Filed under: West Virginia | Tags: cabin fever, christmas vacation, ghent, knights inn, snowstorm 2009, US Route 77, West Virginia
We tried to drive to Ocala, Florida this past Christmas to visit Jeff’s family. We never made it.
I woke up December 18th and there was all this buzz on the TV about a giant snowstorm. No worries, I thought, we can beat this thing, it wouldn’t get to the Carolinas until after midnight.
So we packed everything into the car within an hour, along with a blanket and a bag full of Christmas treats and booked like hell through West Virginia.
The drive was going well until we got to Beckley. It was around 3:30 pm and the sky was gray, almost mauve, it was so swollen with precipitation. The snow was coming down in large, wet flakes. We stopped at a rest area and watched the news in the gift shop.
“You shouldn’t keep driving,” the cashier said to us.
“It isn’t so bad, we’re from Pittsburgh, we’re used to this!” We said.
No really, we weren’t used to it. But we didn’t know this until 3 days later.
We get back on Route 77 and drive about 15 miles. The snow is coming down even harder and the roads covered in snow. Where did it come from so fast? It was mind-boggling. We couldn’t see anything on either side of us, it was snowing so hard. Our life line was Bill, who I kept calling at work back in Pittsburgh so that he could update us on the weather. “You’re right in the heart of the storm,” he said.
And then traffic stopped. We waited. And waited. For 7 hours, surrounded bumper-to-bumper by semis and SUVs on Route 77, nothing happened. The turns of boredom and fear were mind crushing. I didn’t know at times if we should laugh, cry or piss ourselves, we were so scared.
We stopped in traffic around 4 pm with only half a tank of gas. it takes 4 hours to burn through a quarter tank of gas (now you know), so we figured by 8 pm, we had until midnight to figure out what we should do next. Abandon our car on the road? Where would we go? It was pitch dark, and the next large town was Princeton, 20 miles away.
When we finally did move in the 5th hour, it was .3 miles to the middle of a bridge. All of this, to the soundtrack of Alice Cooper’s “Radio GaGa” (thank you, Alice, for getting us through).
Bill had loaned us his trusty GPS for the trip. I was resistant to use it (because I am technologically challenged), but it is what saved us. It guided us to the Knight’s Inn in Ghent, WV, by way of the Adult Store sign we could see through the storm, our beacon of light.
When we got there, it was 11 pm and there were 30 people waiting in the lobby for a room. The owners passed around blankets, and travelers slept in the hallways, underneath the stairwells. I was too wired to sleep, so I read and took photos. We finally got a room around 6 am and stayed for the next two nights.
That was Friday. It didn’t stop snowing until Sunday evening, 28 inches.
Ghent is a ski resort town, but there isn’t much there. Both gas stations were out of power. Domino’s wouldn’t deliver, and Subway was closed. On day two, we took a walk to the Marathon station and made a meal out of microwave soup, Beanee Weenees, and the famed WV pepperoni roll. The Lion’s Den was open the entire weekend.
Jeff and I tried to make the best of the situation. We watched a lot of horrible television and took a lot of photos, and a lovely walk in the snow. It wasn’t too cold, and because most of the cars on Route 77 were abandoned, the roads were so quiet. It was like having a free pass for stopping our lives for a few days with no obligation to anyone but ourselves. We put the stress of the holidays aside and walked to the gas station, holding hands, talking about what we’d tell everyone when we made it home.
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