‘The Winter Driving Adventure’, aka ‘The 10.5 Hour Trip Home from Ames’

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We purchased (non-refundable) tickets to Cornerstone Church’s Christmas production. Sure, they were only $14 (not worth risking lives for), but who wants to waste $14 or miss a good show? We were watching the weather… it was supposed to be snowy/windy in central Iowa, but near Omaha, was just supposed to be windy. After much debate, we decided to go for it. As you can see, this is a long story, but then again, it was a long night. If you have time, you should give it a read through, it was eventful.

Our drive there was great; the wind was in our favor and we were there in a jiffy. We spent a lovely day with Craig’s sister at work, and the Larson family! While at church, we got to see people we normally don’t get to see and introduce Liv to some old friends. We got to sit by our friends Jason and Lydia during the show, just a great time overall! It was Liv’s first time in the nursery (I cried) and she did fine. She was asleep in a swing (something she never does at home anymore) when we picked her up.

The show ended and Jeff announced the next show was cancelled due to weather. Those of you in the area that night, know the conditions. For those who weren’t around, let me say it was worse than the accident that totalled our vehicle, Christmas 2008, due to blowing snow. We informed people we were planning on heading home that night and received many offers of places to bunk for the night. We were not prepared for that and had duties at church in the morning to try and get home for. So we said our goodbyes and got on the road, just before 8:00pm. Not a great move, but I said “We can always turn around.” At 8:17pm, we got a call from some our friend’s, The Larsons. They wanted us to know the worst of the weather was between Des Moines and Omaha and that emergency vehicles weren’t going to be out. They didn’t want us to get stranded and said we should turn around. I said I would pass on the message to Craig and talk to them later. I did pass it on, but it didn’t get much of a reaction out of Craig and we continued on.

We drove slow, and a few times Craig said, “We’ll get home, slowly, but I’ll get you home.” We stopped quick for gas and McDonalds at the Johnston exit. As we got back on the interstate, Craig realized we’d gotten on I-80 East, instead of West. I didn’t say it out-loud at the time, but I thought maybe it was a sign we should go back. Later, Craig also said he had thought about just going back at that point, but didn’t say anything.

At times it was fine, and then there were times I thought things couldn’t get worse. The wind was coming from my side of the road and blowing across the road. I prayed for God to put up a wall to block the wind and help us home, some cloud by day or pillar of fire by night kind of action. I throw up these type of “save me” prayers from time to time, but am not very good at noticing the answer to them. This time, it was pretty clear. We got in a line up of vehicles that we followed for a while. Craig, stuck with a semi-truck, knowing it was smarter to be behind him since we could at least see him. We followed him until I-80, Exit 88.

Traffic stopped here and we waited and waited, thinking there must have been an accident ahead, that it will clear up and we’ll continue on. We sat at that spot on the interstate for 45 minutes, at which point, I started tweeting photos and asking for prayer for traffic to move. I knew our friend’s the Gleasons would be near exit 60. If we were to take the exit we happened to be stopped at, maybe we could get to them? Sent her a text… didn’t want to wake her up with a call. Liv, once asleep, was no longer asleep and we couldn’t find her pacifier. I fed her and got her to calm down until we found her pacifer. (which ended up being in my coat pocket) Traffic did end up moving again and we stuck behind our truck driver friend. We ended up seeing that it was indeed a three semi-truck accident. This was about 10:30pm. Two hours of driving, traveled 70 miles.

We moved on, very slowly, again, Craig said, “We’ll get home, slowly, but I’ll get you home.” This time I said, “I know hunny, but you’re not superman.” And almost instantly, things took a turn for the worse. At times we had to stop, on the road? on the side? who knows? because we could not see at all. I’m not sure where we were at that point, but we knew it was not safe… but was it to late? what do we do now? Yep, stay behind that truck and move on. But we didn’t get much farther and saw a sign that said: I-80 closed, use exit 60 detour. Crap. Okay. We’ll take that. But we didn’t know where we were. How far was it to exit 60? We wouldn’t find out. Traffic stopped again. Almost 11:00pm. 30 minutes of driving, traveled 7 miles (wouldn’t find out until later).

This was our company for the 4+ hours we were stopped. That car left his hazards on the whole time?!

