Never do that again.
The anxiety of being separated in a storm.
It's not unusual for us to have 36" of snow, but it is unusual for us to have 36" of snow in 36 hours.
But let me go back...
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My husband, John, has been looking for a winter project. He's pretty industrious so when winter hits, we have cords of firewood chopped and stacked, the chimney is in good repair, the plumbing is insulated and heat traced - basically, all of his winter prep chores are done.
This leaves John, who is never without a project, wearing a path in the rug with his pacing as I bake and paint and sew and do all of those "inside" projects that keep me busy year-round. Meanwhile, the snow piles up, John runs out of books to read, and he starts pacing the floors.
A German Shepherd puppy and John, inside, pacing. You see where this could go after a few months, right?
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
Knowing this, in early summer he started looking for an interesting vehicle - nothing too expensive but with potential - that he could roll into his shop and restore over the winter. He's restored several cars over the years. His last was a 1972 Triumph Spitfire that he actually made spit fire!
A few days ago, John found a 1957 Jeep Willys on Craigslist. The listing's header said, "Get ready for your next adventure." Well, little did we know how profound that header would turn out to be.
John called the owner and the Jeep ticked all his boxes. Yes, it was a good four hours away and, yes, the forecast was calling for snow but, come on, it's a Jeep Willys. How cool is that? After all, the weather had been calling for snow in vain for a couple of weeks, so it was hard to take the forecast seriously. Looking back, we were both excited and, when you're excited about something, you can rationalize a lot of obstacles out of the way.
The next day, I decided to stay home with the dogs and chicks while John made the drive to look at the Willys. He'd rent a tow dolly and bring it home. Simple. A few hours. He'd be home by dinner.
When John left home, it was snowing lightly. We're at 3500 feet elevation and as he went down the mountain, the snow gradually turned to rain. When he got to the U-Haul dealer in town, they were out of tow dollies, so they sent him to another dealer about 3 hours away. That location was on the way to the Willys anyway and they told him he could return it here in town, so it was no big deal. Moving on....
Meeting the Craigslist guy went well. The Willys in real life was a bit rougher than the Craigslist version, but the Willys actually ran! John hooked it up and started the journey home.
Oh, happy day.
All day John and I kept in touch, with our messages going from "I'm getting some fuel before I head home. It's cloudy but dry", to, a few hours later, "I need to stop and get a room. It's snowing sideways and I can't see."
Here at home, things were about the same. The snow was persistently coming straight down.
"There's 11" on the table now."
"I can't see the chairs anymore."
"The table is gone."
As the snow continued to pile overnight, it became less likely that John was going to be towing the Willys up the hill to our house. In fact, he'd be lucky to get our own Jeep home.
I laid in bed alone that night thinking of all the nightmare scenarios that awaited us the next day. Maybe the snow would be so high, I thought, John would have to park and walk. It's a 2 mile walk from the county road to our house - remote and partially wooded. Maybe he'd be attacked by a bear or the cougars we've seen scouring our area. Does he have his gun? Maybe I'd never even know what happened. Maybe he'd slide off the road on a steep curve - would he jump out in time before going over the edge? Like I said, nightmares.
Well, that's not productive. I got out of bed and searched online for sporting goods stores where he might be able to pick up some snowshoes or XC skis on his way home, in case he did have to walk. Alas, there was nothing on the way.
As I searched online, his snowshoes hung on the wall behind me. The air was thick with irony.
When daylight finally arrived, I called around and found a storage unit where he could at least drop off the Willys. One less thing to deal with. Meanwhile, John was calling U-Haul, as they'd directed, before dropping off the tow dolly.
Contrary to his contract, the U-Haul customer service rep. told him he couldn't drop the dolly in our town. She said he'd need to drive it another 50 miles out of the way.
I don't think so.
Obviously, his contract stated the return location as our town and, despite what this faceless, nameless person said over the phone, that's what he was going to do. Oddly, she kept trying to convince him to keep it. "You can have it until December 1st", she offered. What a bizarre suggestion.
"Just drop the damn thing off in town. If they want to make an issue of it, you have the contract. I reminded John what Judge Judy would say:
But first, the storage unit.
At the storage unit, John asked the owner to hold one end of the measuring tape while he made sure the Willys would fit into a 10'X15' unit. Standing at the front bumper, John read the tape: 14'6". No problem.
