So I finally got to fly back to Indiana on Christmas Day to meet up with my wife, kids, parents, and assorted family. It was nice to get there and see everyone after the 2 weeks of solitude and snowed-in lifestyle. However, something in my gut told me that we needed to get out of town and get on the road back to Colorado. But since I had been delayed I was encouraged by everyone to stay for at least a couple days to visit. Ok. Sounds good.
Then the pricks at the Weather Channel decided to ruin my holiday again. Colorado was in for blizzard #2. That can’t be good. I watched the weather reports gaining steam on Wednesday. The radar looked like the storm would move through and hookup up northeast like the other. We would miss it. Let’s go…but I was prepared that we might have to stop in case of weather.
Thursday: So we said our goodbyes, jumped in the car, and…nothing. The car would not start. Oops. Try again. Nothing. The battery is dead. I guess the 3 hours of packing the car in the garage drained the battery. Smart. The battery was the original so Herb and I went and picked up a new one. Herb popped it, replaced the terminal ends, and it was good as new — or 90,000 miles.
We ended up leaving around 4PM EST. Stopped on the Indiana-Illinois border for dinner. Then motored on. We got about 1/3 way across Kansas when the bad news showed up online. I-70 closed from Denver to the Kansas border. Uh oh. Our weather outside the car was perfect but we decided to stop at 2:30 AM and hold up for the night. They should have this figured out by morning.
Friday: So I woke up at around 8 AM and called the Colorado road conditions hotline. 70 is still closed. Oh well, sleep in. We got up around noon because the kids just kept sleeping. Good enough. Road was still closed. So I decided to work from the hotel for the day and the kids just played around. Later we visited the pool. Then we took a walk over to Wal-Mart to waste some time. One day in Kansas down. Surely we can leave in the morning.
Saturday: Day #2 in Kansas…road is still closed. Let’s see what there is to do around here. Ended up taking the kids to a movie and having a nice lunch. But I am getting antsy. We got back to the hotel at 3 PM and I poured over the reports again. They are not going to open I-70 till 2007 from the looks of it. Its nasty out on the plains. And worse yet…the storm is inching this way towards us. We might be stuck at this hotel in another day. After an hour of debate, Kim and I decided to game it. We packed up our stuff and hit the road. We had already paid for that night in the hotel because we stayed after checkout but we wanted to get home.
I drove hard and fast north out of Junction City, KS and we got up to I-80 in Nebraska by dinner time. I-80 was clean according to the web sites. As I get up from eating at Wendy’s, this older gentleman sits at the nearby table and starts telling war stories about what he just saw west of here. Cars in ditches. Trucks turned over. We just got a room he says. Its getting nasty out there. Its not that I didn’t believe him but it was 7 PM and I was on a mission. But I took it under advisement.
We drove about 20 miles and then the road went to hell. It was a sheet of ice. The 80 MPH traffic went from 20-40 MPH depending on your desire to live on the wild side. Changing lanes was your chance to be the next person to slide off the road. Semis were jack-knifed….those were the lucky ones. The rest were upside down. We kept motoring on until we could get to a city with hotels. Just before our exit, the car wouldn’t even stay straight going down a hill. The backend would just start going one way. My wonderful ice driving training was helpful but I didn’t need to be doing this.
So we popped into the first hotel that we saw. Every hotel in town was packed. I went into one hotel and they said they were out of rooms but were getting 1 more room made up and it would be ready at midnight. Sign us up. You could have ice skated in their parking lot. As we were going to bed, the power kept going on and off. The ice on the power lines was playing havoc. But at least I am not driving.
Sunday: We awoke to the sounds of people banging on their cars trying to get them open. All the cars were encased in ice. I went out and got our car defrosted and ready to go after about 45 minutes of work. We grabbed breakfast and hit the road….at 20 MPH. It was 9 AM but the ice was solid and the roads were about as bad as last night. At least there was light and I knew it had to get better. I drove up on the wheel and 1/2 max interstate speed for maybe 3 hours. The roads then started getting better, then better, then better. Finally we hit full speed and crossed into Colorado. About 3 hours to go. The Colorado roads were clean then snow then clean. Safer than ice but not smooth sailing.
Unfortunately, we had to drive out of our way to the Denver Airport to go and get my car. It was going to be on the way if I-70 would have worked out. When I left the airport parking garage, the lady screwed up my payment and had to go and get a supervisor to void and redo the transaction. Sorry, she said. I was about to cry but I laughed. I just want to go home! I don’t think she understood that it had been 4 days and I was done — but she was the last thing I had do deal with and it had to go wrong. I waited then calmly drove home and I am not leaving the house until next year!