"None of us want to be here."
Those words were said 2 days prior to the situation in which I found myself, and though totally unrelated, the statement held true.
It was our first skiing trip of the season. These days, we can't drive to the mountains, ski, and then drive home all in one day. Since I sit-ski, it's too much sitting - all day - and my legs don't like it. So this time we left early Sat, skied on Sat, stayed overnight, and then came home on Sunday.
I used to have a 4 wheel drive vehicle, but for reasons of lifting things into the car, I had to get a mini-van. Mini-vans are very exciting to some people. I like my mini-van, but they are just not for me - big, and most importantly for commuting to ski, they are 2 wheel drive.
Driving up to the mountains that Sat , we encountered a lot of traffic, but it's either choose traffic Sat morning or traffic Sun afternoon and Sun afternoon seems worse. Unfortunately, there was snow and ice on the road, as well as traffic, on Sat, so it took us over 3 hours to get to skiing. I told my daughter, "Well, at least the way home can't be as long as that!" I jinxed myself.
After skiing, we spent the night where we always do - nothing is cheap, but where we stay is on the cheaper side of things. More importantly, the people who work there are always helpful, not because they have to, but because they want to help. And I like that. They also remember me every time, because somehow 2 years ago, when using the bathroom sink, it became dislodged from the wall and ended up on the floor. People ask how I didn't get hurt and I don't know. I suppose I was somewhat lucky.
A snowstorm was predicted to go through that night and I thought perfect - then we should be fine to drive home. So we ordered pizza and watched the Olympic ice-skating championships, while my daughter tried to get me engaged in playing Minecraft with her, while I tried to stay awake.
The next morning, I thought the cat was poking me until I realized it was my daughter, informing me that I had slept in! It was 7:20. That is actually sleeping in for me. Usually my leg spasms have me up by 5:30 or 6.
"Is it snowing?" I asked. "No," she replied. Hmmm... 10 minutes later, she informed me that it was snowing. 10 minutes after that I realized the storm had come late. It was just starting to snow and the wind was blowing so it was hard to see anything outside. This was not good news.
Maybe the storm would blow through quickly, by 11, when we planned to leave. Then the roads would be ok and we would miss the Sunday afternoon traffic. In reality, we should have left then. By 11 there were no good options. The storm was still there and visibility was bad. If we waited we would be with the traffic and in the middle of the storm. So we left.
Looking back, perhaps staying an extra night would have been a better plan! Looking back, there were no trucks on the road which indicates bad weather. And as I looked around me I was surrounded my 4-wheel drive vehicles.
Without weather, it's not a long journey from where we were up to the main tunnel that is the top point at which cars then head down to Denver. We drove slowly. I showed Lori how going slowly was working, how the other car next to us kept getting stuck because they were pushing hard on the accelerator pedal and tires were just spinning. 2.5 hours later, going at most 5 miles per hour, we were 2.5 miles from the tunnel, although we didn't know this because we couldn't see much.
All of a sudden, the 3-lane road became 1 lane and a slip and slide, make your own way, combo of 2 lanes. We were in the slip and slide area. After 2.5 successful slow-moving hours, we were stuck. Nothing worked; the only people getting through appeared to be the 4-wheel drive vehicles; there were lights on the left side of the road and lights and state patrol vehicles on the right side (where we were). And we were stopped. "None of us want to be here." That's what I thought right then.
A patrol car pulled next to us and informed me that there were 2.5 more miles to go and things would only get steeper. "If I were you," he said, "I'd take a tow to the tunnel."
Even though we didn't want to be where we were, we were actually very lucky to just be there right when the patrol car was there, right around all the vehicles that could get us out of this mess. I no longer needed to be afraid. The patrol car blocked me; another department of transportation vehicle came and pushed me to the side of the road, and the tow truck hooked us to it and took us to the top. What an experience to be in the van while being hooked up and towed. It was like being tilted as if going up a roller coaster, to get set, and then put back down and towed, sternly instructed not to touch anything.
We made it home! Going down from the tunnel there was still ice and snow for awhile. But then there was nothing - dry roads. Instead of 3 hours, it took us 5.5 hours to get home. But we made it!
The skiing? Well, the skiing was awesome. It was a sunny day and the snow was a somewhat sticky, powdery mix, which was slow, but good for the first day of skiing. I have trouble going left, and we found something to help correct that. As I sat in the ski office during lunch, the ski program director noted that I always sit leaning left. I had no idea! I wish people would tell me these things that then interfere with skiing. The ski instructor came up with a plan to put a small pad underneath my right side and voila! The left turn was corrected. The only problem is that now the right turn is a bit off. But I can work through that.
So, beginning the ski season was interesting. Every season seems so very different. This one I will never forget because we got home safely, because we just happened to be in the right place at the right time to get help, and for that, I am thankful for all the people who work out in these storms, in miserable conditions, to try to keep our roads safe.