But when he unloaded it and drove it in, the storage unit's door wouldn't close. Turns out, it was 15'2".
It makes you wonder where she was holding the other end of that tape... but, I digress.
So, John commenced removing the bumper - the original bumper - of this 1957 Willys, there, on the cold floor of the storage space. Luckily, he had a toolbox (luckily, I had insisted on him taking a toolbox). Anyway, in the toolbox he had packed a set of heavy-duty socket-ended wrenches which took several strong kicks to loosen those old, rusty, original bumper bolts.
And several more kicks, for good measure.
So, off with the bumper, door closed... ready to go. But not so fast. The storage facility had no locks available and insisted that he lock the unit. So, John dropped the tow dolly at U-Haul - the U-Haul in town - bought a lock there, went back to the storage unit and locked the damn door. Done.
On the road again.
Now I have to say, at this point, I think I would be losing my cool if I were in John's shoes. No. I know I would be. The horrible weather, the uncertainty of making it home, the little irritations... it would have me in knots. And yet, John just keeps on trucking. Never raises his voice.
For all I know, he could be pounding the dashboard and screaming bloody murder, all alone in the Jeep. But the calm is all I see, and the calm is helpful to me because now, I'm the one pacing the floors.
John called me from town before heading up the mountain. It was about 1:30PM and he was putting chains on all four tires. "I'm just going to start driving and see how far I can get."
To put things in perspective, the county road starts just outside town. It's maintained, but rough gravel. The first part of the road is a 25-degree switchback. The road winds on from there for another 10 miles of hills and depressions, curves and cliffs, until you reach our road. Our road is another 2 miles of rougher terrain. It's not maintained by anyone but us on an as-needed basis.
He called me again from the bottom of our road. "The county road was plowed but I had to break through the 5' berm the plow truck left at the entrance of our road. I'm on my way up. I should be there in about an hour."
About an hour later, he called again. "I'm having to kind of swerve back and forth to throw the snow off the hood so I can see. I'm going forward then backing up. Kind of pushing the snow out of the way a little at a time. It could be a while."
Meanwhile, it's getting darker. And snowing harder.
Another hour later, another call. "That's as far as it will go. It's deeper and getting steep. I'm going to have to walk the rest of the way."
My heart sunk. By now, it's after 4PM and getting dark. It's another mile home from the Jeep; the temperature has dropped from 30 to 25 degrees and it's still dropping.
"I'm coming to get you," I said. "I'm not sure I won't get stuck, but I'm going to try." I layered up and got on the snowmobile. I revved it and pulled out of the barn onto the snow.
It sank. Immediately.
The snow was like powder - foot over foot of dry fluff. I had known this already, but I had to try. I felt so helpless knowing John was out there, walking in snow up to his thighs.
I called him with the bad news. "I'm so sorry. I feel helpless and I just want to do something!" He told me to go inside and get warm. "I appreciate you trying, sweetheart." I went in, like he said, (cried a little) and it wasn't long until I was putting my coat on again. I grabbed my walking stick (and handgun) and started toward him. The snow was to my upper thighs, and it was slow-going. Henry, our German Shepherd, cut a path in front of me. I yelled out to John.
"You can do it!" I yelled for encouragement. I hoped to at least hear him getting closer. No answer.
My nightmare imagination started up again. Bears?
I stood, literally frozen, in the silence. I waited. Was he coming? It was 25 degrees and I knew it was a one-mile hike uphill in the dark through deep, deep snow. I can honestly say, were I him, I might have given up. I might have crawled back to the Jeep and slept there, rolled back to town in the morning and stayed at the motel until it all melted. Okay, I would have at least seriously considered it. And I definitely would have thrown some things. And probably cussed a lot.
After what seemed an eternity, John came over the hill toward us. Henry bounded out to meet him and I trodded along as fast as the snow would allow. We hugged tightly, albeit briefly, because we were both too cold to be mushy.
We followed a tight footpath together from the gate to the house (the warm, cozy house) and peeled off our snow crusted clothes right there by the kitchen door.
"Let's promise this", I said. " "Never again. Next time there's a freaking weather advisory, we're staying together. No matter what."
"Agreed. No matter what."
The snow continued through the night and we couldn't have cared less. The Jeep is still stuck and the Willys is still in storage. Who cares. We we’re together.
That night we slept like rocks. Warm, exhausted rocks.