Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Snow Way!

I really thought I had it figured out. After a productive installment of cleaning my parents' house in Pennsylvania, I'd pack up the dog and head back to New York. Sure, the weather was threatening, but I gathered enough information from the 3 channels on my father's 13 inch television to convince myself that I could sneak home between the episodic snowstorms set to pummel the Northeast. I went about the prolonged business of securing the homestead, and got on the road at 5:30 p.m. Tiny snowflakes had begun to fall among intermittent raindrops, but I didn't consider them a cause for concern. After all, I'd have the storm at my back and would be home well before the snow hit the fan. Or would I?

Passing Scranton on Route 81, I reveled in the absence of rush hour traffic I had anticipated. Mistaking my relief for arrogance, the gods put me in my place about 10 minutes later as I turned onto Route 84. Someone shook the snow globe and I was in the middle of one nasty whiteout. Tightening my fingers around the wheel, I set my mind to the task and my eyes on the tail lights of the car ahead of me. Fast asleep beside me, Gracie had a first class seat in blissful ignorance as Amelia Earhart prepared to cross the Pacific.

Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains may not be on par with the Idaho Panhandle or an icy switchback in Montana, but I'd think twice about passing through in a blizzard. Exits separated by dark and lonely stretches of woodlands offer little in the way of respite; I decided to forgo my usual pit stop in favor of continuing in the wake of a Honda Accord traveling at a comfortable rate. Traffic was light and I was at least spared the anxiety of tail gaiters and Indy wannabes passing at inappropriate speeds. My back straight and my knuckles white, I fixed my gaze on my new best friend in the Honda and crept along at an excruciating 35 miles per hour.

Our two car caravan continued until my guide grew a set of cojones and left me in the slush. On my own and suddenly surrounded by eighteen-wheelers, I fishtailed as I made the descent into the Delaware River town of Matamoras. Unnerved by the performance of my all wheel drive, I felt Dumbo's feather slip from my grasp. Regrouping by reminding myself that I had made it to the halfway point of my trip, I regained enough confidence to pass up the chance to make a rest stop and carried on. Within minutes, the gods were at it again. The parade came to a dead stop on the bridge and my overfull bladder woke up with an attitude.

Feeling the bridge quiver as I waited among the idling cars, I looked over at Gracie who had heaved herself up from her nap. She calmly surveyed the situation while I imagined the structure collapsing under our weight. To hell with the camera, to hell with the banjo, to hell with my new boots; I would hold onto Grace's collar and swim us both to safety. As I struggled to reach an onshore rock, my grip loosened and my beloved best friend was swept away by the icy foam. My cries went unheard and as my eyes closed in desperation, I was pulled from my fantasy by the flash of red brake lights; the traffic had begun to move. Gracie let out a low whine as she was summoned by her own needy bladder. "Knock it off, Grace- I tried to save you, really I did..."

She whined again.

Moving at a respectable crawl, we finally reached a rest area. I went inside, checked each stall for axe murderers and relieved myself. Upon returning to the car, I grabbed Gracie's leash, brought her outside and waited for her to do the same. Through the veil of huge falling flakes I could see the lights of a truck pulling into the parking lot. I couldn't stop my mind from racing to the scene in "Pee Wee's Big Adventure" where Pee Wee accepts a ride from a mysterious lady trucker on a lonely, foggy night. Her name was Large Marge...

On this very night, ten years ago...
Along the same stretch of road, in a dense fog just like this...
I saw the worst accident I ever seen.
There was this sound, like a garbage truck dropped off the Empire State Building.
And when they finally pulled the body from the twisted, burning wreck,
It looked like... THIS! ( Marge's eyes pop out of their sockets.)
Hoo hoo hoo hoo hoo haaah!
Yes sir, that was the worst accident I ever seen.

The instant Grace raised her haunches, I hoisted her into the car and pressed the automatic door lock. A raging river, an insane trucker's ghost and then what? The flying monkeys from the Wizard of Oz? I threw my overactive imagination on the back seat and pulled on to the interstate faster than you could say, "I'll get you, my pretty!"

Slowly negotiating the remaining miles of Route 84, I managed to keep calm in spite of the occasional rodeo cowboy at the wheel of a tandem Fed-Ex truck. I decided to head north on Route 9 instead of the dark, shoulderless Taconic Parkway. Dehydrated by the window defroster, Grace's tongue flapped in a continuous pant. We stopped at a Dunkin Donuts where I grabbed a coffee for myself and an ice water for my co-pilot. Refueled but bedraggled and heading east through Poughkeepsie on Route 44, I was finally on the last leg of our journey.

Doing the math as I turned north onto Route 82, I realized that my usual sub-3 hour trip had taken over 5 1/2 hours to complete. I supposed that it could have been worse; we were safe and the vehicle was intact. Only eight miles from home, I noticed the snow-covered trees drooping a la Dr. Seuss and considered the possibility of an outage. Five minutes later, my husband called to tell me that the power had gone down.

"How did it get so late so soon?
It's night before it's afternoon.
December is here before it's June.
My goodness how the time has flewn.
How did it get so late so soon?"

-Theodor Seuss Geisel, aka "Dr Seuss"


  1. Whew! Glad you both made it safely!! That was quite a journey! Glad you had such awesome company!!

  2. you're so brave! what an adventure~ Grace is the queen! waiting on a bridge is NOT easy. I was nervous waiting with you. GREAT storytelling :)

  3. What a trip!! LOVE that picture!

  4. you are a better wo(man)then I Gunga Din, i would have slept at the coffe shop

  5. You are a great writer Joan.. I love the pic.. taken in your parents living
    Give that happy dog a kiss on the nose from me.

  6. Once again Joan...fantastic writing. Made me feel like I was along for the ride, but I have to be honest...I am glad that I wasn't! Jenny Booth

  7. BRAVA!!!!!!

    you are amazing....
    love Bob