In Which We Venture Into the Teeth of a Filthy Storm and Nearly Die  

Posted by Heidi in

Some of you might remember my three-installment saga (which I wrote long, long ago when I was still popular based on the quality and number of comments I received) about our last trip to the snow five years ago. It was a doozy. Now that we have dared to venture back into the deadly wet stuff (a Christmas present for the Middle Child that made her so happy, she cried tears of True Joy) I can honestly say that should she ever move to a snowy location, I shall not be visiting her there. Evah.

Of course, heading off to Tahoe (a four hour drive in good conditions) when the driver has full and complete knowledge that both roads that lead to our destination are closed seems a foolhardy thing to do. Might I submit this bit of pertinent information: it is. But Daddy has a hard time denying his little girl anything and since tears of True Joy are rare at our house, heading out with hopes that one of the roads would be open by the time we arrived on its snowy threshold seemed a good idea. Only, how to choose which road?

Naturally, we chose wrongly but a quick call to the Highway Patrol Hotline informed us that the other road was now open. Of course, we had to backtrack for quite a ways, then drive all the way North of the lake (in Tahoe) then across the top of it (such fosisticated language!) and down the other side since our destination was south of the lake (in Tahoe). There was a road we could have used to cut across but, naturally, it was closed. Apparently all the major snow was clogged up in one location (clearly the work of evil snowplows bent on ruining our day). In fact, we later learned that the quickest route to Tahoe from our house was closed for days due to avalanche conditions (the nice police officer who made us turn around said we could try to get across but he could guarantee we would get stuck in the snow and no one would be able to get to us to dig us out for Quite Some Time). (Believe it or not, The Spouse actually considered this for a moment.) (We could have almost died if we had.) (However, as we did almost die in spite of our taking hugely time-consuming detours (12 hours on the road rather than 4) it’s a moot point.)

The deathly hour in question was our 11th on the road—and we had just crossed over into the Nevada side of the area. We had been through the ghastly mountain pass that looked as if it was going to rain boulders down on our heads and the dark, winding roads that required chains and driving five miles per hour. Yes, indeed, we were now in civilization and since we had no desire to break our chains on the snow-free roads in town (something we have done before) (namely, during out last trip to the snow) The Spouse removed them.

It was a choice I whole-heartedly agreed with. There was no way I intended to buy another set of chains for the privilege of spending more quality (they say "quantity" IS "quality" time, after all) time with a gassy 250 pound Man Child and a bichon frise. (And, yes, we brought our dog because our last snow trip wasn’t punishing enough.) What we hadn’t counted on, however, was black ice.

I had no premonition or idea that we could possibly be in danger except for the constant and unrelenting fear that every mother has when taking her kids out on the road in the bad weather and on a trip designed for pleasure and entertainment since all mothers know that those kinds of things always end in disaster, as if we don’t deserve it and will be punished for acting on our desires for some kind of break from the daily routine. In fact, I have so feared getting in a car crash since my oldest was five days old that when I first realized we were in some kind of crazy danger, it was almost a relief. “Okay this is it, now I can stop worrying about it!” was the prevailing emotion.

If you look carefully, you can see our Jack in the Box Reindeer antenna ball surveying the scene

However, my first thought, as we slid sideways across the road from our lane into the next was that surely the car would stop and soon. The Spouse would apply the breaks and we would stop, even if it was nose-first into the fast approaching bank of snow on the side of the road. There was no thought spared for any cars that might be around us and crashed into, no thought of my kids in the seats behind me, not a second spared for the welfare of the dog napping in my lap. Then the car turned in the opposite direction and that’s when I knew the truth and felt all that relief. It was just after that, when we slid backwards along the snow bank (followed by another crazy half turn so that our rear end was up in the snow and the nose of the car pointed at the road) that I started to scream like a chick in a horror movie. I screamed and screamed and screamed whilst my kids remained eerily silent (it’s okay, I was still unaware of their presence at this point) until the car slid sweetly back onto a black-ice-free section of the road and The Spouse easily turned the wheel in the correct direction and we were once again on our way. The whole thing took all of 30 seconds.

Now that imminent danger was past, I remembered that I was a mother and my children had almost perished in a horrid accident. Heart pounding, I began to call their names and ask if they were all right. They were too shocked to say a word and then I really became afraid, especially for my daughter (who started this whole thing with her dadgum tears of joy) because she was in the “way back” (as we often said as kids piling into the station wagon) and I couldn’t see any part of her (though stray parts drifting into my view would be a Bad Thing). Finally she answered that she was fine and that’s when I remembered that I had a dog and it was in my lap and she hadn’t been thrown through the windshield or even peed on me. Hysterical laughter ensued.

