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Blizzard Delight

by Jane Provorse

Ever wished you had just stayed home?

A couple of years ago my family decided to visit relatives in Wisconsin for the Christmas holidays. I booked plane reservations for myself, my husband Bob, and our two teenage daughters to fly from Denver to Milwaukee. The night before we were to leave our home in Salida, a blizzard was forecast to hit Denver the following morning.

“Let’s leave at midnight, park the car, get to the airport by 4 a.m. and see if they’ll let us on the earliest flight,” suggested Bob the Optimist.

With no deliveries possible, Penny’s Diner in Sharon Springs, Kansas served up lots of frozen food to its captive customers.      J. Provorse
With no deliveries possible, Penny’s Diner in Sharon Springs, Kansas served up lots of frozen food to its captive customers. J. Provorse

“Sounds really fun,” said Katie and Ellen. Did I detect sarcasm? No matter, we went anyway. Only to find, when we finally stepped up bleary-eyed, to the airline desk, all flights had been cancelled. We managed to snag a room at a nearby hotel and took the last shuttle out of DIA. My life passed before me as the van fish-tailed down the soon-to-be-closed highway.

Five hours later we were allowed to check into our overpriced haven. Since we hadn’t eaten in 20 hours, the four of us made our way to the lounge where over 200 stranded people had the same idea. To the delight of the crowd, Ellen played a few numbers on the grand piano. Tips would have been nice since dinner was one buffet, one price. Over $100 for the meal, but we were too hungry to refuse.

For two nights the storm raged, while from our fifth-floor window we watched the semis jack-knife. Frontier Airlines reported the first possible flight out would be in four days.

“Let’s just drive to Wisconsin,” Bob suggested. “I think we can dig out our car at the parking lot. The weather looks like it’s clearing.”

“It’s a mere 20-hour drive, isn’t it?” asked the girls sweetly.

The drive only took 19.5 hours. We enjoyed a wonderful week with family and then, all too soon, it was time to venture back. But wait – the weather channel showed another blizzard brewing in Colorado.

Zooming across Nebraska, we listened to updates on the radio. Bob thought perhaps we could fool the storm so we headed south through Kansas. In the blackness of night, just as the road turned to glare ice, we spotted one lone light heralding a small motel. We gratefully checked into the stable, I mean, room.

As everyone knows, it’s not nice to fool Mother Nature. The next morning we awoke to a total whiteout. Almost three feet of snow had fallen and every road was closed. Fortunately, a 1950s-style diner remained open next door. With scarves wrapped around our faces we blew to the restaurant door. Inside, refugees of all ages and sizes sat in the booths, eating fried foods and cherry pie with ice cream. In fact, that’s what we all ate for the next two days.

Yep, two more days.

Entertainment became a challenge. We read each other’s books. We watched sappy old movies. We did push-ups in a three by five foot space on the motel floor. In the diner, we commiserated with our neighbors. These included an Amish family from Canada with six children, two male college students who tried to drive away and returned sheepishly on foot, the line cook named Pete with “two ex-es in Texas,” and Karate Kurt who led us in a martial arts demo in the lobby.

On New Year’s Eve day, we awoke to a cloudless, dazzling, surreal world. Several cars formed a caravan and we excitedly began the exodus. Across the white Kansas plains snaked our vehicles until the road slowly narrowed to one lane. We stopped. A foolish Trans Am had gotten stuck; no one could pass. There we sat as the winter sun began to sink. Suddenly, the black smoke of a snowplow appeared. We’re saved! But, behind it barreled a 4-wheel drive truck with red flashing lights. Out jumped a very angry sheriff who proceeded to give us all tickets for driving on a closed road.

Our saga finally ended as we followed the snowplow to the interstate. Eventually we made it back to Salida just in time to ring in the new year by falling into bed.

Ever wish you had just stayed home?

(Editor’s note: Got any vacation horror stories of your own? Submit them for consideration to: