Friday, January 8, 2010

Homeward bound: a story in 248 parts (or, the weekend I learned to tolerate coffee)

It is friggin' cold here in D.C., though--in the interest of full disclosure--when that phrase goes through my head, as it does at least thrice daily, "friggin" is not usually the first adverb that comes to mind. On top of the cold, it's windy, which is just all-around unpleasant during the trudge to/from work.

The one thing it really isn't doing is snowing. It flurried a bit last night--maybe even an inch or so--but that has ceased, and now it has returned to being friggin' cold. I would rather it snow. But Hannah, you say, didn't you have more than enough snow during the blizzard the weekend before Christmas? Well, you'd think so, except that I wasn't in D.C. for it and thus was unable to enjoy the Monday off from work. Why?


Due to the impending snowstorm, which was scheduled to start on our around Saturday, December 19, I left town early--at 1:30pm on Friday--bound for the homeland. All was going according to plan until I reached Harrisonburg a few minutes before 4pm. It started to spit snow. I pressed onward. By 5:15, it was sticking to the highway and traffic was slowing down. By 5:45, aware that I was obviously not going to make it home that evening, I began watching for hotels. At exit 205, I pointed Lola toward the off-ramp and the distant lights of a Days Inn, the only hotel at the exit. I crept up the snowy hill--the car in front of me skidding and fishtailing--pulled into the lot, and tromped through the already accumulating drifts into the lobby. (Word of advice: Chuck Taylors are not meant for snow. You're welcome.) Clearly, plenty of others had had a similar idea.

By 6:30, I was ensconced in my room taking stock of my food supply (Corn Flakes: 1 large box. Brownies: 1. Bottle of water: 1.), watching the news (BLIZZARD! SNOWPOCALYPSE! MAYDAY!), and trying to figure out where the hell I was. According to the sticker on the phone: Raphine, Virginia.

I have driven I-81 probably 100 times. Never before had I even noticed Raphine, Virginia. Probably because it consists entirely of a Days Inn, a gas station/Wendy's combo, and The Smiley Face truck stop/liquore store. (If I'd known what was coming, I might've stopped there on the way into "town."

Anyway, as we all now know, the east coast got pounded with snow that weekend, gracing the metropolis of Raphine with about 2 feet. I-81 South was closed for a large stretch, and we were stuck.

Luckily, I had a half-dozen new books to read, a (rather spotty) wifi connection, and exactly sixteen TV channels, seventeen if you count the fuzzy TBS. For food, I had the aforementioned cereal and brownie and the rather unappetizing contents of the third floor vending machine.

On Saturday morning, once it became clear that no one was leaving, the residents of the Raphine Days Inn settled in for a day of, well, boredom. Periodically, people would wander down to the lobby for some bad coffee, to see if anyone had any news, and to speculate about when the plow would arrive to clear the parking lot. (Answer: never.)

I met three other people around my age: Maddie, a Towson University student; Tommy, a dude travelling from PA to FL; and Johnny, headed from DC to Charlotte. We trudged down the hill to the gas station/Wendy's for lunch, taking orders from the less-nimble older folks at the hotel and returning with sacks of burgers and fries.

We sat around for a while.
"Too bad nobody has a deck of cards," one of us said.
There was general agreement, followed by silence as we pondered the endless hours of amusement lost.
"Oh hey!" said Johnny. "I have Hannah Montana playing cards."
A pause. "You have...Hannah Montana playing cards?" I said skeptically.
"What? They're a present for my little sister. We'll have to unwrap them, but whatever."
I don't know if they ever did, because I disappeared outside to see about digging Lola out for our eventual escape. Tool of choice? The trash can from my hotel room.

On Sunday morning, muscles screaming at me, I was up and outside at 7:30am to re-scrape Lola, pack the car, and GET OUT of Raphine. A posse of men--fellow refugees--spent the morning digging people out and pulling cars out of icy, snowy holes. "What ya gotta do," one burly fellow told me, "is ROCK the car." I responded by handing him my keys. Seven minutes later, after some grunting (the men) and anxiety (me, as I watched my wheels spin wildly on the ice), I was on the road.

Four hours later, at 1:30pm, I pulled into the driveway at home, exactly 48 hours after I left D.C.

Weirdest. Road trip. Ever.

1 comment:

  1. So the most important lessons learned from this experience are as follows:
    -Always travel with extra pairs of clean undies (duh)
    -If weather looks dicey, throw a can of soup in the car
    -Keep a deck of cards in your glove box and/or suitcase and/or handbag at all times (road trips, airport delays, impromptu games in Anderson 311...)
    -Men should forever be responsible for removing cars from snowbanks/holes/drifts/etc while the womenfolk look on. We do NOT need equality in that department, thankyouverymuch