Toby and I have been on the road again, visiting family in Colorado Springs.
Having checked the weather, we left Plattsburgh the week before Christmas. The forecast was for clear skies and high 30s, perfect for 500-mile driving days. As often happens, though, that’s not the way it played out.
Our first night was in the Ashtabula, Ohio, area at one of the nicest and cleanest America’s Best Value Inn locations. The next day dawned sunny and 38. We took off for Indiana and Illinois, staying in Effingham, Ill.
A little humor on the road never hurt anyone so I’ll share a little incident that made me laugh. Toby packed his own suitcase, because after our last trip to Pennsylvania, when I packed it, he wasn’t pleased that I left half his clothes at home on the couch, where he put them.
In Ashtabula, I asked him if he wanted to use the toothpaste before I packed it away. That was when he discovered he had forgotten his toothbrush. I wasn’t really surprised — it’s a guy thing. I said I would go to the front desk and ask for a complimentary one. He looked at me with all seriousness and asked, “Are they new?”
After a moment of thought, I said, with my dry British humor in control, “No, honey, they collect up all the toothbrushes people leave behind and hand them out to people like you who forget theirs.”
He rolled his eyes and said “Good one, Susan,” as I headed to the front desk. I think he was suffering from road fatigue after driving 500 miles the day before.
As always, we checked the national weather, surprised to see a severe weather warning for Kansas. We have experienced Kansas weather before, with a tornado that chased us and, another year, a snow storm with high winds and whiteouts. This warning was for an ice storm.
If I were driving, I would have opted for another day in Effingham but Toby is the retired trucker and insists on driving the 4,000-mile round trip, so it’s his decision. He said “We’re going” and away we went.
The weather was great through Missouri. Being a Saturday, the traffic was light. As we closed in on Kansas City, Mo., the sky started spitting rain, then it turned to “tick, tick” on the windshield. The further west we went, the worse it got.
Finally the rain turned to sleet and ice that coated the windshield wipers and every inch of the truck. A stop for gas and some coffee gave Toby a chance to clean off the wipers, making our visibility much better.
Onward we pressed, although every 10 miles or so we saw most of the four-wheel drive vehicles (that had passed us) stranded in the median or the ditch. Tractor trailers had jackknifed, one unhooked from the cab, but westward we pressed.
About this time, I’m beginning to think that our goal city, Hays, Kan., wasn’t such a great idea after all. This was deja vu from another trip we had taken on this same route two years before. I wanted to scream “Give me chocolate!” but instead I just closed my eyes and prayed.
Some sections of the interstate were plowed but we were plowing as we drove 35 to 40 miles per hour for about four hours, moving toward Hays. What a treat to finally see a sign that said “Hays…80 miles.”
Almost as suddenly as the freezing rain had started back in Kansas City, it all stopped near Salina and we had bare roads. Not a speck of snow anywhere; just the broad, starry Kansas sky.
When we got to Hays about midnight, we checked into America’s Best Value Inn and were very relieved to have a nice warm bed for the night. Our truck was the only red “ice cube” in the parking lot the next morning, garnering curious looks from guests checking out.
On the last day of our trip, into Limon, Colo., and Colorado Springs, we enjoyed sunshine and a whole bevy of Western music, with both of us singing along. To be greeted with hugs and kisses from our daughter, her husband, 10 grandchildren and one beautiful newborn great-grandchild made the winter storm trial worth it.
Toby’s last comment to me before we left Hays: “See, if we had stayed in Effingham another night, like you wanted to, we’d still have another day before we see the kids.” I had to admit he was right — this time.
One last thought, as always, please be kind to each other. The world needs more kindness.
Susan Tobias lives in Plattsburgh with her husband, Toby. She has been a Press-Republican newsroom employee since 1977. The Tobiases have six children, 18 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. They enjoy traveling to Maine and Colorado, and in her spare time, Susan loves to research local history and genealogy. Reach her by email at email@example.com.