I’m not sure if the whole “keep the shiny side up!” is only a motorcycle rider expression or not, but it is all I could think of while driving back from KC. We had an amazingly busy time while down there for a couple of days, but got to eat the food, see our friends and overall just relax. We have to take more mini-vacations like this one because they feel awesome.
I don’t like winter period, and driving in the winter even less. I did not really think much of the weather when planning the trip, which was half planned ahead, half last minute. When I looked at the forecast it did not seem all that bad.
Driving down was wonderful. There was snow on either side of the road on 80, but nothing actually on the road. The traffic was moderate to non existent. We made it down there on a solid 8 hours since we did only quick gas up and no sit down food. The weather was chilly when we arrived, but nothing that I had not experienced previously in Chicago. Come to think of it, in the 3 years I lived in KC I hardly ever saw that much snow actually on the ground or even felt that cold. It was actually colder than it was in Chicago.
Saturday was mild and the sun seemed to make cameos through the day. Colder than I expected but overall not too horrible. Then Sunday came along.
We had a couple of social appointments to attend and one was brunch. OMG was it cold just walking from the parking lot to the restaurant. The wind was blowing and just seemed angry and wanting to make my ears fall off. It had not seemed that bad when we got into the car in the hotel which was 5 minutes away. After a great time we headed back to the car and wanted to stop at the hotel to chill before we went to the next social call.
The wind was still angry, and it seemed to be snowing but it was spotty. Almost like blowing snow and not just falling snow. I am used to not expecting snow to fall when the temperature seems that cold, but it must have been only the wind making it feel way bellow what the thermostat said. I did not think twice about taking the highway to make the trip seem a minute or so shorter. The road did not seem all that bad and the traffic was flowing. That is until we went under a bridge.
I thank God that I did not lose control of the car but it was almost like everything hit all at once. Icy conditions and snow, tiny powdery snow made it almost impossible to see the cars ahead. I eased up from the accelerator and tested to see if I had gained traction again by lightly tapping the break. I slowed down and started to plan my exit from the highway. I had the option of taking an interchange or continuing ahead to the next exit. (I35 going north from 119 right before 435) I decided to take the interchange and exit on at the first chance. The first thing I noticed is that most people did not seem to be adjusting to the conditions and I still had people passing me. All of a sudden a car loses control about 3 cars in front of us. I was not going too fast, but when I tested the breaks I actually said SH!T, I don’t think I am going to be able to stop.
I started to plan for escape routes and even considered the ditch as an option. Thankfully the flow of traffic continued and the car that lost control simply did a full spin out and ended on the side of the road facing the wrong way. The exit ahead could not come fast enough and we made it safely to the hotel without even having to witness any accidents. I turned on the news and sure enough, car pileups had occurred during those minutes that the conditions were just not safe. At dinner we had the official count from our TV station buddy who actually had to go in to post all the official news. 100 cars involved in 3 pile ups.
I started to dread the trip back up to Chicago, but I figured the roads would be ok by the following day.
For the most part they were, but there had over 30 cars on the side of the road from the day before. I make that assumption because they had all been adorned with reflective tape, possibly by the police. Five of them did not have the shiny side up and were completely upside down. A couple were just on their side, and some stretches of highway had 5 or 6 cars one after another. A high percentage, I would say over half were pick up trucks and SUVs.
I am not sure about those drivers that ended up in the ditch, but while making a 8 hour trip into 10 hours to err on the side of safety I had several trucks and SUV pass me at speed well over the speed limit. I always wonder if people are really that dense to not understand that 4WD might help you have traction to take off like a bat out of hell, but it will do nothing when you hit ice and try to make the vehicle stop.