Monday, December 27

NEITHER RAIN, SLEET, SNOW, NOR ICE ...

My wife Cathy and I left our home in southeastern Texas early Wednesday morning, December 22nd, bound for northcentral Kentucky not only for a Christmastime family get-together with our two sons, two grandsons, daughter-in-law and my wife's mother, but to see for the first time ever our new grandson, two week old Austin Burgess Higgins. The good news was we opted to travel in my wife's Jeep 4x4, rather than my sedan. Had we not, we never would have made it. The bad news was from Texarkana, TX, on through the balance of our two day journey (more like a bad dream), we encountered the worst weather conditions I have ever driven through in my lifetime. In a trip that should take 18 - 19 hours of pure driving, I drove 18 hours on Day #1 of our "adventure," getting as far as the eastside of Memphis, TN, and another 13 hours on Day #2. To say we were intrepid travelers is understatement. Some could fairly argue that we were nuts to keep going. It was eminently unsafe out there on the Interstates. However, conditions were such that once we were caught up in the nasty winter weather, we were committed. Arkansas was far and away the worst portion of the trip. It was that state's worst snow and ice storm since 1990 and we caught the brunt of it. The Little Rock to Memphis leg of the trip should have taken 2 1/2 hours maximum. We hit the southern edge of Little Rock at 3:30pm CST and didn't reach the bridge over the Mississippi River into Memphis, TN until midnight. And all along the way, through Arkansas, Tennessee and into Kentucky, all we saw (and oftentimes witnessed firsthand) were cars, pick-trucks and tractor-trailer combinations down in the medians or off either side of the Interstates -- victims of black ice and, I suspect, poor driver judgement. There were interminable delays, as emergency responders tried futiley to clear the backlog of accidents and drag jacknifed big rigs from deep, snowy culverts. What an absolute mess. But, we made it. Many, I'm sure, did not. Passenger cars and pick-ups could not get traction on the upgrades, their tires spinning fitfully on the slick, ice-covered pavement. It was a scary proposition, but once we were a captive of the severe winter weather, turning around and heading back didn't seem any safer an option than continuing on. So, on (and on) we went. If we weren't at dead stops, oftentimes traffic wasn't moving any faster than 20 - 25 miles per hour. But we weren't stranded at an airport and we were never separated from our luggage. And now our first trip to visit our grandchildren may well become the stuff of legends -- a part of family lore. At least in our own minds, anyway!