In the spring, I have counted 136 different kinds of weather in 24 hours.
— Mark Twain
I doubt there has ever been a traveler whose best laid plans have not been ruined by the weather at least once. Our family is not immune. Here are a few of our caught-in-the-weather stories, and what we learned from them.
White Knuckle Ride
Every February, my husband has the opportunity to attend a professional conference in St. George, located in the southwest corner of Utah. The climate in St. George is sunny year-round, and is usually at least ten degrees (F) warmer than in Salt Lake City, which is winter-weary by that time of year. It is not just a professional opportunity, but also a chance for a romantic getaway. We don’t do that often, so we don’t pass up an opportunity lightly.
One year, a snow storm was forecast for our route. We started late because we didn’t want our daughter to miss her preschool Valentine party. By the time we dropped off our children with my in-laws, evening was falling and so was the snow.
My husband and I are Utah natives, and not easily intimidated by a snow storm. We decided to go on. An hour later, we realized this was no ordinary storm. Four hours later, we took a break at a roadside restaurant and wondered whether or not we should continue. We climbed back in the car and slowly drove into a series of rural mountain passes.
When we passed the stranded snow plow, we knew that we had made the wrong decision. But by that time, it was too late. We were in the middle of the mountains with nowhere to go but forward. Slowly, so slowly, we passed by one small town after another, thinking that we were sure to get past the storm soon. We pulled off regularly to clean the accumulated ice from our windshield wipers.
It took us eight hours to make a drive that usually takes four. We didn’t get past the storm until the elevation dropped, just 20 miles from our destination. It was late and we were physically and mentally exhausted.
The next morning dawned bright and beautiful in St. George. We had a wonderful weekend. But we have never looked back on that drive and said, “I’m so glad we kept going.” My husband and I are more cautious than ever of driving in snowy conditions. The memory of that white knuckle drive still haunts us.
Lesson Learned: The cost of a hotel, lost reservation or missed time at your destination are not worth risking your family’s safety and security. Know the weather forecast and road conditions before you go. If the going gets rough, stop for a few hours, or for the night and resume your journey when the weather improves.
New England Sampler Platter
Before we had children, my husband and I took a road trip through New England. We flew from Salt Lake City to Boston, spent a few days seeing the sights of that beautiful city, and then rented a car and drove a loop through the rest of New England. Our only hotel reservations were our first nights in Boston, and the last night before we flew home.
April is the off-season in New England. We were there the week before the Boston Marathon, and the weather was overcast and chilly for much of our trip. However, we were undeterred as we drove through Eastern Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Western Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.
We loved the historic sites and scenery of New England. We searched for local cuisine, including Boston Cream Pie, baked beans and lobster rolls. However, some of the best things about our off-season road trip were the hotels we found.
We stayed at a charming B&B in Vermont one night, and in an oceanfront room at the Bar Harbor Inn another. We paid budget rates for both because they had rooms to fill. We stopped at a Sheraton in Lexington, Massachusetts near the end of our trip and when the price quoted was more than we wanted to pay, the desk clerk cut it by 30%. That bed was so comfortable, we slept until 10:00 the next morning.
Lesson Learned: Sometimes, off-season weather is your friend. As long as your expectations are appropriate, you can enjoy popular places without the crowds, for less money.
The Air Show Incident
We live near an Air Force Base, which hosts an air show every couple of years. It’s a huge event, drawing hundreds of thousands of attendees. Fortunately, there is lots of parking, a shuttle system, and all the action is happening high in the air, so everybody has a good view.
Last year, we invited our families to the air show, and then at our home afterward for a cookout. Sure, the weekend was forecast to be rainy, but we aren’t afraid of a little rain. It was the end of May, so how bad could it be?
Pretty bad, it turns out. After a couple of hours touring airplanes, collecting freebies and watching the show, the wind picked up. I was glad everyone was wearing a jacket. Then the rain started. We decided we’d had our fun and headed for the exit. Not surprisingly, many other families had the same idea.
We waited in line in the frigid rain for at least 30 minutes before we were able to board a bus. The situation was near anarchy as people attempted to make their way onto the buses as quickly as possible. So much rain fell during that time that it soaked the camera hanging on my wrist and ruined the viewfinder. My seven-year-old daughter sobbed miserably, “Please don’t blog about this!”
I think she has got over that by now.
Home at last, we turned on the heater and made grilled cheese sandwiches and hot cocoa. Before long, my husband’s family, whom we had never found at the air show, arrived. We served hot food and swapped war stories. Our children played with their cousins.
The rain cleared later in the afternoon and we fired up the grill. When we heard the roar of jet engines overhead, we knew the air show was back on! Our home is so close to the base that we could almost read the writing on the bottom of the Thunderbirds’ wings as they flew in tight formation.
Being stuck in the rain was miserable, but it didn’t ruin our whole day. We did everything we wanted to do on Base, saw the Thunderbirds fly, and spent the afternoon with some of our favorite people.
Lesson Learned: Mama said there’d be days like this. When your plans don’t work out, make a new plan. You can still have a good time and make good memories, even if it wasn’t the way you expected.
“Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there really is no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather”
— John Ruskin