The next day, we did get to enjoy the area a bit. We took a sleigh ride near the banks of the lake (gorgeous) and in spite of the fact that the Big Guy was waiting in the car, (he’s usually the common denominator in these events) the harness broke on the sleigh. (This kind of thing always happens when we are around. Always. We have been on trains that have broken down, etc. etc. etc. They should tattoo warnings on our foreheads to faciliate rapid fleeing into the night upon our approach.)

Yes, yes, and yes-the dog was cold! Some claim icicles were involved. I plead the fifth.

And, in spite of the fact that the snow saucer Mommy brought was actually an AbSlide, we found a great place to toboggan. By that time, it was nearly dark and 14 degrees so I was forced to seek shelter in the car since my lungs are the California Hot House Floweriest part of me and were threatening to give up the ghost. Naturellement, (French for “ironic”) the drive home was clear and dry and no chains were needed.

The Little Guy arming himself.

The Middle Child arming herself and the Little Guy getting wise.

They say it takes approximately nine months to forget the pain of childbearing long enough to decide to have another. Our last snow trip was five years ago. It was another five years between that one and the one prior. One can only assume it takes five years to forget the trauma a California Hot House Flower experiences during a Trip To The Snow. Come back in five years to see how it all turns out. Assuming I survive the trip . . .

This entry was posted on Monday, January 3, 2011 at Monday, January 03, 2011 and is filed under . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

17 wise, witty and wonderful comments

That sleigh ride looks positively charming! So glad the kids had a great time and you survived the cold. =D (And that pic of LG wise to MG's plan is just precious!)

January 4, 2011 at 2:43 PM

Hours of driving in snowy conditions would frazzle my nerves, too, but the pictures make it look so worth it.

January 4, 2011 at 6:01 PM

Even with all of the danger and the French, it still sou ds fabulous to me!

Glad you got a change of venue...

January 4, 2011 at 6:33 PM

Looks like some of it was fun at least! :) And it's a fun family story. ;-)

January 4, 2011 at 7:41 PM

Love That Snow. Can't believe the harness broke on the sleigh? What kind of jinx business is that?

I can see the beauty in a snow trip once every 5 years, that's about where we're at, too. And this year I don't think we're going...


Happy 2011! (I think I'm still writing 2010 everywhere, tho, forgetting!)

January 4, 2011 at 11:17 PM

You're just trying to make us all jealous with tales from your adventuresome live. :) I am so glad your car decided to get back on track instead of continuing terribly, horribly off track. The pictures of the kids in the snow are GORGEOUS! (they all are) so you can't convince me it wasn't amazing. :P

I will still be around for the next installment five years from now. :)

January 5, 2011 at 1:14 AM

Wow, that does sound a bit traumatic. But the pictures are beautiful!

January 5, 2011 at 9:56 AM

That is a scary first half of a story Heidi! I'm so glad you guys were okay!!!! I live in the snow, but honestly, I hate to drive in it.

But the pictures are beautiful and it looks like you guys had a ton of fun. =)

January 5, 2011 at 10:41 AM

My goodness, so glad you were all okay! And yes, I'll check back in five years, you funny thing you.

January 5, 2011 at 3:48 PM

Tears of Joy surely are a powerful thing! I'm glad you made it out alive, and also with some great pictures! Here's to reading about your next trip in five years!

January 6, 2011 at 5:11 PM

OMGolly! That sounds a tad worse than the weekend we drove home after picking up our Lolly Pop! I couldn't watch as DH drove through the blizzard! He came precariously too close to the banks of snow for my liking, but did not hit any black ice...thank goodness!

You did get some lovely photos though! I on the other hand got to spend 8 hours (on a normally 3.5 hr trip) with my family in the car!! OH JOY!! (gritting teeth)

Happy New Year, and here's to NEVER driving in the snow again!!

January 6, 2011 at 11:11 PM

What a lovely trip. In spite of and despite and because of the snow.

Oh, and what a lovely family. Especially the screaming mom part of the family. The screaming mom who bought the abSlide to sled down the little mountain.

January 7, 2011 at 9:09 PM

Oh my heart rate needs to slow down now so I can comment.
I have been in FAR TOO MANY bad weather winter trips to even record. Horrifying events.
Winter could be almost fun
if it weren't for the
bad roads
blinding snow storms
ya know
almost fun

I'd say a 5 year stint is warranted.
no matter how many tears of joy break forth

January 8, 2011 at 4:52 PM

Snow, too cold for me, from a children author

January 12, 2011 at 5:07 PM

I'm coming over Donner Monday to visit my brother in Angels Camp.

Happy New Year to you and yours, Arlon

January 13, 2011 at 6:12 AM

Those pictures are awesome! I'm so glad there were some good times with all of the craziness. It reminds me of my 5th anniversary when Brad and I were driving up a canyon in a blizzard. Yeah, I went to sleep because I couldn't handle the pressure of watching him inch up the road.

Love story though.

January 13, 2011 at 3:13 PM

It sounds like a bit of a trek, but it looks STUNNING :)

January 16, 2011 at 1:47 PM

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