I’m supposed to be in South America now.
There’d been warning signs: first, Dear Husband had some sinus issues ten days ago. Then I came down with bronchitis a week ago, but I was taking antibiotics and feeling better. DH had a low temperature and a cough, but our Covid tests were negative and we figured we could tough it out: After all, it was a long cruise and we could rest on the ship until we were both 100%. So we packed at the last minute and decided to go for it.
Mother Nature had other plans.
The forecast had been for light snow Wednesday night into Thursday morning. The airport was expected to be clear. Our flight was on schedule when we left the house Thursday morning five hours before the noon departure to allow for rush hour traffic.
The first hour of the drive was fine; just some flurries. But problems started when we hit the main highway. (Note to ODOT: it’s winter in Oregon; do you not have salt trucks??). After about a half hour, we started to see trucks on the side of the road affixing chains. A few that seemed stalled or stuck. And the road suddenly became a frozen wasteland.
Fairly soon, traffic stopped altogether and we crawled along for another hour, passing more and more stalled trucks and abandoned cars. Nonetheless, my intrepid husband steered us safely to PDX, where we parked and made our way to the ticket counter. This was now 10:30 so we were cutting it a bit closer than ideal but the first flight was still showing as “on time”.
Until it wasn’t. It then transpired that there were no flights for that day or the next to get us down to Chile where the cruise was departing. All in all, 188 flights had been canceled, on a day described as the “second worst snow day in Portland history”. Lucky us.
With no way to get to Chile, we had to cancel the entire trip.
Dispirited, we left the airport for the two-hour drive home. The skies had cleared, the roads looked ok, traffic was moving.
Until it wasn’t. We were still on the airport exit road when everything suddenly stopped. We could see there’d been an accident not far in front of us. But a bright yellow emergency vehicle was arriving so that looked promising. There was an abandoned car to our right, and a black Jeep had tried to drive around a truck further up the road and slid into it. The truck behind that truck couldn’t move either.
So we sat. And sat. And, little by little, the emergency guys moved the wrecked cars off the road and then hooked up all the stopped cars to drag them one at a time up a hill to the left of the trucks– which still weren’t moving even after the wrecks had been cleared. We never did find out why.
Just as we were next in line to be towed to the main road, the ODOT guy told us it would be quite a while so we should back up to the access road instead. This put us in the wrong direction, leading us to more icy back roads before we could get back to a highway.
We made it home ten hours after we’d left and collapsed into bed, where we spent most of yesterday. Next comes the fun part of sorting out the trip cancelation insurance.
On balance, we’ve been lucky. In all our travels, this is the first time we’ve been unable to get to our destination, and nobody plowed into us on those frozen roads. But going forward, we will plan to arrive at least a day before we need to be somewhere — especially if it’s a destination with limited flight options.