We had a wonderful family reunion in Arizona, where my parents are retired after too many miserable Kansas winters. Our car ride there was another story, oddly reminiscent of Midwestern winter road trips.
I generally don't mind driving, particularly when I have some good tunes and now that our kids are old enough to entertain themselves. In one year, I drove the family from Niagara Falls, Ontario, to Canon Beach, Ore. -- not all at once -- and then from Colorado to Victoria.
None of that prepared me for New Mexico when snow flurries fall.
We cruised along the 80 mph speed limit of West Texas and arrived the first night in El Paso in fine fashion. We had a pleasant dinner at the nearby Macaroni Grill and awoke the next morning ready to make the remaining five-hour driving to Sonoita, Ariz.
We had even solved the mystery of why our trunk wouldn't open the night before. Who knew there was a valet button in the glove compartment that could accidentally get switched to locked? We never have our car valet parked anyway.
As good South Texans do, we were excited to see some snow flurries greet us as we packed the car at 8 a.m. We became much less pleased by this weather event -- why do TV meteorologists refer to snow and rain as an event anyway? -- after we got on I-10 and tried to leave El Paso.
We crawled along the interstate for miles before learning it was closed between El Paso and Las Cruces. We stopped at a truck stop for an early lunch and waited it out. As soon as the highway reopened, we rushed to Las Cruces, where -- you guessed it -- I-10 was closed again. This time the interstate was closed across the entire width of New Mexico.
With no idea how long this closure might last, we made a hotel reservation and went to the mall. While the girls shopped, the boys hung out at the bookstore. I dialed the New Mexico highway hotline about every 30 minutes for any news and talked to friendly transportation officials who had absolutely no idea when the road might reopen.
At 3:30 p.m., I alerted the shoppers that I-10 had reopened. We rushed from the mall to the car and hit the highway with high hopes. Those were quickly dashed within a few miles when traffic came once again to a stop.
For about an hour, we had no idea why this would be. The road was mostly clear. We couldn't see any accidents. Finally, we crawled up to a roadwork-ahead sign. Yes, that was the cause of the bottleneck. On the Friday before Christmas, I-10 westbound shrunk to one lane, effectively stopping everyone trying to make it out of Las Cruces.
Eventually, we made it through the roadwork and crossed the measly 120 miles of New Mexico and crossed into Arizona. Of course, all Victorians know a drive of this length shouldn't amount to much of anything -- we drive this distance all of the time to San Antonio or Austin or Houston.
We never encountered much of any snow. If highways up north closed for so little snow, everyone would have to stay home from about November until April.
We eventually made it to my parents' house about 13 hours after we started. The drive across Texas took only about nine.
Once there, we rejoiced and counted our blessings. All of my siblings and most of their children made it to the reunion, so it was a particularly special occasion. The drive home after Christmas was warmer and uneventful.
I suppose my New Year's resolution should be patience. And to avoid New Mexico when the snow falls.
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