Monday, December 28, 2009

stuck in the car for twenty-three hours

It should have just been a 6.5 trip under normal conditions. But the weather + abandoned cars + stuck cars + panicky drivers = a 23-hour long trip instead. With a newborn and a toddler.

It started out somewhat normally on Christmas Eve. Tim had to work that day so we were going to go up to Amarillo (from Dallas) that night, and get to my parents' house sometime shortly after midnight. The very first leg of the trip was very slow, before we even got out of Dallas, but it was because of an accident. After we passed the accident, the traffic picked up a little in speed. It was still snowing at this time (about 7:00 p.m.), but very lightly, and visibility was good.

We continued on our path, going up through Denton to Decatur. Traffic continued plugging along slowly, moving down to one lane b/c of how the weather was. The roads were snowy and icy, but nothing completely undrivable. We had just over half a tank of gas left when we reached Decatur, and decided to go ahead and fill up at that time. We also bought a 16-oz coffee. The cup would come in handy later.

Not even two or three miles up from that gas station, traffic came to an absolute standstill. No movement whatsoever. And it stayed like that for a couple of hours. We literally moved fewer than 20 yards in 2 hours. I tried to sleep a little but it's hard to sleep in a car, especially when you can't move the seat down b/c of passengers in the back. Later on, Tim tried to sleep some as well.

There was a hill shortly up the road, and a DPS worker was letting the cars go by one at a time and saying "drive on that spot on the hill so you can get traction and don't slide back down." He also said that we should be able to make it all the way to Wichita Falls (normally about 70 minutes of traveling time) but that the roads would be like this the whole way (one lane, icy, etc.). We were moving again. The snow had completely stopped by now and visibility was as good as it could be, for being in the middle of the night.

We did NOT make it to Wichita Falls before we were stopped again. This time, we were on a slight curve in the road, and we could see the 50+ cars each in front of and behind us, in the same predicament. We would have loved to pull off the road and go into a hotel somewhere and wait it out, but there was a median with 8-10" drifts in it on one side, and a big ditch on the other. During this stoppage, someone in a Ford Focus tried to drive in the other lane, and they got stuck shortly in front of us and were going nowhere fast. Tim got out to try to help, and also to help another car that had gotten stuck as well.

The coffee was long since gone, as was the water we had brought, and I was getting thirsty. Tim took the empty coffee cup and stepped off the road into some untouched snow and filled it up for me, so it could melt and I could eat it. I couldn't wait for it to melt, though, and so I ate little bits of ice. It helped some, but what I really needed was ounces of water, not mere teaspoons.

We watched the sun rise at one of the stuck spots, and Benjamin finally woke up to eat. I had Tim get out and pass him to me in the front seat, and I fed him while sitting in the car in the line of non-moving traffic. And I changed his diaper on my lap a few times. All of them were #2 diapers. If the traffic were moving at all, even inches at a time, I would not have fed him in the front seat like that. We were completely stopped for all 4-5 of his feeds that he needed while in the line.

We were nearing half a tank of gas again, and pulled off to a 7-11 station. They had no gas at the time, only diesel. It was about 10:00 a.m. at this time. The road briefly had two drivable lanes, and there was someone behind and to the left of us who got Tim's attention right after he buckled Benjamin back up after a feed. It was a family and the mama asked if I had any water, and told Tim that if I'm breastfeeding then I need some water, and she gave him a bottle for me. :)

The next gas station we came to was one at Iowa Park (still normally 30 minutes before Wichita Falls), and this one DID have gas, and a long line for the bathroom, and food. I let Tim run in to the bathroom first and then I took Lydia out so she could stretch her legs. Except for a brief diaper change earlier, she hadn't been out of her car seat at all. Poor thing was such a trooper though. She did not want to walk on the ice, though, and at the very slightest slip, she started crying and needed me to carry her. So I went to the bathroom and got some food and more water while Tim was pumping gas. I came back outside to find several people helping him to get up the icy hill to leave the station. Part of the problem was the ice, definitely, but I think another part of the problem was that the parking brake was still on. We did get out of that station with little ado and were on our way again. This was about 1:15 p.m. We had now been on the road for 19 hours.

Once inside Wichita Falls, the traffic moved along w/ one lane. There were a ton of abandoned vehicles still on the road that we had to weave around. And you know those big signs in large cities that will say what the traffic conditions are, like for rush hours? There was one of those signs in Wichita Falls, and it said that US-287 (the road we were on and needed to stay on) was closed west of the city. We were hoping that it was just an old message and we would be able to continue moving. And we did, slowly. We were averaging about 5 to 10 MPH during this time.

We passed some "encouraging" road signs that said things like "Amarillo... 231 miles." At our current speed, that meant it would take us 23 to 46 hours to get there, lol. And outside of Wichita Falls, we did have one final hour or so of standstill before we were able to get going again. But sometime between Wichita Falls and Vernon, we saw spots of real pavement. The slush got less and less, and we were able to finish the trip in the usual amount of time, and even go the normal speed limit. We finally reached my parents' house at 5:15 p.m., a full 23 hours after we had started out.

I am glad we were able to spend some time with them, but I just wish it had been a little more time. Tim did say that I could probably take a longer trip up there in the spring, though.

1 comment:

Soña said...

Oh my goodness - what a story! I'm glad y'all made it ok.