggesting we stop, as we crawled by various exits in northern NJ off of which lived various friends or relations of mine. Hubby thought that things would get better once we were out of NJ and back into the PA/NY area, where folks "knew how to drive in winter weather." See, *that* was the problem in his opinion: the craptastic Jersey drivers.

Well. We crossed the state line into PA in about an hour longer than it should've taken us to cross the line into our parking garage back home. The ice by this point had turned to snow. Lots of snow. Snow falling faster than they could clear it from the roads kind of snow. Some kindly state troopers pulled us over and told us to get off the highway as it was being closed due to weather. We reached the bottom of the exit ramp in a little under an hour, where some kindly local cops told us the roads weren't passable so to get back *on* the highway. This was the point at which we began trying to find a hotel/motel/truck stop where we could stop. Every one we found was full up of folks like us, only a few hours' smarter. We had no choice but to keep getting back on the road and inch towards home.

When we got to the city about 45 minutes (in normal weather) away from our home, the snow stopped, the skies cleared to a starry brightness and the roads were clean and dry. We wound up getting home after all, in just a little over three times the amount of time it should've taken.

Oh, and our car at the time? A 1986 Ford Festiva. White, so it resembled a giant snowball. Good times.

Remind me again why we don't all live in the tropics?

By Blogger Heather, at January 14, 2009 at 4:56 AM  

Somehow, this is all part of Canada's evil plot to annex Minnesota (and Iowa just for fun). The Canadians work their juju on the storm clouds and eventually, no one can find the states in the upper portion of the US. When the snow melts, everyone talks funny, has cheap medicine, and they all act like it's been their's all along.

By Blogger Chao, at January 14, 2009 at 7:26 AM  

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