Friday, December 26, 2008
Let it Snow - Somewhere Else!
We survived the road trip from hell. We left our house at 10:30 Tuesday morning to drive to my in-law's house, which is located in northern Iowa. Normally it is a 6 hour drive. There was absolutely nothing normal about this drive. A few miles from the Bowling Green exit on Highway 61, I noticed that all the vehicles heading south on the highway had their flashers on and were traveling at a snail's pace. That was my first clue that what was up ahead would not be pretty. Of course I would be the one driving. Prior to our departure I had checked the weather station and on-line weather resources, which revealed no problems with the weather or roads in St. Louis, Hannibal, or Iowa City. Why I believed any of them, I have no idea. Chalk it up to being in the Christmas spirit. (Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.) It began to rain before we got to Chesterfield Valley, but with the temperature in the low 30's, this was not a problem. What happened near Bowling Green was a drop in temperature to the 28 degree mark, leading to black ice. As one car after the other slipped and slided ahead of us on the road, we watched car after car head into the median or off the shoulder into a ditch. With my hands tightly clenched on the steering wheel, I crept along behind a propane gas truck, ultimately driving on the shoulder of the road as it had a grooved surface. Just as I suggested to my husband that we get off the highway so we discuss the wisdom of continuing, the traffic came to a total hault. A tractor trailer carrying fuel had jack-knifed, and was blocking both of the north bound traffic lanes. About 30 feet from the Bowling Green exit. Had he been a little further along we could have all taken the exit ramp to go around him. There was nothing to do but sit it out. People began to leave their cars and hike up the exit ramp, to use the restroom I presume. Some either extremely brave or extremely stupid drivers drove in the median or up an embankment to get around the accident. I looked at the Fed Ex truck on my left and commented that there was one delivery that wasn't going to be made on time. After a while the Fed Ex driver hopped out of the truck and took pictures of the accident and all the traffic stacked up behind us. My husband said he was probably trying to prove to his boss that he really was stuck in traffic and not out goofing off. A highway patrol car finally showed up, took a look, and took off. An ambulance arrived and sat on the southbound shoulder, adding to the trials of the southbound drivers. Then a fire truck appeared on the outer road to see what was going on. A couple of tow trucks drove by, apparently decided it was too big of a job and headed off to pull all the other poor drivers out of the ditches. After an hour, a small rusty tow truck stopped to take a look. As I looked at the condition of this new arrival, I thought to myself that there is no way he will be able to move that big rig. But sure enough, he was like the Little Engine That Could. After a few manuevers he got the tractor turned around and pulled the whole thing off on the shoulder of the road. We slowly crept around the accident site and saw that most travelers were taking the Bowling Green exit, which has quite a big incline to it. I decided to keep the momentum going with my car, and we traveled on to the next safe exit to get gas and regroup. By then I had a crushing headache and I felt like I was going to throw up. I can't remember the last time I drove on roads that bad, or was that scared. A call to my in-laws provided us with the news that it was sunny and dry (well, as dry as the town could be with 8 inches of snow on the ground) there. Jim took over the wheel and we decided to travel a little further to see if things improved. From there through Hannibal we had sleet, but the temperature climbed back to the freezing mark. Further north there was no precipitation. In the end, it took us 8 and a half stressful hours to get there. Charles City got a couple more inches of snow while we were there, and for Christmas Eve Mass the temperature was negative 3 degrees. It was 34 degrees when we left there this morning and 61 when we arrived in St. Louis. Go figure...Despite all of that we had a wonderful Christmas, and we can't wait for Andy and Megan to get here tomorrow.