Wednesday, February 4, 2009

To Drive Or Not To Drive: That Was The Question.

Yesterday afternoon, we drove to a town about two hours away. I had heard we were going to get hit with a snow storm, and asked Jeff to check the weather report before we committed to going. He checked our report, and cleared us for takeoff. When we were about an hour away from our destination, we started noticing snow. By half an hour before, the blowing and drifting slowed us down to 25 mph. Sections of road with fields around them looked like boiling dry ice, and gave us the sensation of driving on moving clouds. I wished we had time to stop and take pictures for you. It was beautiful, but made me really nervous. Jeff was supposed to teach a Bible study at 7, and it was only 5.

I asked Jeff, "Did you check their report, or just ours?"

"Whoops," he said.

He got done with the study, and afterward we tried to decide whether to crash at our friends' house, or hit the road. I checked the weather report. Hazardous Storm Warning; Travel Advisory; blowing and drifting snow; low visibility; sub-zero temperatures with arctic wind chills... you get the idea. I was in favor of staying till morning, waiting till the roads were cleared and we could see. I hate swirling-snow driving -- especially at night. Jeff wanted to go anyway. We packed up the car.

The snow was falling hard. I said to no one, "This is really stupid." We left after 9. We were taking a route we'd never driven before. I turned on the Magellan, got out my map to orient myself, took a deep breath, and told the kids to be quiet. We slid from side to side getting out of their driveway. We made it onto the road, and made our own tracks. Every once in awhile we saw a faint tracing of tires that had gone before. They disappeared quickly. My anxiety level was high. We don't have a cell phone, and these roads are not exactly in civilization.

The blueberry barrens (only recognizable by their white barrenness, and total lack of trees) are perfect wind corridors. The roads that travel through them can disappear in minutes, even if they have been plowed. Many of these had not been. In addition to the dry ice, moving cloud look I described before, the darkness at that time of night makes the snow that blows just an inch or three over the surface of the road look like dark shadows flitting about like specters. The snow is mesmerizing. It's like flying through space when it's snowing toward you.

About half way through the 45 minute stretch on this road, I thought, "No one knows where we are. If we have an accident, or a flat tire, or just can't find the road to drive on, we're going to die." It was a comfortable thought. Thinking on it, I grew more anxious. Then I thought about Hagar, when she was sent away from Abraham and Sarah, and sat down in the desert to die. She was in a different kind of deadly wilderness, but thinking the same thing as me, no doubt. The Lord showed her a well. The other time she had run away, the Lord had told her to submit to her mistress. She named the place He had spoken to her 'You-are-the-God-who-sees', because she said "Have I also here seen Him who sees me?" So I thought about the God who sees me, and hears my prayers, and I prayed. It wasn't the first or the last prayer. But I was comforted.

The only way we could tell we were still on the road and making progress was by looking at the Magellan. It slowly counted down the miles until the left turn on the next road. Oh-- I should mention that the first road is a steady climb upward. The other is the high road, so to speak. When we turned onto the high road, the Magellan said we had 64 miles until the next turn. It is the major trade route between Maine and Canada. So nighttime driving can always be expected to be with semis, which I also hate. The first one that passed us served as a snow blower for our van. The maelstrom of snow blinded us completely. By the time it settled down and the snow-dust cloud also dissipated, the semi was gone -- completely invisible in front of its rear snow-shield. Jeff grew quieter after that, and slowed down more. Two or three more semis passed us that night, and each time, we pulled over to the right and slowed almost to a stop. I tried to look out the rear window at one that was coming up, and couldn't see it. We turned on the wiper, and realized why.

Looming out of the dark whiteness, we saw the orange lights of semi trucks on the sides of the road, coming up. "What is that?" I asked. Jeff was quiet. We came slowly toward them. Two on the left, pointing up the hill we had just crested, a dump truck behind them, also stopped. And another on the right, on our side, pointing up the hill. We slowly made our way through them with our windows down, just in case anyone wanted to tell us anything. They were partly blocking the road.

"Why were they stopped?" I asked nervously.

"They couldn't make it up the hill." Jeff said, slowing down a little more.

Silas started crying, and a sign for a rest stop came up. I asked Jeff to please stop, if it looked like we'd be able to get back out again. I hoped there was an open bathroom, because I needed one. Two semis were in the snowy lot. We had passed another two or three in a turn-out. Jeff changed Silas, and I happily discovered an open, working bathroom. I thought if we couldn't get back out, we could at least shelter in this bathroom. But we got out. No more semis passed us, because the bottleneck we had driven through protected us. That was a blessing, actually. But it was nerve-wracking to see a little further down the road the lights of what looked like an endless line of semis stopped roadside on the left. I counted, as we drove past, at least fourteen stopped end to end. "They're talking to the ones we passed already, and they'll wait until it's open," Jeff explained to me.

Those 64 miles trickled out, a half mile at a time. At 11:45 our ETA was still 45 minutes out. When we were nearly home, Jeff said, "I'm going to be really sore tomorrow."


"From being tense."

"Well, you can't say I didn't warn you." We laughed.

We got home at 12:30. After hauling in kids and crap (diaper bag, knitting bag, plastic bag of extra clothes, purse the size of a diaper bag, two children's backpacks full of dolls and spy supplies, and various loose junk), I called my sister Bri to let her know we made it. Jeff asked me if I had seen the back end of the car. I shook my head. "You need to go look at it." he said. Puzzled, I walked back outside. The back of the van had no van showing through. It was like a wall of snow. My heart stalled for a second, as I looked where the tail lights should be. Just snow. I don't know if those semis that passed us ever even saw us. It was a sobering thought. I thought again about the God who sees me, and thanked Him again.

Jeff said, "That was really stupid."

"Can we please just stay next time?" I asked. (And next time, I'm checking the weather.)

"Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
(Isaiah 41:10)

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