Thursday, January 2, 2014

On This Date in 1999 (January 2, Part 1)

I woke up Friday morning at 3 o’clock, after falling asleep sometime before midnight. We let the boys watch TV once we returned to the cabin, and I can remember JoAnna calling out, “Time to go to bed!”, which caused me to lift my head from the pillow and scan my surroundings so I could answer the question, “Where the hell am I?” I’m not sure if I gave a correct answer before drifting off to sleep again.

Once I was awake, I wanted to leave right away, but I repressed this impulse and tried to go back to sleep. After a half hour of staring into space, I whispered to JoAnna, “Hon! Hon! Let’s leave now.” She wasn’t ready to get out of bed yet.

“Let’s rest for awhile.”

She couldn’t sleep either, but even in her groggy state, she had the good sense to keep us in bed. It would have been foolish to start our trip four hours before daylight. I’m such a road warrior!

After dozing off a few times, I got up at 5:15 and washed my greasy hair. It seems no matter how short I wear it, I always have to wash it every day, unless I want to look like a derelict. While JoAnna roused the boys out of bed, I stuffed our two duffel bags into the back of the van, not caring about rear-mirror visibility. I wasn’t pleased to find a fresh cover of four inches of snow on the ground, with more falling from the sky at a pretty good pace. It’s going to be some tough sledding during the first part of our trip, I thought.

And I was right. Once we made the left turn onto U.S. 62, I strained my eyes to see the road. It wasn’t so much the snow than our defective, or perhaps just frozen, windshield wipers. I kept our speed at 30 mph and steeled myself for the stress of slippery roads and wind-blown snow. We encountered very little traffic so I took advantage of the opportunity to straddle the center line while driving. During the stretch of NY17 between Jamestown and Bemus Point, numerous ghosts swirled in front of the windshield, their brief reducing visibility to zero for a few disconcerting seconds. For awhile, I thought we were a supporting cast members of a snowbound sequel of Casper.

Curious about what we were driving into (or, hopefully, out of), I tuned in a radio station from Jamestown hoping to hear a weather forecast. The disc jockey talked about 3 feet of fresh snow on the ground in Sheridan, New York, which JoAnna was unable to find in our Rand McNally Road Atlas. Knowing where New York’s snow belt is located, I figured (hoped and prayed) that it was north of us. We also heard that the New York Thruway between the New York state line and Lackawanna was closed. What about the Pennsylvania stretch of I-90, I wondered. How bad can things get?

Not too bad, fortunately. The interstate was open, but snow-covered and probably slippery, but I didn’t go fast enough to find out. Road conditions didn’t improve until we reached the west side of Cleveland. Through the western two-thirds of Ohio and Indiana, we were able to make up for some lost time. We encountered some lake-effect snow driving through the western suburbs of Chicago, which we hoped wasn’t the leading edge of a storm blowing out of the Great Plains. It wasn’t. We returned home at 5:30 p.m. CST, 12½ hours on the road and five minutes into the second quarter of the Rose Bowl.

We turned on the TV as soon as we entered the house. I did get the van unpacked but this morning most of the suitcases remained filled. During halftime, I drove to the grocery store to pick up some basics – milk and bread – but I found the door locked, even though all the lights were on. They had closed at 5:00. JoAnna’s top priority was reorganizing the kitchen cabinets, which she was able to accomplish by the end of Wisconsin’s extremely satisfying 38-31 victory over UCLA. I should have bet some big bucks on this game. A simpleton could have looked at the scores of the games that UCLA played this season and predicted a Rose Bowl loss for them. They have no defense. Wisconsin may not have a quarterback – Mike Samuel has been an object of constant abuse during his collegiate career – but they do have Ron Dayne and one of the best defense units in NCAA division I football. The Big 10 had a great bowl season, going 5-and-0. Most sports dorks, partial to southern schools, will consider it a fluke.

Right now we’re in the middle of our first major winter storm of the year. Snowing, blowing, stay-at-home conditions. We’ll probably end up with 6-8 inches on the ground before the end of the day, and more is predicted for Sunday. If we had left Warren today, we’d probably be looking for a motel right about now (2 p.m.).

In spite of the treacherous weather conditions, Andy still played his first basketball game of the season. His team beat Verona 40-19, and Andy didn’t look as though he had spent the last two weeks in front of a TV set. He only scored 2 points but pulled down 5 rebounds. Middleton played very well together and look like they’ll be a contender for the league championship.

The boys are out sledding at Elm Lawn right now. We made sure they were well protected against the elements. JoAnna’s in the kitchen baking and watching the Bills get beat by the Dolphins. (It looks like Doug Flutie’s magic season is about to come to an end.) The card party we’re invited to is still on for this evening. In fact, that’s one of the reasons JoAnna’s in the kitchen. She took a page out of Kim’s cookbook and is making stromboli.

We had a wonderful vacation, probably one of the best Christmas holidays in memory, but it certainly is nice to be home. I thought the house had a strange feel to it when we returned yesterday, as if it had been standing vacant for months instead of two weeks, but that’s probably just an indication of how special our getaway was.

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