Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Surviving Christmas vacation

Christmas in the Midwest is kind of a doozy.

Let me tell you about our travels. Last Tuesday, we left Minneapolis a day early to beat the infamous winter storm that you probably heard about. We did beat it, but it caught up to us after we reached my parents' house. They live in rural North Dakota. The county road to their house filled with large drifts and remained unplowed for several days. We lost power for a while. Oh yeah, and the only Internet access was dial-up. I suffered a life-threatening case of cabin fever. I think I'm ok now.

We had intended to head home on Saturday morning, but the cross-state freeways were closed for much of the day. The whole state was hit pretty hard with a reported 23 inches in Grand Forks. If you don't live in North Dakota, you might not understand the extent of the snow's affect. The strong winds (that didn't let up for days) were actually just as bad since they caused continual drifting. There aren't a lot of trees in this state, so it's not uncommon to see 3 or 4-foot drifts on roads. And since the wind wasn't letting up, the city wasn't sending the plows out. We were totally stuck.

Finally on Saturday afternoon, a neighbor with a plow blade on a pick-up truck broke through the 8-foot drift at the top of the hill to make a single-car-sized passway. We broke out and traveled to my sister's house, deciding to stay there for the night as there was still no travel advised on the freeways. It was a nice change of scenery, and I appreciated that I got to spend some quality time with my sister and her husband. However we got stuck in the snow three times on her block. Even so, we hopped in my sister's 4-wheel drive truck and journeyed to my grandparents' house, where we ate and opened gifts. We came back to my sister's place, intending to wake up and leave early Sunday morning. However by late morning, the plows still had not come. Remind me again why we live in the Midwest?

We decided to try and break out anyway. The four of us (Rob, me, sister, brother-in-law) bundled up and went to the street to kick down the higher ridges in the road. Then we pushed the car through the last drift on the street. Freedom! We hit the highway and drove three hours to Fargo. The roads were perfectly clear and ice-free until the sun went down. Then we started hitting little patches of ice. Each patch would make our back tires swing out. We slowed down. Then slowed down some more. Still more swerving and back tire swing. We were only going 35-40 mph in a 70 mph zone, and many other cars were whizzing by with no problem. Yet somehow our car felt like it was wearing ice skates. We are going to look into getting winter tires.

Right outside of Fargo, we hit a patch that spun the car in a complete circle. We shot across the other lane of traffic (thankfully there wasn't a car next to us) and slammed into the ditch. We came to a hard stop when we hit the snow, which had drifted over the ditch. We were now just off the highway and facing oncoming traffic. I couldn't open my door because the snow was too deep. Dozens of cars were zipping by, and I was terrified that one of them would hit the same patch of ice and come flying toward us. And since we faced traffic, I would witness the whole thing. I felt my anxiety rising...

A car with two college aged girls stopped. They got out to help us. I was so touched by this. They were outside in sub-zero temps near a dangerous road... to help us. I got a little choked up. This feeling, combined with the fear of being hit by another car and the general emotions associated with family holidays and stressful winter storms, did me in. I started to cry.

The police came quickly, and two squad cars parked near us, slowing traffic. I love the police, I really do. They make me feel safe. The tow truck also came quickly, and it only took a few minutes to get our car hooked up and yanked out of the snow-filled ditch. We paid the tow truck driver and thanked him, but he had to rush off to help another car that had flipped into the ditch nearby. Those roads were seriously dangerous.

We decided not to go any farther. I very luckily had college friends in Fargo. I hadn't been to their house in more than 4 years, and yet they welcomed us in, even driving out in their SUV to lead us to their house. AND they let us bring Murphy inside, which was such a nice gesture since they don't have any pets. After visiting for a while, we decided to check Murphy, who was camped out in the basement. Maybe he was just distressed from the car incident, but he had an accident on the floor. I was horrified. He NEVER has accidents, and now to have one here... in my gracious friends' basement... my friends who I rarely see... my friends who have no pets and a really clean house... I was just mortified. I think I did a good job cleaning up the mess, and my friends claim that it was ok. Steph and Dave - if you are reading this, I still feel terrible about it, and I'm so grateful that you two were pretty chill about the whole thing. You were such gracious hosts. If I can ever pay you back...

The next morning, we took off for the final leg of the journey. This part usually takes 3.5 hours, but we made it in 5. The first hour was terrible. We had to drive really slow, and the car swerved a few times on ice patches. But we made it home, safe and sound.

Anyway long story short, our original Wednesday-Saturday trip turned into a Tuesday-Monday trip that almost killed us and made me cry. And you know what? I feel unbelievably happy and blessed.

  • I'm grateful that we went into the ditch at a lower speed, so we were not harmed and our car suffered no damage.
  • I'm grateful that there were no cars around us when it happened. And that we didn't get hit while waiting for the tow truck.
  • I'm grateful for the police and how they made me feel safe.
  • I'm grateful that the incident happened close to a city, so we didn't have to wait long for the tow truck.
  • I'm grateful that the tow only cost $80. I've heard of it costing much more, like $300.
  • I'm grateful that my parents were so patient and gracious when we stayed with them.
  • That my sister and her husband took us in and even temporarily broke their "no dogs in the house" rule for Murphy when we needed a place to crash. I'm grateful that they made us feel at home, helped us relax, and bundled up to help push our car through the street drifts.
  • I'm grateful that my Fargo friends, Steph and Dave, also welcomed us (and Murphy too) into their home. I'm grateful that they were so accommodating and helpful. I'm grateful that I was able to see them and visit for a few hours.
  • I'm grateful for the two college girls who stopped to help us. Their kindness surprises and humbles me.
  • I'm grateful for my husband and his level-headedness and how he takes charge in rough situations. Grateful that he's patient when I'm anxious and reassuring when I'm crying. Grateful that he is who he is. I love my Rob.
  • I'm just grateful for everything and how it always works out.

I have a bunch of photos, but I'm having some problems with my card reader at the moment (figures). So anyway, photos coming soon.

Take care and Merry Christmas, everyone.


Kasey at Thrifty Little Blog December 29, 2009 at 11:17 AM  

Wow, what a story! I'm so glad to hear that you are okay and have such a great attitude about it all!!

micah @ the yellow front door December 29, 2009 at 1:01 PM  

Oh my goodness, how scary!! Glad you are all OK!

Amanda December 29, 2009 at 7:02 PM  

Wow, that was intense! Glad to hear everyone is okay. You definitely experienced the negative side of having a white Christmas. :) Good for you for still finding all those things to be thankful for!

Dave January 13, 2010 at 8:37 AM  

Haha--no problem. Stop by anytime. No worries on Murphy's accident. I was just thankful you said we have a "really clean house." You must not have looked at our floors. ;)

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