Since moving to the midwest, I have often wondered if the type of blizzards I read about in “Little House on the Prairie” still happened. You know, the type where you get turned around and perish because you cannot find the house that is 2 feet to your left. I am here to say that they do indeed exist.
J decided to take me to Kansas City over the weekend. We have tried to get there before but to no avail. He has been there and enjoyed it, and wanted to share it with me.
So, we had heard that there is a storm brewing, but we had this really wise idea to beat the storm. After all, the weather channels were being quite specific about when the storm would start and when it would stop and how many inches of snow we would receive. So we headed out.
We began to get concerned as the soft gentle snowflakes flew faster and the wind picked up whipping the snow around our car. We still felt confident, we were in J’s all wheel drive beamer and we were about an hour north of KC. About 15 minutes (on a regular day) north of St Joseph, where we have been before. But that confidence quickly eroded when we realized that the car just a few feet ahead of us was no longer visible. Neither was the road. We slowed way down and J watched for the car in front of us. I began to orient myself with the reflectors on the side of the highway, making sure we were still on the road. J began to be concerned about the car behind us. Figuring that if he could not see the car ahead of us until we were too close to stop, perhaps the car behind us would hit us. I rolled my window down and began to hang my head out of the car, looking back for the car behind us. Which I could not see in any form.
We thought that we could just get to St Joe and take the first exit. Being familiar with that town we knew we could get somewhere warm. So we got on the major highway in order to get off at the St Joe exit. Things got significantly worse from there. We were in what looked like a pocket of snow. Snow swirling all around us, no visible road. A true blizzard. What made things even worse was that the snow would hit the windshield, turn to ice, and then collect underneath the wipers. So even wipers did not help. We passed a cop car with its lights going, but we didn’t even see it until we were next to it. We then saw a nasty accident. We pulled ahead of the accident knowing we could go no further until we cleared off some of the ice. As we pulled aside, we could feel we were off the road, but we trusted that the all wheel drive would help. We then realized that there were a lot of cars out, as well as semi’s. They were all passing us so I wouldn’t let J get out the driver side, as I was just sure he would get hit. I cleared off the ice as best as I could, scarf and coat whipping about and with me in constant contact with the car lest I “lose” it. Once we got back in the car, J rocked it back and forth until we managed to get back on the road. We could see the line of cars as they were passing us so it took a long time to get the courage to get back on the highway. We knew the exit we would take was maybe a mile and a half away so we got back on the road behind a semi. I watched what the semi was doing, mainly riding the rumble strip to make sure he was still ON the road. I rolled down my window and had J ride with the passenger tires on the rumble strip. It helped. A lot. At least we knew we were on the road and on one side. How very strange to drive by feel!
We managed to make it to the first St Joe exit, both of us shaking like a leaf. We pulled into the first gas station. Of course it was absolutely packed with everyone else who has gotten caught in the storm. We pulled in behind someone who was parked and out of their car. J rolled down his window just in time to see a parked car sliding towards him. He yelled and backed up quickly while we watched the car slide all the way down the hill right in front of us and land in the ditch. That poor woman never had a chance. I told J that we needed to get away from all of these drivers! I didn’t think it was particularly safe to be where we were. We knew that there was a shopping strip/movie theater near by so we headed there and sat in Borders hoping that the storm would let up while we sipped our mochas and read books. We then heard that they had closed the highway. I told J that if they closed the highway, hotel rooms were going to be in short supply but I think he had this idea that the storm would let up and we would be able to go home. Or go on. So all that was left to do was shop. We wandered through the strip mall as no one could go home so they all stayed open. J bought smoked salmon at the TJmaxx in case we weren’t able to get any food. We had apples and bananas in the car. Once we tired of shopping and got too hungry, and at that point the storm had let up enough to see a bit more, he finally decided that we did indeed need a hotel room. After all, our nerves were shot and even if it wasn’t snowing, we hadn’t seen one snowplow that entire time! Also, he thought I had ruined his windshield wipers by pulling them up to get rid of the ice. I thought that there was just ice in the tension system on the arms but I really didn’t care because the ice had to come off no matter what.
We stopped at the first hotel we saw. The parking lot was packed so I ran in and asked for a room. No rooms at the inn! In fact, from what she told me, no rooms in the city! I asked J to drive to the next hotel just in case. I ran in there and asked for a room. No rooms. I asked her if she knew of ANY rooms in the city. I really didn’t want to sleep in the beamer! She said she would call the last hotel off the beaten path since she had placed others there. The receptionist there said she had one room left, the jacuzzi suite. She wasn’t even price gouging as I thought she might. I told her I would take it and they reserved it for us. I figured even if J, for some odd reason, thought it was too much they wouldn’t have any trouble reselling it. Since there were people behind me wanting rooms as well. I ran back to the car and told him about the room, telling him I reserved it regardless of whether or not he wanted it. He informed me that the price of that room was a small price to pay for peace of mind. An accident or a car in the ditch would cost much more. I could not argue with that!
The room was truly a suite, we had a separate room with 2 couches. I hit the bathroom first and it was dirty! Frankly, J would have been horrified but I didn’t want to sleep in the beamer so I cleaned it myself. He did rather wonder why I refused to take advantage of the jacuzzi though!
We then needed to go find food. We went to an italian style place we had been to last time we were in St. Joe. I was hungry but wanted nothing but a salad and a hot bowl of french onion soup. To be honest, J was a bit insulted at that, thinking I should have the nice pasta and take advantage of a dinner out. But it was what I really really wanted, something to warm me up. I had to remind him of the lebanese saying he has told me before, “Eat for yourself and dress for others.” He sure didn’t say another word about what I ordered then! When we got out of the restaurant, it was as clear as could be. Suddenly there was no snow. No snow and clear skies. The air was crisp and cold but the wind wasn’t whipping about as it had been. What an amazing change! The snow plows were starting to come out as we went to Starbucks for a mocha.
The next morning the roads were cleared for the most part. We had a choice, either continue on to KC or go home. I think he was leaning toward going home but it seemed a shame to come all that way! We headed on to KC, bad wiper blades and all. I did manage to find and pull the ice out of the tension system once we were in KC. They are fine now. KC was lovely! I had no idea! We had a very nice time and keep talking about going back in the near future.
We found out later that the highway had been closed between St Joe and KC, and that there had been a 40 car pile up about 15 miles south of St Joe. We could easily have been involved in that.
We also found out that KC didn’t get snow like we drove through, the more than 12 inches when only 4-6 were expected. In fact, we were in a small pocket that got dumped on. Even just a bit north of St. Joe did not get hit.
We wouldn’t have had to sleep in the beamer, as the Ramada set up a shelter for the travelers who couldn’t find rooms. I am not sorry we got a room though!
J, who often says he doesn’t believe that God intervenes directly in peoples lives, a belief we often discuss, looked at me and said, “I think God is looking after us today, even when we were stupid enough to think we could beat a storm and it is our own fault for being out in it, we didn’t get hit even though we came close many times.”