Well, I think it's fair for me to say that when I say "Christmas really sucked this year," I'm not just being cynical.
Our plan was to leave Tuesday for the in-laws' house, and return on Friday evening or Saturday morning. I was really excited about having the time off work to just spend with family, so I had high hopes as we left town.
We stopped on the way out and got gas. From that gas station, about 2 miles from our house, it is roughly 105 miles to my in-laws' house. We left right at 4 pm.
We arrived at my in-laws' house at 11:57 pm.
Now, of course I am thankful that despite the enormously long trip, we got there in one piece. But I have never in my life experienced a long-distance driving fiasco like the one I experienced on Tuesday afternoon.
I noticed before we even got out to the Interstate that the roads were slick. This came as a shock, because the thermometer on my car said it was about 35 degrees outside (i.e., above the freezing point), and it had been raining lightly all day - not a single snowflake at all. Yet there were slick spots on the road underneath the overpasses.
As a result of this, M and I began discussing whether we should just wait until the next day to go. But as it was above freezing, and was only raining, I guessed that the slick spots underneath the overpasses were just an anomoly, and things would be fine.
We got about 5 miles up the Interstate, just barely out of the county, when we ran into a wall of traffic. We stayed motionless for about 30 or 45 minutes. This was especially frustrating because we were actually stopped just a few dozen feet past an exit ramp that we could have taken to go back home. We were hearing all sorts of reports on the radio about accidents all over the city due to freezing rain. By the time we started moving again, we decided to keep forging ahead, thinking it would probably be okay if we just took it slow.
About 15 more miles up the Interstate, we hit another slow spot, and although we didn't come to a stop, we creeped at 5 mph for about half an hour. We finally passed the wreck that was causing that slow down, but the traffic didn't clear beyond it as one would expect. Instead, there was apparently a second wreck that had just happened about a mile farther up the road. After slipping and sliding in an attempt to let ambulances with chains on their tires go by, we came to another complete stop. I tested the road with my foot and discovered that the entire road, from shoulder to shoulder, was covered in a sheet of ice. This was despite the fact that it was still above freezing (about 35 by now), and still only raining.
We sat there, without moving so much as a centimeter...
...for 3 solid hours.
It was already dark by the time we got stopped there, and everyone had their cars off and headlights off and people were getting out and peeing and walking their dogs and some were even hoofing it up to the next exit.
Finally, by about 9:30, we got moving again, and the road was, of course, treacherous. We stopped and ate McDonald's, then slipped and slid all the way down the entrance ramp back onto the interstate. Remember, it's still about 3 degrees above freezing, and the only precipitation falling is occasional liquid drizzle. Furthermore, the roads off the exit - where we got McDonald's - were just wet. Not a sign of ice anywhere, either on the roads or in McD's parking lot.
About 5 minutes after getting back on the highway, an SUV passed me doing about 60 (I was going about 25). Like many SUV owners, this person apparently thinks (or, perhaps I should say "thought") that the laws of physics don't apply to them. Either way, about 50 feet ahead of me, he spun out, fishtailed several times, narrowly missed the left side cement wall, then spun across all three lanes of traffic, and narrowly missed the right side cement wall. I was the closest car to him, but I was going slow enough that I was able to stop behind him without getting hit. I was so rattled I got off the Interstate again, just to calm down.
In the end, as I said, we arrived safely at the in-laws' at 11:57 pm. It took us 8 full hours to make a 105-mile drive. At the same time, my parents were flying to England. It only took them 30 minutes longer to get from Texas, across country, across ocean, and into London, than it took us to go a distance equivalent to driving from Tampa to Miami.
After that, it just seemed that everything was crappy. There were a lot of arguments over the next few days, a lot of high tempers and irritability. Our youngest daughter, S, was sick with a cold when we arrived, and that turned into pneumonia. M had the luxury of taking her to the ER at 6 a.m. on Christmas morning, and S was essentially miserable, uncontrollable, and often inconsolable, the entire week.
I literally don't think I've ever had a Christmas that was quite such a horrible experience from beginning to end. There were a few bright spots, but overall, it just sucked.
So anway....Happy New Year!!!