Lousy weather, A driving adventure and very bad coffee !

2014-02-14 14.05.03 What a day February 14th, Valentine’s day turned out to be!! This week was in Indianapolis to attend a training. Getting into Indy Monday was smooth. The temperatures were a startling contrast to that in Philly with minimums reaching below zero. When I got into Indy Monday, I was in for a shock with the cold blast hitting me hard. My ears started to throb with pain. I was worried about an infection, but I got over it. Come Tuesday and the forecast confirmed Philly would be hit with another major storm. We have had six winter storms already and the average January temperature was lower than in Anchorage, Alaska!! Home would get about 8-10 inches of snow and that meant flight cancellations all the way. Indy was not to be affected though and was I glad as I didn’t have to worry about driving within the city. However, by Wednesday evening, all Thursday flights into Philly from Indy were cancelled. I had gone ahead and rebooked my travel back to Friday evening. That meant I would be late getting home by 24 hours and miss Valentine’s day. Not that we ‘celebrate’ Valentine’s day, but it is nice to be there on the occasion reminding us of each other.

Friday morning, I was planning to leave the hotel at 1 PM and grab lunch at a pretty good Indian restaurant – Spice Nation – on the way to airport. I was so walloped with work that I didn’t notice it had started to snow when I looked out the hotel window around 12:15 PM. I thought it would be prudent to start earlier than planned. After cleaning the snow off the car, I got a sense for the roads ahead when the car ahead of me getting out of the hotel took about five minutes to make a left turn. The normally 5 minute drive to I-465 West to airport took about 20 minutes. On the expressway itself, I realized that it was way too early for the snow plows to clear the road. However, to my relief the roads were salted.  The ramps weren’t so well done and as I drove up the slope, I could feel the tires give way. You know the area from the ramp that merges onto the expressway – they basically are where the traffic slows down and during a snow storm that means there is lot more snow on the road in those parts making way for some slippery driving. On my way and about 20 minutes and a mile later, it had started to snow so much that I decided not to stop for lunch and head to the airport directly. With speeds averaging around 20-25mph and I sure didn’t want to miss the flight for any reason though I was doubtful that the flight would be taking off even if it did.

2014-02-14 12.48.56If it is a storm, it is best to stay indoors, right? But you would be surprised how many were on the road lunch time on a Friday. It could have been all the people wanting to go back home in time for Valentine’s day. Whatever, I was one of them eager to see my Valentines. Visibility was dropping fast and the snow on the windshield was turning to ice and with this, the wipers weren’t doing their job and my window of visibility was narrowing down so much I started to get nervous – when there is so much snow on the ground and you are in the midst of some pretty heavy traffic and you can hardly see ahead except parts of the car ahead of you, it can be nerve-wracking. I could see a few vehicles already had pulled onto the slushy side. In all of this mele, the monster trucks were driving on happily even though they were barely a foot off the other vehicles.  Some were even trying to overtake the slower vehicles.

I managed to pull to the side and got out to clear the wipers off the ice. Getting back onto the road was a bit tricky. Another 3 miles of driving and I realized I had somehow gotten off the expressway and had taken an exit! With no clear tracks and the need to focus on the car ahead and behind, paying attention to the signs is bit of a challenge. On the exit ramp, things were even crazier as these weren’t as much travelled. There were no clear tracks to drive through. While deciding whether to get back onto the expressway or take the exit and park somewhere safely, I realized I was sandwiched between two lanes of traffic. As I saw the cars ahead of me struggle to wiggle out of the snow, I thought I should just stop. That’s exactly what I did – stopped right in the middle of two lanes, praying that no one would hit me. In my side mirror, I could see a Mercedes behind me trying to slow down and fighting hard to maintain traction. I had the presence of mind to keep myself in my seat belts all along. I was pretty sure the Mercedes would hit my car even at that slow speed. Somehow he managed to get past me.

As the traffic eased, I thought I would be better off on the expressway and started moving away from the slush. It was quite an effort, sliding and slipping, I managed to find traction somehow. It is scary when whatever effort you put on the steering wheel doesn’t make a difference on the direction you want to go. Such was the slipping. It is even more unnerving when your car goes sideways when you want to head straight.

Back on I465-W, it was getting worse actually. This time I was on the far left lane and soon visibility got worse much quickly due to the wipers icing. And there was always that fear that I would somehow tread onto the more slushier snow on the side and have a major spin. The thought of ending up underneath the tractor-trailer as it whizzed by me on the center lane was enough to decide it was best to stop. I put my emergency flashers on and eased the vehicle into the side.  I didn’t care a bit about how I would get out of inches of snow amidst heavy traffic. With barely a foot separating the car from the traffic, I cleaned the wipers again. Once there was a bit of break in the traffic I once again eased into the traffic. This time around I was determined to stay on the slowest lane. Another 15 miles to go and that meant at least an hour’s worth of drive!! It was snowing at a much rapid rate and the build up on the road was getting worse. It didn’t make sense to continue driving thinking about the risk involved. A simple spin in such heavy traffic and I could be disabled for life. I saw an exit onto Rt. 70 (?) and took it. Many had decided to continue and  I found myself sort of a lone trooper in snow filled landscape. As I approached the lights, I did see some vehicles and that was heartening. There was a gas station near by. The Mustang in front of me was having a hard time starting at the green. When you are in such a situation, make sure you please stay back and don’t tailgate – it could be a old person, a younger driver – maybe your own son or daughter. Be considerate when you drive on the road. It is easy to be an ass but difficult to set a good example always.

2014-02-14 15.10.59At the gas station, it was a welcome relief. I got some coffee and a packet of nuts – that would be my lunch for the day. These days, anytime I miss lunch or food, I harden up as it would be a chance to save on the intake. The coffee was horrible. The young gas station attendant didn’t know what the weather was going to be like when I inquired. He said ‘he didn’t care’ 🙂 – guess he is used to it in those parts. It was about an hour and a half since I had left the hotel for those 15 miles. With the snow piling up, it wouldn’t do me any good to stay put in an unknown place. And what would you do if he decides to close the shop. Even on the side, I would be better off on an expressway where there were tracks that I could use and a lot of people around. Or such was my reasoning and I made the brave attempt to resume the journey. Getting up the snowy, sliding ramp was again a challenge but there weren’t many people around this time which made it easier.

Once back on I 465 South, it was better than what I had seen earlier. Within 3 miles and 15 minutes of driving I saw the exit to the Indianapolis International airport. There was less traffic and maybe the proximity to the airport was the reason the roads were a little better. I could even see the black surface a few times. I was glad I was getting into the airport safe without any accidents and made me realize what a foolish thing I did not looking out the window and checking the weather in a winter-friendly place before a flight back home!

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