Dick wrote this essay about our trip north:
This trip back to Traverse was unique. Because of the medical false
alarm, we left Palm City a little sooner than we had originally
planned. We wanted to get home to a doctor and a situation we trusted.
The problem was the weather.
There were storm conditions moving across
from west to east bringing rain in the south and snow in the
mountain's and Ohio River valley.
We decided to drive up 95 toward Columbia, SC on Friday and look at
the weather that night. We had an option to go west from there to 75
or even to Nashville and 65, or continue north to Charleston, WV. As a
result of our indecision, for the first time on our Florida
excursions, we did not have motel reservations. One result is that on
this trip we sometimes we went further that the 250 - 300 miles we
usually schedule, we went as far and as long as we both felt
The weather on Friday in Florida and Georgia was
fantastic and the traffic was reasonable so after breakfast with Chip
and Laurie, we pushed a bit further than usual. We stopped for lunch
in Kingsville, Ga. because we were low on petrol. Jack's Bar-B-Que was
spotted on, of all places, Scrubby Bluff Rd. What a colossal
disappointment! It seems to me that ribs in a restaurant, especially
in the south, should at least taste as good as the ones I cook on my
Back on the road, the traffic was light and we made it all the
way to Columbia. Good lord, it's like we are in our 50's again.
The Weather Station Saturday morning convinced us to continue north
toward Charleston WV. We have had some bad experiences on this route
in the past, many semis chugging up the mountain in the far right
lane and then racing down the other side and "blowin' your doors off".
On past trips we have seen a number of accidents with lanes blocked
and trucks piled up over the edge. This day however was a breeze. We
cruised through North Carolina and into Virginia. We entered the
mountains and for the first time we saw snow. In spots, there was a
dusting on the side of the road in the shade. As we continued north it
became more noticeable off on the sides but with increasing frequency.
We passed through the Big Walker Mountain Tunnel
and on the other side, the
amount of snow on the ground increased. A second tunnel, the
East River Mountain Tunnel. and we were in West Virginia.
Now the snow was falling
from the sky and for the first time, affecting the road. It was
getting nasty and folks were driving crazily. Our target had been
Charleston but we decided to call it a day at Beckley. We were
anticipating that the road crews would get the plowing and salting
done in the morning. Michigan played Indiana that night and lost.
Nancy watched to the bitter (and it was bitter) end but I couldn't
Sunday morning we watched the weather and news, most of the churches
in the Beckley area were closed and so we thought that if God had
forsaken so many of the West Virginians this day, what chance did we
have. We waited for a time in the room. About 3 inches had accumulated
on our car. Finally, about 9 we decided to give it a try, maybe go as
far as Charleston.
Actually, as we drove out that morning, there was
little or no snow until we reached the WV toll road. Although it was
snowing steadily the roads were in fairly good shape until we hit the
Ohio border. I just hung in the right lane and kept a good distance
back of the car in front of me. Dick Dokas had sent me a forecast
indicating that there was a weather advisory for SE Michigan so
instead of heading north through Columbus (not one of our favorite
towns) we decided to go to Lima which would give us the option of
continuing on to the west. In the good old days when we were rolling
south or returning from spring break in the Smokies on 75 with
Neuperts and Sniders, Lima seemed to be just out the front door.
It was Super Bowl Sunday and we watched it in the motel room. We both
had a hard time deciding who we would pull for but decided that we
would go with the 49ers, coach Jim was the M QB when Jana was in
school and wrote her a nice note, Belleville grad and M linebacker
Tink Nunley played for them and their current center Jon Goodwin is
also a Michigan man. As usual, our support turned out to be the kiss
Monday was decision time, the radar showed a clipper system moving
across from the west, we decided to drive west into it rather than
north along the front of it. If we had to we could hunker down in Fort
Wayne. The road across Ohio and into Indiana, US 30, was snow covered
and it was coming down heavily. However, traffic was light. It is a 4
lane road but not limited access, a speed limit of 55. I was happy to
cruise along 5 MPH or so under the limit. Once again I was upset with
the folks (often in white or silver cars) who do not turn on their
lights. I get very nervous when I suddenly realize that mysteriously,
suddenly, there is a car sitting on my back bumper.
