My car, before I left Memphis
I left the house on Tuesday morning. There was a little snow on my car when I left and I didn't think anything about it. Actually I thought that I was glad to be going south to get away from some of the cold. (How little I knew...) The drive was pretty uneventful. I listened to the radio and some podcasts. Was having a pretty good drive. It was snowing a little bit when I was driving through Tupelo. I thought it looked pretty but it was really light and wasn't sticking. Still not thinking anything about it.
11:41 am. So young. So naive...
Then I turned off of 78. They are still working on Highway 78 so there is a stretch of 12 miles between the main 78 and I-65. 12 miles. As I get off, the snow is starting to pick up and I heard that it was worse further south. Someone said something about sleet and freezing snow in Montgomery so I'm trying to decide what to do. At this point, I'm thinking to myself that worse case scenario I'll drive to Samford, crash on the couch at the sorority house and finish the drive the next day. I turn on the radio to listen for weather updates and it sounds like it's getting pretty bad. I'm probably cruising at about 10 mph at this time. So I call my dad to get his opinion. He thinks I should stay in Birmingham too. I'm not super excited about it, but it could be a fun snow day on campus and then I'd get to the beach a little later than planned. Hours pass. I'm still driving. 12 miles. Listening to the radio sounds like 65 is even worse. There's no way I'm going to make it to Samford- at least not anytime soon. Now I'm just laughing about it. There's nothing else I can do. I can't control the weather and I'm not moving at all. So I laugh. And listen to music. And have a dance party in my car. Then I call a friend that I went to school with. We try and brainstorm all the people that are still in Birmingham and where they live- if I can get to anyone's house. We can't think of anyone that's close enough and I'm ready to be out of the car. She looks up a hotel for me that she says is 2 miles away and texts me the number. I call and ask if they have any rooms. They do. (I don't really know why I even asked. If they didn't I would have told him to just lay out a sleeping bag in the lobby.) He asks how far away I am. I told him 2 miles and that I could be there in 10 minutes or an hour. Either one. He said he understood and that he would see me when I got there.
This was taken at noon. When I first turned off 78. I didn't get to the hotel until after 3:30.
Then I get a call from the rental agency in Seaside. They asked when I was planning to get there. (I was waiting until I got to the hotel to call.) I told them that I couldn't make it and that I would try the next day. They said that was fine. They told me that they were actually closing the office early because of the weather.
I made it to the hotel 3 1/2 hours after I turned off of 78. 12 miles. I check in and go to my room. Call my parents and let them know that I'm alright. I had planned to be reading a book with a glass of wine in a hot tub in Seaside. Instead I was reading a book with a beer at a Days Inn in Birmingham. Seriously, all I could do is laugh.
A little later. Just sitting...
My parents were concerned about me, naturally. I assured them that I was fine. I had granola bars, chocolate chip muffins (thanks Christy!), beer, whiskey, and creamer for my coffee the next morning. I also had plenty of books and my computer to watch Netflix on before bed.
Wednesday morning I turned on the news. There were stories of kids that spent the night at school because there parents couldn't get to them. Stories of people that were still trying to get home from work- 16 hours later. Stories of people that slept in their cars or in whatever store they happened to be closest to. Stories of women that gave birth at home or in their car. Stories of people that opened up their homes to whomever was driving by. Stories of people passing out coffee and food- putting down sand and cat litter. Stories of nurses that stayed at work for 60 hours until they could get home and someone could get to them to relieve them...
And then there was the weather. It was currently 9. The high was 22. Nothing was melting or going anywhere. I-65 was still a parking lot from people that were still trying to get home from the day before and I knew that the beach was not going to happen that day either. I had to make an executive decision. Did I stay in Birmingham another day and drive to Seaside on Thursday? Could I get out of Birmingham and go north and make it back to Memphis? Or was I stranded for another day no matter what? I asked for a late checkout so that I would have more time to decide (and give the sun more time to work it's magic.) I hung out in the hotel lobby for a while talking to the other travelers. Where had they come from? Where were they trying to go? Then a man walked in trying to check in. I asked where he had come from and he said Tupelo. I asked how the streets were and he said that once I got through the 12 miles of old 78, everything was fine. So I decided to come home. I called the rental agency and told them that I wasn't coming. The man at the front desk said that he would have one of the managers call me (they hadn't come into work that day because of the storm...) Then I packed up my car, filled up my tank the rest of the way, and headed home.
I laughed about it on the drive back and thanked God! If I had been 30 minutes ahead of where I was, I would have already been on I-65 and would probably have spent the night in my car with so many other people. If I had been 30 minutes behind, the Days Inn would have been full and I would have been stranded. While I was driving, I saw cars that had slid off the road and hit trees. I saw a couple cars (in different spots) that were flipped over in the median. God definitely protected me on the trip!
I made it back to Memphis safely. The man was right. Once I got passed the 12 miles, it was open road. I drove straight to my parents' house. I took a long bath and then curled up on their chaise lounge with a book, a blanket, and a glass of wine. My mom even asked if I wanted her to turn on the sound machine to "Ocean" so I could pretend like I was at the beach.
The next day, I got a massage so I could pretend like I was still on vacation. At the end, the guy told me that he could have spent the entire hour on just my upper back and shoulders. Yeah, I can already feel myself tensing up again... So this week was an adventure, to say the least. But honestly, my goal was to get away and relax. My prayer was that it would be a time of introspection and not just a distraction from life and I can say that this week has turned into that 100%. I guess ultimately, it was a success.
* I'm still waiting on the manager to call me back. I'm hoping they can just transfer my reservation to another week. Like next week. Or maybe the end of February. I might need the relaxation even more then anyway. But as a friend keeps reminding me, February is the shortest month...