Archive for December 16th, 2009

Winter Driving

I traveled to central Iowa on Sunday afternoon.

I was going to help take my father to a doctor’s appointment in Des Moines on Monday morning.

While driving down on Sunday I heard the forecast that called for some freezing drizzle late Sunday and into Monday morning. My parent live about fifty miles east of Des Moines so we decided we would spend the night at my sister and brother-in-law’s house in surburban Des Moines.

Good thing we did!

When we woke up Monday morning everything, including my car, was covered with a nice coating of ice. My father’s appointment was scheduled for 7:30 at a hospital in downtown Des Moines.

I chiseled the ice off my car.

My sister and brother-in-law have the world’s steepest driveway and while “attempting” to pull into their garage so as to keep my dad from falling on the ice, my car slid down the driveway into the street! Now I had gone from my dad having to walk maybe four feet on ice to about thirty! And I wasn’t even sure I could make it up and down myself, let alone, with trying to hold onto Dad!

In fairness to my brother-in-law, he had put down some ice melt earlier that morning, but with mixed results at best. There didn’t appear to be any tow rope nearby and I hadn’t packed any “ice crampons”, so my only other choice was to try to drive back up the side of the mountain, I mean, driveway!

Of course, I had visions of “gunning” it and getting near the summit, ahh, top and hitting drive pavement and then ramming through the back of their garage!

I set aside fears of paying for repairs to garage, backed up and got a “running” start at the driveway. I gunned it and soon the tires were making that awful, dead of winter, out of control sound of spinning and not going anywhere!

I kept it floored!

I managed to make a little progress when I must have hit a spot where the ice melt had worked. Luckily, I was able to get enough traction to get back to my original parking spot.

I got Dad loaded into the car and we made the slow commute downtown. Traffic was slow and the trip took longer than normal, but we left early to allow for the bad weather.

We made it and I am happy to report my father’s appointment went better than anticipated and he didn’t need to spend Monday night in the hospital.

So my travel plans changed.

I had planned on spending two nights, but with my dad going home on Monday, I decided to drive back to Minneapolis.

My wife had changed her work schedule to accomondate my trip, so I wanted to get back so she could get to work at her normal time on Tuesday. My sons also had a Boy Scout meeting Monday night that I wanted to get back in time to attend as well.

The earlier freezing rain had briefly changed to snow in the Des Moines area with not much accumulation. My son had told me Minneapolis had received a couple of inches of snow, with areas north of Des Moines getting some as well.

I checked the road conditions in Iowa and Minnesota prior to leaving my sister’s house. They indicated there would be some difficulty, but the snowfall had ended several hours before so I thought things would improve.

I was right, the snow had stopped, but the one thing I hadn’t counted on was the wind!

After leaving Interstate 80 and getting on I-35 and heading north, the wind got strong and the fresh snow that fallen was blowing- A LOT!

Iowa is a pretty flat state, but parts of the state are even flatter than others and after I got north of Ames I suddenly found myself on what seemed like the set of the movie, “Fargo”!

Remember those winter scenes in that movie…

Desolate road, flat land, icy roads and a lot of snow and wind.

All that was missing was that woeful soundtrack of the movie playing on my radio!

I might add, earlier in the day when I was scraping ice, I looked an awful lot like William H Macy’s character, “Jerry Lundegaard” when he was going at his car covered in ice!

I drove in the poor conditions for about one hundred miles.

I saw several cars that weren’t so lucky and had found the ditch.

I slowed my speed down, took my time, even though passing semi-trucks was somewhat of an adventure with the strong winds and by the time I got to the Iowa-Minnesota border, the condtions improved greatly.

I arrived home safe and sound with my family happy to have me home a day early.

I was happy to be home too!