Headlines from First Thoughts

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

How to spend 5 1/2 hours on I-81 on President's Day Weekend

When traffic stopped at mile marker 65 on I-81 East, I had no idea that we would be moving over five hours later.
Thankfully we were not involved in the tragic accident on I-75 in Jellico. We were simply taking a 28-hour roadtrip to Winterplace.

We have to choose our weekends wisely in the ministry life. Even Monday school holidays usually mean short trips to avoid taking a Sunday as a vacation day. They are precious and few. After the services Sunday, we loaded the mini-van, picked up a McAlister's Sweet Tea, and ate our PBJ sandwiches for a four hour roadtrip to West Virginia.

During "winter storm warnings," they tell you to take flashlights, blankets, and food for a year. I assumed those warnings were for unanticipated snow. I never really factored jack-knifed semi-trailer trucks into the equation. The snow started falling north of Kingsport, Tennessee. Visiblity was low but nothing unusual. Traffic was stop-and-go in some places. When we stopped at mile marker 64, in Wythe County, Virginia, we let the car run for about two hours, assuming the traffic ahead would start moving. This wait turned into more of a German autobahn stall. People were leaving their vehicles, wandering around. We even considered building a snowman.

The people ahead of us were tracking things on the scanner. We were trackinghttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif developments on the I-Pad and twitter. The Weather Channel was reporting from Wytheville. After two hours of waiting, we turned off the car, took care of the necessary things, and chowed down on graham crackers. Darkness was falling, and we began thinking through what a night might be like on the interstate. Fortunately, the snow stopped. I can only imagine what would have happened if a blizzard had dropped 12 inches of snow on us.

The boys had fun bugging each other, and we enjoyed teasing them with stories, songs, and silliness. At the four-hour mark, Parker made a palate. They played every itouch game they could download. Even the wrestling match was over. We cranked the engine and started watching movies again.

Now past five hours, we turned off the engine, leaned the seats back, and began to doze. About that time, the traffic cleared. We passed the semi, now safely on the side of the road, and decided to forge on to the hotel.

When we woke up the next morning, Parker was sick. On the way to the lifts, we saw the evidence. After a brief clean-up in the warning lane, we decided to head to the mountain. The next exit was for Winterplace.

By this time, if you were superstitious, every sign was saying to "turn around and leave immediately." But we're not, and we just go with our instincts. A stranger walked up. "I've got a couple of extra lift passes that we're not using. Would you like to purchase them? They're only $20 (regular $65 on a holiday)." A blessing in disguise? A sign from above? Or maybe just good grace. We didn't deserve the passes, but we were seeing snow. We bought two for the adults. Drake was free. We were going to ski.

We arrived at the lodge and decided to set up camp in the dining area, let Parker sleep, while Kelly and Drake skied. I stayed with Parker in the morning and switched with Kelly for the afternoon.

We left around 3:00 and were home by 6:30. We did not dare exit. Parker is taking a sick day today and recovering. And we are grateful to be home.


Alan said...

Bill, it's those awesomely planned trips that always seem to go haywire. Glad you and the family are okay!

Mr. B said...

Life's unexpected turns. I think there is fodder there for a sermon or two.....can't wait to hear them :)

Bill Brewer

Bill Shiell said...

This seems to happen to us every time we try to ski nearby. We have a Cataloochee story as well. Great memories for sure. Thanks for the comments

John said...

Bill -

I was recently in a stau from Kaiserslautern to Garmisch with the girls on the way to go camping. 6 hours later -- after watching people cook, walk their dogs, etc. -- we started moving again. I feel your pain! Hope all is well in Knoxville!

John Prince

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