We sat on I-80, thinking there must have been an accident. Would it be cleared? Or is traffic stopped because everyone is supposed to get off on exit 60, and it is just backed up. Later, thinking… maybe there was an accident at exit 60 and nobody can get off. We had no idea what was going on. Some cars would drive past us on the shoulder, but we didn’t know how far they had gone. As far as we could see it was just cars and trucks stopped. We kept watching for traffic to move, watching time go by. At 12:20pm, I let my friend Tim know I wouldn’t be able to sing in the morning. We’d sat there an hour and a half and Craig said, “I’ve run out of positive thoughts.” He went out in the freezing wind, to see what he could see. That was part of what was so hard about it… not knowing anything about what was going on. 1:00am, We had sat there two hours, and talked to my friend Meg and determined they wouldn’t be able to get to us. She was able to tell us the National Guard was out and if we needed help, to call 911. Thankfully, I’m still nursing Liv, we had a couple more diapers and a pretty full tank of gas for heat. If we did have to spend the night on I-80, we would be able to.

We continued to sit there, watching occasional cops drive past us on the shoulder. This made us wonder what was going on and if they were trying to get us moving.

Liv was awake but getting cranky tired, so we tried laying her down to fall asleep, but she kept waking up. We got her to sleep and put her back in her carseat. Around 2:00am, I finally admitted that I had to pee. Something I had been denying for a while now. While Craig was out, he’d seen a rest area a little farther up the road on the other side of the interstate and some gaps in traffic up ahead. There was significantly less blowing snow by now and the sky was clear.


At 3:30am, we drove along side traffic to get closer to the rest area. I sent Craig out first. He ran over and got some water, and at that point figured out where we were. While he was in there, he talked to a guy (who I watched drive through the median and backwards up the on ramp to the rest area) and a truck driver, and determined that we could go back west on I-80 to exit 83, and take a couple highways back to Council Bluffs. He ran back to the car and it was my turn to run to the rest area. He asked me if I wanted to sit on the road, not knowing how long, (I didn’t know that the state would really let these 50+ cars and trucks be stranded on the road all night. That seemed nuts to me!) or if I’d like to try to make it home via the route suggested by the truck driver. I said I’d like to try. So, we drove across the median to the rest stop, I went in to pee and got some snacks.

We took off, knowing there could be drifts, but we did have a shovel! Craig had taken pictures of the map in the rest area with his phone (We have a Garmin, but didn’t have it with us!)

At 4:00am, so tired, we took off on our own, happy to be moving again after almost 5 hours! Still moving slow, we drove through small town Iowa, making our 90 mile way home. We’d only gone 70 miles at that point! In 8 hours!

Somewhere along Hwy 92, we came to two cars, stuck in a drift, blocking the road. Craig, quickly jumped out with our shovel and helped them out. The people stuck were not prepared. They were in their pajamas without any shovels or anything! That set us back about 20 minutes, but we didn’t mind much at that point! We were on our way home, carefully watching for drifts, following a Fed Ex Critical truck headed to Salt Lake City. We made it home shortly after 6:30am, I fed Liv and we went to bed. On a normal Sunday, we usually leave the house at 6:30am to set up for church! But this was not a normal Sunday! After sleeping three hours, Liv woke up, so I got up with her and it all felt like a strange dream.

We are extremely grateful to have made it home. Praise God. We won’t be doing anymore questionable winter travel. Next time Craig and I look at each other with the “what do you think?” look, I’m saying No. Someday we can tell Liv what we did on her 6 month birthday!

*When Craig reads this, we’ll see if he remembers anything differently. I’ll make corrections if he does.

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3 thoughts on “‘The Winter Driving Adventure’, aka ‘The 10.5 Hour Trip Home from Ames’

  1. Meg G.

    soooooooo grateful that you three made it home safely. (Especially after your past “luck” in vehicles) We felt awful feeling so unhelpful to you…even when we were only 20 minutes away from you at one point. Anyway, thanks for sharing your driving story. :) love you!

  2. Kiley

    What a good story. Or a bad one, more like it! How scary. I HATE HATE HATE winter driving. I’d rather get ten fillings than drive in a blizzard! :) I’m glad you’re safe – praise God.

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