The conference tournament was in Tulsa that year. It just so happened that it correlated with my kids’ spring break so for the first time in his head coaching tenure I was going to be able to attend the tournament. I would love to have brought the children but it is pretty pricey to fly five people anywhere these days and since it is a tournament there is no guarantee how many days you will be staying. I could have asked my parents to drive from Cincinnati to watch the kids but I like to save those favors for when I really need them. Instead, I decided I would drive the kids to Cincinnati and take a flight from Cincinnati to Tulsa for the tournament.
I should have ascertained by the series of misfortunate events that took place before I even made it to Cincinnati that this was going to be a weekend to remember. The plan was to pick the kids up from school and be on the road by 3:00 o’clock. The problems started when I dropped the kids off at school in the morning and the car started acting funny. I immediately drove it to the service station because the last thing I needed was car trouble. The service man told me I needed some sort of part that they did not have but would be able to get “sometime” today plus he would need an hour to install it. I really had no choice in the matter so I told him to do whatever needed to be done. In the meantime, I went home to do laundry, pack up everyone’s stuff, gather snacks, drinks, and car toys and pick up the house before we left. I did manage to catch some of the noon news to discover that there was a blizzard forming right along our driving path. If we got on the road around 3:00 we should be able to miss it. Unfortunately, the kids and I were ready, but the car was not. It was around 5:00 o’clock and snowing when we finally rolled out. There was an eerie feeling outside. The sky had a heavy feeling to it. It was as if we were heading into the perfect storm. The snow plows were already out salting up the roads before the storm. I had a 6:00 am flight out of Cincinnati the next morning so I had to keep trucking. In all honesty, it felt like an adventure – man vs. nature- and my adrenaline was flowing. My adolescent/ narcissistic mentality also kicked in – it won’t happen to me. I figured we would beat the storm or it would move north and we would be south. I thought the odds of us running into a full blown blizzard in March on the one day that I have to drive to Cincinnati to catch a plane to see my first conference tournament game in my husband’s five year tenure had to be next to impossible. So, I played the odds.
It is a six hour drive to Cincinnati. We made it to Indianapolis an hour behind schedule. There was snow on the roads but by no means blizzard conditions. The highway had passable lanes and there was good visibility. I felt pretty good because we were only 90 miles away from Cincinnati. As soon as we past Indianapolis we were in the middle of a full blown, genuine blizzard – me, four kids and a dog. I have been in a car in torrential downpours and in 40 mph wind gusts but I have never been in a car during a blizzard. I was scared but I didn’t want the kids to see me scared. I would have pulled off the road but that would have been more dangerous because the car could have gotten stuck or another motorist could slide off the side of the road. I wanted to get off at an exit but you could not see more than five feet in front of you. By the time I saw an exit we were just about passing it and I wasn’t sure where the exit would take me. If I could have seen the billboards along the highway that advertise the exits that contain fast food restaurants and hotels I would have tried that but the snow was so thick I couldn’t even see them. So, I just kept my eyes glued to the one visible lane ahead of me and drove straight. I figured at some point I will come out on the other side of the storm. It was reassuring to see the taillights of another car in the horizon or headlights in the rear view mirror. Even though I couldn’t see into those cars I felt they had my back. We were bonded in the blizzard. However, when I was out there all alone with no lights to be seen anywhere I felt like we were in a black hole, out in the middle of nowhere. I continued to trek ahead and finally the clouds opened up and I saw street lights. The snow was slowing down and my tires were actually touching the pavement. Because my visibility was so bad and I could not see the exit signs or my usual landmarks I had no idea how far I had traveled. With the time change and treacherous driving conditions we finally made it to my parent’s house at one in the morning. With adrenaline still pumping through my veins, I was not able to fall asleep until 2:00 am – just enough time for a cat nap before I had to get up at 3:30 am to leave for the airport. The storm had come through Cincinnati after we arrived so I wanted to make sure I had plenty of time to get to the airport for my early bird flight. My dad drove me to the airport and thank God not too many people were on the highway at that hour because I remember sliding across two lanes at one point. He managed to get me to the airport on time and in one piece. After two de-icings and an hour delay my plane took off to Tulsa. I am not an avid flyer because of the whole “no control” thing but at this point in time I was ready for someone else to take control. I fell asleep before take-off and didn’t wake up until we landed.