“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all” – Helen Keller
My winter of discontent crept up on me so subtly that I did not even realize what was happening until it was too late. The day was November 24, 2004. My brother, his family and I were on our way to visit relatives in Louisville, Kentucky for the Thanksgiving holiday. As we began our trip it was snowing and the wind was howling. However, the conditions were not so bad that we could not travel, or so we thought.
The first hour of our trip was quite uneventful. I began to work on a crossword puzzle book that I had brought along to pass the six hours that we would be in the car. A little while into this the roads began to get very snow packed and the traffic around began to come to a halt. This is when we began seeing cars in the ditch alongside the road. Certainly this was a warning of things to come.
As we inched ourselves along in traffic the number of cars that we saw off the road way began to increase. Darkness eventually fell and the traffic began to get heavier. At one point we decided that it had taken us almost an hour to move just a fourth of a mile. Should we turn around and return home or continue on this trip?
We decided to venture on at least a little further. Making our way onto I-74 just outside of Bloomington is an experience that I’m sure I will never forget. The road was very icy and consequently quite slick at this point. Headlights were the only things we could see while trying to get on the interstate. These headlights were coming from cars that were backed up for miles in both directions. It looked like something out of the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind. We now were inside a real life horror movie.
As we sat on the entrance ramp to the interstate we could see cars behind us sliding around, trying to get at least a little traction on the icy pavement. We sat on this ramp for nearly at least an hour before traffic began to let up and we were able to move at a reasonable rate of speed. We were only half way to Louisville after nearly four hours into a trip that was only supposed to be six hours. Would we ever get there? I was beginning to think not. We finally made our way into Indiana where road conditions began to improve quite rapidly. At least there were no more cars in the ditch at this point. We had counted a total of 66 cars that had slid off the road during our trip through Illinois.
The trip through Indiana was rather uneventful as I think it usually is when you travel through the Hoosier State. This was just fine with me, as I had already had enough drama on this voyage to last me a lifetime. I was ready by this point to get out and just bed down along the road for the night. However, I eventually came to my senses and realized that this probably would not be the best course of action to take. So I continued bravely into that cold night.
We eventually made it to Indianapolis, a city known for speed and excitement, something this trip had seriously lacked. By this time all of us felt like we had competed in our own Indianapolis 500. Spirits had seriously dampened and I’m sure we were all ready to get some sleep. I certainly know that I was ready to find a bed and crash. However, we still had about two or three hours to go.
This time was filled with listening to my brother change the radio station every six seconds followed by occasional whimpering from the back where my niece and nephew were fitfully trying to sleep. I was beginning to entertain thoughts of climbing out my window and riding the rest of the way on top of the vehicle. Strapping myself to the luggage rack would have been a welcome change to my prison in the front seat. Again I came to my senses and realized that this would not be the best course of action to take. What the best course was I still do not know.
The miles began to melt away and we inched ever so closer to Louisville. We had finally reached the Kentucky state line, a sight that I welcomed with so much inner excitement. Never had I been so glad to be so far away from home. However, I knew that we were nearing our final destination. This was finally a goal that was within our reach. We were determined to not let anything more hold us back from reaching Louisville.
At long last, there it was, the skyline of Louisville. After ten and a half hours we had finally arrived. A trip that normally takes a little over six hours had taken us over ten hours. I’m sure we were all just a little excited to have reached our destination. I think some of us may have been a little confused as well judging by a comment I heard from my nephew Dalen. When we arrived he quietly leaned over and informed his sister Clair that when they woke up in the morning Santa would be there. I don’t know, maybe the trip had just taken so long he thought it was now Christmas Eve. It was an honest mistake that almost any five year old would make after having traveled for what seemed like an eternity.
After having slept rather well I woke up refreshed and ready for Thanksgiving Day, although I was a little disappointed that Santa had not made an appearance during the night. The day was spent watching football, eating until it hurt, and then falling in and out of consciousness until it was time to once again head off to bed. It is such a shame that this day only comes around once a year.
The rest of the trip to Louisville was spent visiting the sites, bonding with family, and listening to my nephew tell stories about dinosaurs and friends that he has had in his rather short life. My favorite story was perhaps the one of his friend Carol who died after eating what he called a “dirty cherry”. However, that was not the end of the story. Somehow this friend had a miraculous recovery and is once again among the living. I think perhaps the boy has spent too many hours on long car trips.
Saturday, November 27, is the day that we decided to return home. We left Louisville around six in the evening in hopes that my niece and nephew would spend most of the trip home sound asleep. Fortunately, the roads were in excellent shape all the way home and the trip was rather uneventful. We arrived home about 1:00 a.m. I could hear my bed calling my name. Therefore, once I got my bags from my brother’s vehicle I climbed into my Blazer and headed straight to my own house.
It felt so wonderful climbing into my bed after having slept on an air mattress for three nights. As I lay there trying to go to sleep I felt this frigid wave of chills come over my body and I began to shiver quite vigorously. I thought this was strange, as this had happened to me the previous night in Louisville. Despite this I eventually fell asleep.
The next morning I woke up and began to get ready for church. I was getting set to climb in the bathtub when I sat down on the edge of the tub and realized something felt odd. It was very uncomfortable to sit down. The left side of my butt felt like a piece of iron and it was very warm. This is when I knew that the chills I had been having were very serious…