1/2 – December road trip: The blizzard and the missing hotel

Taking a break for a moment from the childhood rants. On 12/26, the day after my son’s 11th birthday and of course Christmas, my wife, two of my three kids and I drove to Ohio to visit with my Dad at his place and my aunt who also flew up from North Carolina for the festivities. As I have stated before we love to drive to places on our vacations and this time was no different. It would have been about $2000 for round trip plane tickets for all of us and a 780-mile drive would be much less expense and I figured we could do this in 12 or 13 hours. We have an RV but driving that in the winter with the chance of snow was too risky – front gas engine and rear wheel drive does not make for a good combination in possible winter weather and the fuel would’ve cost us just as much as plane tickets.


So we packed up in my Chevy Impala and off we went. My plan was to leave at 6:00 AM, I Impalawoke up at 5:00 and started getting everything ready. We left at 8:00. I could have gotten up at 3:00 AM and we still would’ve left at 8:00. I later found out that my oldest daughter who stayed behind because of her work schedule was on the phone when we left the house and said that we just left but would be back in 5 minutes after we stopped at 7-11 and realized we forgot something. She knows all too well – 5 minutes later we were right back in the driveway. It’s good to have a plan but when you need to get three other people moving that early – the day after a holiday – on school vacation, 6:00 AM does not come without some level of protest. Hell I didn’t want to be up either, especially after being up past midnight for both of the previous two nights and being up early on Christmas morning for presents and now early on the 26th to drive. I could handle it.


I checked the weather and it looked like some snow could be moving into the Pennsylvania area sometime during that day – it was also heading towards CT. I had two routes to choose from. Highway 80 across the top of PA or 70 across the bottom of PA. In my logic I figured that the  southern most route was the safe way to go since the more south you go the less cold it is and less chance of snow there is. Makes sense in theory but that “southern route” was only about 60 miles difference.


snowI drove for about the first 4 hours and then got hit with a tiredness that was overwhelming. I was chewing sunflower seeds, drinking coffee and moving like I had bugs crawling all over me just to stay awake. It got to the point where I switched with my wife and she drove while I bobbed and weaved against the seatbelt in the passenger seat falling in and out of sleep. Sure enough about 5 hours in we hit the snow – it started slow but by the time we hit Harrisburg PA it was an all out blizzard. My wife wanted to stop but in my male driven need to make good time and put in some miles I insisted that we trudge forward. It took us a good three hours to get through the Harrisburg area.


I realized that we weren’t going to make it in one day like I had planned but now I had this 500 mile mark in my head. We needed to make it to at least 500 miles in before we stopped. My wife kept asking when we were going to stop and was increasingly becoming agitated with me because again, I had a goal in mind (unbeknownst to her at the time) and come hell or high water (snow?) we were going to make it. It got to the point where she was so insistent that I started looking for a hotel at around the 450 mile mark. We stopped at an exit that had a few hotels and I walked into the closest one off the highway that I could find which was a Holiday Inn Express. They were completely full and said that every hotel on that exit was also full. Apparently we weren’t the only 1 or 500 people trying to get off the road and into a warm room for the night; imagine that. Of course now we are in the mid-west section of PA where it is all farmland and a good 20 -30 miles or so between exits by the time we need a room. That only happens when 1. You need gas, 2. You are now hungry and are looking for a good place to eat that is not a McD’s, Wendy’s or BK and 3. When you are looking for a hotel room.


It took us three stops at these 30 mile interval exits to finally find a room. It was a shitty little Days Inn right off the highway somewhere near Pittsburgh. We made it to about 487 miles (yup I checked) and about 9:00 PM so a good 13 hour day. The hotel was dingy and looked a little rough and the soda machine stole my dollar but it was our home for the evening, out of the snow, off the road and we could actually lie down to sleep.


About Alton B. Etheridge III

My Last Years of Childhood is about my musings as I relive my childhood in words before I get too old to remember!
This entry was posted in Childhood, Confessions, Life, Memoir, Nostalgia and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to 1/2 – December road trip: The blizzard and the missing hotel

  1. Sounds like a fun time. HA HA !

  2. Sandi Ormsby says:

    We left at 8:00. I could have gotten up at 3:00 AM and we still would’ve left at 8:00. —-this is US on every outing. It drives me crazy. My husband is the culprit. Everyone is in the car…he’s standing and looking around the house. “Are you ready?” Another 15 minutes later…meanwhile, the kids are already fighting over what seat, what movie, just messing w/each other in general…placing things in car at last minute, the dog jumps out and runs around in excitement…you try to get him to potty, he won’t go for fear you’ll leave. Dad finally comes out, and one of the kids has to go to the rest room…dad stands in garage for awhile…”are you ready?” we’re dying from carbon monoxide.

    • Yeah there’s always someone in our pack. We try to get out at a certain time but never ever ever do we make it out at that time. I think I need a human sized dolly so I can just wheel everybody out to the car while they’re still asleep.

      • Sandi Ormsby says:

        hahahaha! That’s right. We found it easier to leave at night (after traffic) so the little kids could sleep most of the trip when they were younger…now, not so much.

      • We used to do that too when our girls were babies but know it’s just too hard and too much hassle. They don’t sleep upright as good as they did when they were less than 2′ tall for some reason.

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