We crossed into Indiana and the road conditions worsened. We decided
that when it comes to winter maintenance, in the contest between the
Buckeyes and the Hoosiers, the Buckeyes win. We spotted quite a few
plow trucks working the road in Ohio, once we crossed the state line,
we saw none. Outside of Ft. Wayne, the snow let up and I 69 was not
bad as long as you stayed in the right lane. I kept an eye out for an
escape route in case something happened up ahead. Although at times
there was a ditch or guardrail on the right side, the median was
usually wide and flat. We figured that we would at least get to
Angola, maybe cross the Michigan line before fatigue and road
conditions took over. As we approached the toll road crossing, the
snow picked up and there was an accumulation of snowy slush building
up between the lanes. Changing lanes was getting chancy and so some
folks got out in the left and hung even if they were only going 45.
There were a lot of folks swerving back and forth. Trucks rolling in
the left lane threw the slush back across the adjacent lane.
We crossed into Michigan and we were both happy. Now we'll see how
roads should be treated in the winter, now we'll see the salt trucks. Not! Soon we hit a stretch of concrete which had been grooved
longitudinally. This is supposed to increase skid resistance and
eliminate hydroplaning in wet weather. In this case, with the road
surface frozen it appeared to have the opposite effect to me. I felt a
lack of traction and control. Our car seemed to be slightly drifting
back and forth in the lane. As a result, I throttled down and decided
to just hang in the right lane. We wondered if perhaps our tires had
become snow packed but that didn't stand the test of logic. Cars were
passing us so others didn't seem to be having any problem.
Up ahead, a
truck put on his four way flashers and began moving into the left
lane. I stayed put. Further up the highway, we saw 3 or 4 vehicles
off on the shoulder with people walking along side, I cut the speed
further, down to maybe 30. To the far right, maybe 75 to 100 feet off
the road we saw a car flipped on it's roof. Then we lost traction. Our
car began sliding off the road. I got off the gas and lightly tapped
the break pedal but had no control, we just kept sliding toward the
shoulder and the guard rail. At least we won't hit hard, I thought.
Then, when we were off the concrete and on the asphalt shoulder, the
tires regained their grip. I hit my flashers, slowed to a near stop,
got a grip on myself and then, when traffic cleared, eased back onto
We were less than a mile from an exit, we pulled off and
spotted a MacLand.
We made a potty and beverage stop, grabbed a booth
and made use of their Wi-Fi.
We discussed calling it quits for the day, the medical pressure was
gone but like the horse, we were heading for the barn and wanted to
push on if we could. I looked at the radar and saw that the snow was
just in the southern part of the state. We decided to bag the
expressway and drive the surface streets for a while, let's take
Michigan Ave. to Battle Creek and see how it goes.
It went well,
speeds were less, traffic was less, stress was less. When we got to
M66 we turned north, there was no traffic! The only thing we saw was a
farm truck hauling a trailer load of hay and when we caught up to him
he pulled over to let us pass. We had never driven this part of 66
before, it is just open farmland. There is only one little town,
Nashville, where we stopped for lunch. I think we were the only
non-locals they had seen, everybody else knew each other. Each person
who came in (4 or 5) spoke to the other people who were already there,
booth by booth and discussed their health, kids, families, etc.
Back on the road, the weather and roads cleared just as we had hoped
looking at the radar. When we got to I96 it was pretty clear and
traffic was flowing well. We hopped on, made the turn at Grand Rapids
and were in the clear. After we made a MacStop in Big Rapids the sun
came out. We hadn't seen it since Virginia. A quick stop for soup
fixin's in Kingsley and then home.
Kathee from the visitor's center
had come out and she, her husband John and McLenithan had the drive
We pulled right in at about 5:30. I had laid a fire in the
wood stove before we left so it was lit, the thermostat was dialed up
and after an hour of thrashing about, the car was empty and we were
home. The house is always cold soaked when we get home so it takes a
solid 8 - 10 hours of the furnace running to get it up to comfortable
but this time I had only dropped the thermostat to 55 so it wasn't
that bad. The outside temp is in the low teens and there is 6 - 7
inches of snow on the ground. We both slept well.