Traveling for the holidays.

The Hubby and I have been looking forward to seeing family at the holidays for a number of weeks. The downside is that this year seeing family involves an 11-13 hour road trip to southern Illinois over the winter season, which ended up meaning this:

The storm, part of a system that began in the Rockies earlier in the week, led airlines to cancel more than 1,000 flights Thursday and caused whiteout conditions that left roads dangerous to drive on. It was blamed for deaths in at least five states, with parts of Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan hit with more than a foot of snow. - from CBSnew.com

Ack! As part of our route we have to drive along 35 South, which was closed earlier in the week due to a 25-car pile up that resulted in two deaths and seven injuries. BUT, the storm had moved past by Friday morning, and so we started our journey from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Carbondale, Illinois at 1pm this afternoon.

Driving through most of Minnesota was fine – we hadn’t seen any of the storm up by us – but by the time we hit Iowa the roads started getting icy and we were down to about 45-50 miles per hour. Happily there was no falling snow, but the big semi trucks kept kicking up wet slush onto the windshield. It took us four hours and about a full bottle of windshield wiper fluid to reach Waterloo, IA, which is only about 30 minutes longer than usual, but I was DONE. I was exhausted from clenching the steering wheel, switching back and forth between lanes to find the least treacherous path (often one lane was often better plowed or traveled than the other), and swearing at idiot drivers going far too fast for the conditions. The Hubby took over for a little while, but when the sun set the highway became an even less appealing place to be. So we called it and found a hotel.

This:

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Is soooooo much better than this:

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That’s really what the highway looked like in some places!

The hotel has ended up being an unexpected treasure. It’s in the middle of nowhere, but it’s a new construction and clean, quiet, with comfy bed and pillows, very sparsely booked tonight and the staff are all very nice. We had a pizza in the common room (well, my gluten-free self had pizza toppings) and we played a couple rounds of Lost Cities and 7 Wonders before retiring to the room. Tomorrow we’re planning on being on the road at sunrise, but since it’s December that’s not until about 7:30am. We’re hoping that as we get further south and leave the path that the storm traveled the road will be clearer.

Safe journeys to all of you who are also traveling for the holidays.

Twin Cities: First Snowfall 2011

Winter is here, and so is winter driving! Or, as one friend likes to call it: “The Season During Which Minnesotans Relearn Physics.”

Well, we knew we couldn’t avoid it forever. But man, things change fast up here! I mean a day prior it was a typical sunny, cool, fall day. And then on Saturday it was all like:

Photos in order are: 35W South, Driving Across the 35W Bridge, Downtown Minneapolis and the Stone Arch Bridge, Near Hwy 7 & Hwy 100 in St. Louis Park, Lake Calhoun, Uptown, Our Front Yard, and The Hubby in the Snow.

Yuck! But there are a couple of awesome things associated with the first snowfall of the year:

1) I made an appointment to get snow tires put on my car on Friday evening. If I was a day trader I would so have been buying stock in tire companies in Minnesota at the end of last week. I don’t know how Discount Tire in Eden Prairie managed to fit me in, but they did. Off came the worn, barely-acceptable-for-dry-summer-roads tires, and on went shiny new Michilin X-Ice 2s! Considering what the roads looked like at the end of Saturday afternoon, I felt really lucky to have gotten this chore done just in the nick of time.

2) We managed to get the motorcycle put away for the winter on Saturday morning just as it was starting to snow. We didn’t really make it to our storage garage in Mounds View before it got gross out, but we did manage to minimize the damage.

I was the driver for this little expedition and had to get all winter-geared up for the 15-mile drive in 25°F, lightly snowing weather.

I’m wearing thick socks, insulated ankle-high workboots, jeans, carhart overalls, a t-shirt, a sweatshirt, my leather motorcycle jacket, a carhart coat, lined leather gloves, a neck wrap, a fleece hood that covers my nose and mouth, and my full-face helmet.

I’ll start out by saying that we made it to Mounds View without incident. But the ride overall…what’s the word…oh yeah – sucked. The Hubby rode behind me in the car and I slowly made my way up 35W on the light layer of fresh, blowing snow. One thing that I discovered right away is that the snow was heavier and wetter than I had anticipated. I had to keep wiping snow off of my face shield, and near the very end of the ride it started icing over and had to be scraped off. Blergh. But, like I said, this was earlier in the day, so the snow hadn’t started to really accumulate yet and clog up the roads. And now it’s done.

That’s about it. The snow stayed overnight and through the weekend. It hasn’t melted yet, but the temperature is supposed to rise up to as high as 50°F by the week’s end, which should make Black Friday shopping a bit more cheery!