Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Scenic Route

So, as fun as my Winnipeg visit was, the drive back was equally horrific.  A complete nightmare.

Before leaving Thursday morning, I got a text from Nathan warning me Edmonton had a severe blizzard warning with winds reaching up to 90 km per hour and heavy snow.  It was +15 in Winnipeg so I foolishly assumed it wouldn’t be anything I couldn’t handle, especially after the blizzard I got stuck in on my drive to Winnipeg last year.


4505282047_e6d761e96a_b As I drove through Manitoba the weather was great.  As I passed through Saskatchewan the weather was beginning to get a bit iffy.  The wind picked up and for a while it almost looked as though a tornado was going to touch down.  As I was leaving Saskatoon it was dark out, and the wind was blowing tumbleweed across the road every few minutes, scaring the crap out of me.  In the dark, in the shine of my headlights, tumbleweed look a lot like deer.  So my nerves were already reaching their limit.  But it seemed to be dying down as I reached Alberta.  Passed Lloydminster and so far, no problems.

An hour past Lloydminster I saw one or two snowflakes, then BAM.  Blizzard.  Insanely strong winds that would almost push me off the road, and an onslaught of snow like I’d never seen.  In the dark, the snow was lit up by my headlights making it impossible to see the road, even with the low beams on.  I slowed down for a while until a semi passed me, then I sped up and used it as my guide.  I couldn’t see the road at all, but just followed the lights of the truck in front of me.  Eventually he turned off and I made it another half hour before losing sight of the road completely.  Even going 20 km per hour, I couldn’t tell if I was about to run off the road.  I hadn’t seen another car in hours, so I had to admit defeat and pull to the side of the road.  Not safe, a car could hit me from behind any moment, but I literally could not see the road even a bit, so I had no choice.  I sat there for over an hour with my blinkers on before realizing no one else was risking it either, and that my only chance would be to wait for daylight.

I unplugged the GPS, turned off the music, turned off the headlights and turned the heater down to the lowest setting without turning it off.  Only thing on was my blinkers.  Didn’t want the battery to die on me through the night.  If it did I’d be in real trouble, as in life-at-risk.  The road was buried in snow, indistinguishable from the fields around it and it was absolutely freezing out with wind-chill.  I turned off my phone so that it wouldn’t run out of batteries, as I realized I may end up needing it to make a life-or-death call.  I had about half a tank of gas, and hoped that it would last me through the night.

I crawled into the back seat and used my jacket as a blanket.  As I tried to fall asleep in the pitch black all I could hear was the wind blowing so hard it was rocking the car on its shocks, and all I could see was the violent snowstorm flashing with the red light of my rear blinkers.  I was terrified the battery would die.  I did eventually manage to fall asleep.

I woke up a while later and it was beginning to get light out.  I sat up and looked out the window.  It was still incredibly snowy and windy, but because of the sunlight I could at least make out a few meters in each direction.  The road was nowhere to be seen.  I turned on my phone, it was 6:00 AM.  I’d slept for 4 hours.  My entire windshield was covered in a thick sheet of ice.  I opened the door to try to see if I could make out the road, the wind was so strong I could barely push the door open with both arms.  It was definitely still freezing out.  No road.  I put my jacket on and went out in 1 minute shifts to try to scrape the windshield, making SURE I didn’t lock the door.  If I locked myself out of the car, I doubt I would have lasted 10 minutes.  It took a while, but I managed to clear off the windshield.

I sat there shivering violently, trying to warm myself back up.  The battery had lasted the night, and I’d only lost maybe 1/4 of my gas, leaving me with about 1/3 a tank.  I didn’t know what to do though; it was still nearly impossible to see, and the road was buried.  There weren’t even any tracks, so apparently not even a single car had passed in the night.

Thankfully, eventually a procession of cars passed.  3 in total, 1 right behind the other.  They stopped and the last car’s occupant,  a middle-aged man got out and knocked on my door.  I rolled down the window, and though I could barely hear him through the freezing wind, he quickly told me the 3 cars were sort of piggy backing through the storm, and to follow closely behind, then he ran back to his car.  I had to try a few times to get back on to the road, as the wind had piled the snow up against my car on every side, but I made it and started following the 3 cars.


Eventually we ran into a police car who was out looking for people like ourselves who’d been stranded in the blizzard.  He took to the front of the line and turned his lights on and guided us the rest of the way.  We reached a small village and found a gas station so we could all fill up, and got some hot chocolate.  By now the worst of the blizzard was finally passing so the police officer went back the way we came to look for more people, and we all went our separate ways.  Nice to know there are still good people out there.

From here the drive was considerably less stressful.  The blizzard had left a thick layer of ice over the road, so it was dangerously slippery even at 50 km per hour, but compared to the night I’d just had, this was a cakewalk.  I finally reached Edmonton at around 10:00 AM.  I had some McDonald’s breakfast and headed home, after nearly 24 hours in my car.  The Sunfire really proved itself on this trip, as I later told Reid, it probably saved my life!


I brought my stuff in and chatted with Tia for a bit before heading downstairs to my room.  I planned on staying up for the day and just going to bed early, but that didn’t happen.  After doing a bit of stuff on my computer I decided to lie in bed and watch Toy Story, something innocent to un-traumatize me.  And I passed right out and didn’t wake up until 6:00 AM this morning.  18 hours of sleep!  I needed it.

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