‘Tis the season for lots of things, right? Christmas shopping, baking, tree decorating, lights, plays, music, and Christmas travel. The latter one (the travel) isn’t something I was very used to growing up. All of my family lived local, so the farthest we ever drove was about an hour to my great grandma’s house. However, Christmas traveling is something I have gotten very accustomed to since marrying my man. Maybe it’s always been a part of your Christmas traditions, and maybe not. But, nonetheless, many people travel at around the holidays, so I figured this may be a fun time to share my most adventurous, memory filled Christmas travel experience.
It was Christmas Day 2010. It was our very first white Christmas here where we live (that I can remember anyways). I remember the snow being so pretty, but we weren’t able to actually enjoy it. Nathan and I were planning to start our 13 hour drive to Missouri around 3pm, and were planning on driving until we were too tired and then finishing the drive the next day. When we headed out there was already a couple inches of snow on the ground, but we figured we would get past the snow soon, so we kept driving. Looking back, was it the best idea ever? Probably not.
Our journey took us through the mountains where we would later pass through Tennessee. The snow kept coming down, faster and faster. I should probably add that we were driving the little BMW I had at the time. It was not four wheel drive, either. We managed to get behind a plow truck on the interstate and we drove directly behind him and that seemed to work pretty well. We were going at a steady pace of about 25 mph. We had also begun to notice that we were the only lunatics on the highway, on Christmas Day, in the now fairly deep snow, in a car. Looking back, I’m sure we looked like total idiots. We drove for about four hours and we made it about 100 miles. At this point we were still laughing about the whole situation, but felt certain everything would be fine.
When the plow truck pulled of onto an exit, we didn’t have much choice but to follow suit. We decided we would stay at this exit for the night. The only motel choice was a Super 8. Upon checking in we discovered that the highway was closed right past this exit due to the snow. Wow. Sure glad we didn’t try to keep going. We stayed in that Super 8 motel on Christmas night and it was relatively depressing, knowing that we were snowed in until the DOT decided to reopen the highway.
The next morning we enjoyed a delicious breakfast (haha) at their continental buffet and learned that the highway had reopened. It took a few attempts, but we were able to get the car out of the parking lot and off we went. The road conditions were terrible. For about an hour we drove at the dashing speed of 5 mph on the interstate. I repeat, 5 mph! It seemed like a cruel joke. We had so far to go, and we could have ridden our bicycles faster than we were driving. We finally, and I mean hours later, crossed over into Tennessee. The roads were immensely different. These roads were completely clear with all of the snow pushed cleanly to the sides. We were so relieved.
Nathan sped immediately up to normal interstate speeds and we thought we were home bound. We drove for not even an entire hour and decided to stop for a sandwich and a bathroom break. We got back on the road and after maybe 10 minutes heard a loud noise. I wasn’t paying much attention until I heard Nathan say something. I looked up and we were merging onto the shoulder of the interstate. I said, “What are we doing?” Nathan said that he thought our car had just broken down. It was at this moment that I just wanted to be a little kid, crawl into my mama’s arms and cry for a long, long time. He got out of the car, popped the hood, and began to diagnose.
I took much comfort in thinking that surely whatever was wrong he would be able to fix right then and there. He is, after all, a BMW technician and he never travels without a big bag of tools. I sat for awhile and he came and got back in the car. I could tell it wasn’t good news without asking a single word. He began to tell me, that due to all of the snow that had frozen on the front of our car, there wasn’t enough airflow able to reach our coolant reservoir and it burst from overheating. No big deal, I thought. We just wouldn’t have any reserves of our coolant anymore. Well, I was wrong, obviously. Not only could we not drive our car, we couldn’t even crank it for very long without it overheating our engine. He began to sort out our options in his mind. Because it was a Sunday, every single BMW dealership that he could possibly get this part from was closed. He searched all the after market parts stores and wouldn’t you know that not a single one of them carried the part we needed. Great, just great.
He cranked the car just long enough for us to back down the on ramp we were sitting very close to and a poor, homeless man thought we were coming to pick him up. Poor guy. We coasted over to a truck stop. Thank the Lord that Nathan had a friend whom he had met in school that lived an hour or so back from where we had just come from. Nathan called him and he said he would come get us. It was about 20 degrees outside and we couldn’t keep our car cranked to keep us warm, so we walked around the truck stop and then ordered hot chocolate at Denny’s. I’m not trying to act like that was fun. Walking around a truck stop when everything for the past two days has gone horribly wrong and you’re not even halfway to your final destination is not fun. We were both trying to stay positive for each other, though.
Daryll came and picked us up a couple hours later and let us stay with him and his wife that evening. The next day he drove us to the closest BMW dealership where Nathan got the part we needed and then fixed our car in the truck stop parking lot. I was SO, SO thankful for Nathan and for the career he had chosen at this point. After fixing our car, we said our thank you’s and goodbye’s to Daryll and we were off, again.
We were finally able to finish our journey to Missouri with no other hold ups and catastrophes. The trip ended up taking us approximately 50 hours and we averaged 17.8 mph for the duration of the trip. When we look back, we can laugh, but at the time there was no laughter.
This year, for the first time since then, we are leaving on Christmas Day to make the same trip, only this time in a four wheel drive SUV, with two children, and a forecast of 72 degrees. I’m hopeful we won’t have any of the same adventures, but you never know. ‘Tis the Season, right?!
Do you have a crazy travel adventure? I’d love to hear about it!