Thursday, January 9, 2014

Lessons Learned Snowed In In Indiana

Four years at Minnesota State University in Mankato provided more than a few lessons in how to brave cold weather.

For instance, the experience taught me never, ever, EVER again reside at an address north of Tennessee.

Polar Vortex of January 2014


Winter weather driving lessons of MSU days came into play this past Sunday during a post-holiday road trip from Milwaukee to Atlanta.

The highways were terrible and only got worse with deepening wet snow as fellow drivers joined the 20 mph crawl from Chicago across the Indiana state line. In four hours, I got only as far as West Lafayette before calling it quits in white-out snowfall, which officially closed I-65 for three days.

Thanks to the Polar Vortex, even if the Interstate had re-opened Monday, my Volvo S70 was having none of the subzero temperatures.

How cold was it?

It was so cold the key hole for the ignition froze shut! And even after a day of prying the key slot open with a pocket knife, the car still did not defrost until Wednesday afternoon as the steering column remained locked in the bitter cold. It was so frustrating to remain among the last three snow-bound travelers stranded at The Lodge.

Yessir, three nights and four days at the Econo Lodge provided many reflections on patience and how Hades may not be hot but more like an Arctic Circle of Hell.

View from W. Lafayette Econo Lodge

When the key finally did slip into the Volvo ignition and turn, at last starting the car, I hollered "yes!" with pleasure, giggled uncontrollably and even got tears of joy in my eyes -- euphoria likened to losing my virginity. 

Finally made it back to Atlanta this afternoon, thankful for the experience but more appreciative of its conclusion.

During the day's drive to Georgia, several lessons learned from being snowed in in Indiana emerged:
  1. There are a lot of good people in Indiana, and many of them work at the fast food, fuel and lodging establishments at Exit 178/N. River Road
  2. The West Lafayette Econo Lodge is nothing fancy but it was clean and warm and I think most of the other snowbound guests would concur we were treated well during the experience
  3. According to friends and this news article, Indian-Americans with the name Patel own a large percentage of economy lodging establishments across the U.S.
  4. On cable TV in northwest Indiana, advertisements are in heavy rotation for the dating website FarmersOnly.com
  5. A little cabin fever goes a long way toward getting things done, including the establishment of the official Facebook page for this Olympic blog (please check it out)
  6. The HBO broadcast of "Life of Pi" provided a timely reminder that God is with you even when you are adrift in the Midwest Regions of Siberia
  7. When you realign the letters of "Volvo S70" it almost looks like "Volvo P.O.S"
  8. The lyrics to the Genesis song "Tonight, Tonight, Tonight" take on a whole new meaning after one is ice bound for a few days: "Please get me out of here, Someone get me out of here/Just help me, I'll do anything, ANYTHING, if you'll just help get me out of heeeeeeeeerrrre, Tonight - oh, ohhhhhhh!"
  9. There are dozens of Olympians from The Hoosier State including Lafayette's own Ray Ewry (among the most decorated Olympic athletes in history)
  10. In Indiana, when it snows, they do not plow the Interstate exits nor rest areas (and I will always wonder "why not?").
During the crying, er, waiting game in West Lafayette, I also earned another dose of tested patience as the USPS held in limbo my passport and Russia Federation visa paperwork mailed to Washington last week (finally delivered today).

It will be a tremendous relief when that document soon arrives back in Atlanta.

On to Sochi! And Volvo reminds you, Drive Safely!

Volvo interior and exterior photos by Nicholas Wolaver; map image via this link; postage stamp image painted by Bart Forbes via this link

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