“Have you seen the forecast for the east coast tomorrow?”
There was no hello, no ‘hey babe!’ when I answered the phone this time. Missy doesn’t usually call me this early unless it’s serious. I had gotten to work extra early since we were planning on leaving for our drive to the east coast after lunch…so this question caught me quite off-guard.
“No, why?” I replied. She then proceeded to inform me that the worst December blizzard in at least twenty years was bearing down on the I-95 corridor…expected to arrive at the exact time we were planning on being there. In our car, mind you. In fact, 16-24 inches of snow were expected to drop in just over 24 hours.
I swallowed hard, and started to gather myself. Usually Missy and I drive the 16 hours to Maryland when we visit because it is just a lot easier to have our own way of getting around; we can maintain our own schedule when visiting friends and seeing family. Even though it’s a long trip, it turns out to be a lot less expensive than flying and renting a car for week or 10 days or however long we intend on staying. Plus we look forward to spending the uninterrupted quality time together; listening to books on tape, watching DVD’s, talking, or sleeping. Our journey normally takes us through Peoria, Indianapolis, Columbus, Morgantown…basically avoiding the killer toll roads of I-80. However, once I saw the storm path, I made the decision to suck it up and pay the tolls, hoping these roads would make for a shorter trip and be a better drive in the snow.
We couldn’t leave any earlier than we had planned, so leaving after lunch we pushed all the way through to Cleveland before finally calling it a night. We arose early the next morning to snow flurries and were on the road by seven. It’s a five hour trip in from Cleveland on a normal day, but with constant snow report updates from the fam, we were thinking that it would take six or seven. The roads were still very passable, just wet with melted snow.
“If it’s like this the rest of the way in, we’ll be fine” Missy said before taking a nap. Famous last words, I suppose.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike. Tunnels. No shoulders. Trucks scream by with reckless abandon. It’s the one road I dread. Best avoided if possible. In fact, we usually do…but it was our only hope this time. Our other, normal route was already under 18 inches. So it would figure that it’s the road we were traveling on exactly when the worst hit. We were 10 miles outside of Somerset, PA when the white blanket fell from the sky and covered everything in my path. We pulled off at the closest travel plaza to gas up and talk out our options.
Hagerstown is normally a two hour trip from Somerset, which wasn’t even our intended destination. The original plan was to drive all the way into Manassas to first visit Jake, Melissa, and Tennyson…which is another hour and a half past Hagerstown. Granted, all times are based on normal, non-blizzard travel. Seeing as how the weather was only going to go from bad to worse, we decided to try and make it at least to my Dad’s place in Hagerstown. Saying a quick prayer, we began what would be the worst journey of our lives.
I really don’t want to relive the trip [I’m already having nightmares about it (seriously)], so I’ll just let these pictures sum up the rest of our journey.
Oh, one thing I do want to mention: the toll roads. Ohio, I hate your state already, but this trip just confirmed how much you suck. It cost us $15.00 to drive the Ohio turnpike, making an already long journey even longer. Pennsylvania…you’re just as bad.
But I guess “A toll is a toll, and a roll is a roll. So if they don’t get no tolls, then they don’t eat no rolls”.
Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.
However, in the end we finally did make it to Hagerstown safe and sound, even if we did spend an extra four hours (for a grand total of 20) in my car. It was better than being stuck at an airport. Plus, we were rewarded with some truly beautiful scenery…
All our plans have changed, but we have arrived unscathed…it will be a very merry Christmas, indeed! Needless to say, I have a new-found respect for my four cylinder 2007 Nissan Altima, as well as my winter-weather driving skills!