Winter on the Sisters

This might come across as a bit melodramatic.  I know if my brother were to read it he’d just roll his eyes.  Good thing he never reads my blog.

My weeklong stay-cation ended with an overnight trip to Utah.  Unfortunately, I could only stay one night and had to come home Saturday morning.  Even though the rest of my Wyoming family headed to Utah for the night, I had to to get some things done at home.  After stopping in Evanston to watch my youngest niece play a school basketball game, I headed home by myself. 

The sky had been overcast and the wind blowing when I left Utah.  Early in the morning, I received a text from my sister-in-law informing me it was sunny at home.  We met in Evanston and watched the game and I switched vehicles with my dad.  He took my SUV to Utah and I drove his Toyota Corolla home.  When I arrived in Evanston, the weather was wintry but decent.  But when I left an hour later, it took a turn for the worse.  The wind picked up velocity and snow started to fall.  At least, it tried to fall despite the heavy wind.  All this made for unpleasant driving conditions. 

I am a Wyoming girl.  A little snow and 50+ mile per hour winds can’t deter me.  I really needed to get home.  Besides, I’ve driven in much worse weather.  So I left my family and headed east while they continued west. 

Just east of Evanston, I-80 travels over three hills known locally as the Sisters.  Keep in mind, Evanston is already at 6700 feet.  So, the Sisters are more than mere hills.  During winter this part of I-80 can become treacherous to travel over.  There are gates on either side of the hills and when they are down the interstate is closed to traffic.  Just Thursday morning the road was closed due to high winds preventing me from going to Utah as planned.

I made it over the first Sister and wisps of fog started to sweep the road.  Normally, it’s small patches and can be driven through.  As long as the driver doesn’t panic and do something stupid (ie slam on brakes) fog can be navigated through safely. 

I started to climb the second sister and the fog became denser.  The combination of snow and wind had left the road slick.  My palms became sweaty as I realized I could see less and less in front of me.  Finally, the only thing I could make out was the back of a semi.  And then it disappeared.  I looked down at the road so that I could keep my car between the lines.  The lines disappeared.  I couldn’t see anything.  And to make matter worse, the fog wasn’t lifting.  Get to the right, Lee, the thought came to me as sure as if I heard someone commanding me.  I obeyed.

A semi passed me on the left and threw more snow and ice on my window.  That wasn’t helpful.  I didn’t even see it coming up behind me.  I’m not sure if it saw me or not before it passed me.  This was a predicament.  I crept along at 10mph.  My only salvation was occasional glimpses of the lines dividing the lanes.  I thought about pulling over and waiting for the fog to lift.  But if I didn’t get far enough over I’d be pummeled from behind by another vehicle.  And if I did get far enough over, in my dad’s car, I’d run the risk of getting stuck.  There was no choice.  I had to keep inching forward and hope everybody behind me was doing the same.

This next part should be filed under the bad timing file.  A couple of weeks ago, my officemate shared the story that added to my jitteriness.  A former co-worker’s daughter was decapitated on the highway when she slammed into the back of a semi.  The gruesome scene ran non-stop in my head as I struggled to see.  If I picked up speed, I ran the risk of coming up on a semi too fast to stop especially with slick roads.  However, somebody could come up behind me and run into the same trouble.  I saw the scene play out in detail both ways.  Either way didn’t end pleasant for me.

I thought of a conversation with my brother the other day.  It was one of those talks that took a weird, morbid turn and focused on death.  “I’m not afraid to die,” I boldly claimed.  “Just afraid of dying.”  Was this a test to see if I meant it?  I said a prayer, “Please help me know what to do,” I asked Heavenly Father.  I’m ashamed to admit it, but I even started to cry.  But I quickly stifled it.  Breaking emotionally wouldn’t do me any good at the moment.  “Momma,” I called out, “help me.”

Turn on your lights.  The headlights automatically come on but I needed to make myself visible from behind also.  Hazard lights!  Where were the hazard lights?  I felt for the button with my right hand as much as I dared while taking one hand off the wheel.  I couldn’t find the button.  “Please,” I begged one more time. 

Look on the console.  I looked at the buttons for the air-conditioner and heater.  There, right next to the wheel, was the button for the hazard lights.  I pushed it and hoped for the best.  Another truck passed me and I noticed its lights were flashing.  However, the whole thing was swallowed up in fog – form and lights – about ten feet in front of me.  “Please,” I said again.  “I don’t want my family to go through this now.”

Obviously, I made it through the ordeal.  Once I got to the other side of the far Sister, the fog started to lift and the roads were dry.  I pulled over at a rest stop.  I couldn’t help myself, I broke down emotionally.  My hands were shaking and I still had another hour to travel before I reached home.  By the time I pulled into my driveway I had become physically ill. 

I don’t know why this drive affected me so much.  It’s not like I haven’t driven in bad weather before.  But even as I type this I’m shaking.  Two things to sum up: one, prayers are answered.  Don’t tell me they aren’t.  And two, it really isn’t my time to go. Seriously.