Daily life is repetitive. Like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. Get up early to feed dogs; walk dogs through yet more new snow and wind; add ice to husband Peter’s machine for his post-quad injury care; sign into conference calls; make meals; watch an evening TV show; help Peter up from the couch and hobble to bed. Repeat. Days drift into one another; we forget whether it’s a weekday or a weekend. We’ve recently reversed roles: two months ago, I was recovering from a fractured femur and Peter did the nursing, housework, and dog care. Then Peter was injured last week and had emergency surgery.
Tired of the quiet, predictable pace (and my functional but not fancy cooking), Peter suggests we venture out to dinner. The restaurant is only four miles away. We get in the car and he slowly, painfully squeezes his braced leg into the passenger side. His crutches nestle next to the console. At the end of our long, windswept driveway, the snow has already started to pile up. We decide to go back to the house so Peter can use the snowplow-bedecked Polaris to clear a better path.
We start out again, already late for our dinner reservation. As we drive down the hill, the weather gets worse. Then it gets treacherous. Windy gusts and swirls of snow surround the car. Halfway to our destination, Peter suggests aborting the mission and heading home to leftovers. I turn the Jeep around and switch the transmission to “Snow” driving. The front windshield, despite the hottest setting of Defrost, is icy, foggy, and opaque. I can see only white gusts, driving snow, and the occasional dark shape of a home. It is disorienting; hard to know uphill from downhill.
I creep up the hill, unable to see the road ahead. I turn the headlights to high, and still drive blind. The snow swirls sideways, then reverses direction. Not flakes, but savage swirls. We navigate by the snowbanks. Peter lowers his window: a mini avalanche blows in and covers his leg brace, clothes, and hair. He calmly gives waypoints: “Snowbank five feet away; Snowbank two feet; You’re heading into the snowbank. Go Left. Go Right. Snowbank. Snowbank. You are too close. Okay.” I also open my window to track the lefthand snowbank. We stop in the middle of the road. Should we wait for the blizzard to diminish? It is full force and not going to stop anytime soon. I keep driving, blindly. Stopping in the middle of the road was not an option; another car could easily plow into us.
We agree to reassess at the t-intersection where we turn left, about a mile from our house. I almost run into the stop sign, which appears out of nowhere. I pull over (I think) to make room for a car coming from the other direction. I roll down my window and yell, “This is wild. Be careful.” Obvious understatement.
My cell phone pings with a “storm squall” warning. HAZARD…..FLASH FREEZE ON ROADS. INTENSE BURSTS OF HEAVY SNOW. GUSTY WINDS LEADING TO BLOWING SNOW AND VISIBILITY RAPIDLY FALLING TO LESS THAN ONE-QUARTER MILE. WIND GUSTS GREATER THAN 35 MPH. IMPACT…TRAVEL WILL BECOME DIFFICULT AND POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS WITHIN MINUTES.
No kidding: a little late as we still have several windswept turns to navigate. We make the left hand turn and for about 300 yards, I can see the road pavement. Unfortunately, I know what is still ahead.
We creep along. I worry about the cutoff to Murphy Creek, at the top of a hill and wildly exposed to the western winds. It always has a snow drift. The Jeep pushes through the expected ridge of snow, and we continue up the road, finally facing away from the squall. I am grateful that I know every turn of the road, having run on it, biked on it, and driven it regularly. We would have ended up in a snowbank for sure had we been unfamiliar with the route.
We are in the final stretch, a desolate section with only a handful of homes along the way. Peter says, “I think we are almost to our driveway.” I feel the Jeep’s tires plunge into deeper snow. We are in the snowbank. I can’t go forward; I can barely go backwards. My thoughts swirl; a nightmare image of Peter on crutches buffeted by the storm and slowly traversing through five inches of new snow. I back up again and get a little more traction. I pull forward and we are free of the snowbank! We pull into our garage. And collectively sigh. We are drenched in ice clumps and melting snow. We eat leftovers and have a glass of wine.
Today, the Ground Hog Day routine feels just grand!