Trouble can strike anytime when traveling by car; My own recent move across the country nearly ended in disaster when my own lax attitude about planning and safety came back to haunt me.
Time to Move
A few months ago, I came to the difficult decision to move to a different part of the country to start a new life for myself.
My nephew lives in Colorado, and invited me to come live with him. I accepted his offer and began loading my car with my belongings and things I thought my dog and I would need for the 1,400 mile journey from West Virginia.
It was an early morning the day we departed; We were up before the dawn. With the car loaded, seat belts on, and a cup of McDonald’s coffee in the cup holder, I thought we were ready.
Trouble in the Midwest
For the first 15 hours or so, everything went smoothly. My plan was to drive straight through, but my nephew had informed me by phone that the weather was changing, and a snowstorm was brewing along my route.
I was already in Kansas when the sun started to set, highlighting the ominous clouds gathered on the western horizon. The unseasonably warm late winter day quickly turned into a much colder evening, and it wasn’t long before it began sleeting.
After a little while I decided to put the window down a little, but it wouldn’t budge. It was frozen tight. The temperature had dropped dramatically, and the sleet and rain had turned into ice. My small front-wheel-drive car was performing admirably, but quite a large number of other cars, trucks, and big rigs weren’t having it so easy, and the highway was soon littered with wrecks and stranded people.
One such wreck closed the road ahead of me for quite a long time, leaving my dog and I stuck on the highway at the mercy of the weather.
It was during our time stuck on the highway that I realized just how poorly I had planed this trip.
I had to keep the car turned off most of the time we sat on the road, because I hadn’t stopped for gas, thinking if I stayed on the road, I’d beat the coming storm.
The blankets I had brought were in the trunk, frozen closed with an inch of ice on the lid. There was no way that trunk was opening until after the storm was over.
That was also where my dog’s food and food bowl were.
I had brought a little bottle water for the dog and I, but it was frozen in the passenger floorboard. I had neglected to check on it, and during one of the periods I had turned of the car (and the heater) to save gas, it had gotten too cold.
I checked my phone, which was also low on charge by that point, and it said the outside temps had fallen to -20. My feet had went numb long before, and now I was seriously fearing for our lives. My dog was whining and shivering, and I tried to comfort him as best I could.
About three hours later, traffic on the frozen interstate began moving again, and I could turn the heater on again as we slowly made our way along the icy route. Unwilling to sit in the cold and ice if the road closed again in front of us, I made it down the nearest off ramp and stopped in a truck stop.
I filed the car up, and then looked up the nearest pet friendly hotel; where the dog and I weathered out the rest of the stormy night.
The lesson learned that night was nearly tragic, but if you avoid my mistakes, you’ll do much better than I did, should you find yourself in the same situation. For example:
- Keep blankets, water, snacks, and etc. where you can get to them if you need them. Mine were in the trunk, and I paid for not being able to access my blankets with frostbite.
- If you know you might be heading into bad weather, fill your gas tank. I didn’t fill mine, and found myself unable to keep my car running for warmth because I was afraid I’d run out of gas.
- Know your route. I had no idea where any restaurants, gas stations, hotels, or shelters were along my route. If I’d looked up this info before I left, finding gas and shelter wouldn’t have been as difficult, and I might have been able to avoid hours of freezing in stalled traffic.
- Keep your phone charged. Another mistake I’d made, if my phone had died I might not have been able to find gas or shelter for the night, leaving me and my dog open to the same fate.
It’s bad anytime you find yourself in an unexpected situation when traveling; but a little knowledge, foresight, and planning can solve many problems that might pop up before they start- and then maybe your trip won’t be as difficult as mine.