Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The way home...

was not for the faint of heart.

We left Seattle at 1:42 PM Friday, with the intention of driving straight through to Grande Prairie, expecting to arrive at about 5 AM Saturday. All went swimmingly until we turned onto highway 40 just outside of Hinton at just before 1 AM. The snow began to fall, growing heavier with every mile. We were soon reduced to moving at about 50 KMH max. The road disappeared entirely under a white blanket, broken only by the tracks of trucks that had preceded us by a few minutes. We eventually caught up to most of these, even at our slow pace, since they were in the ditches on either side of the highway. The snow was very wet, heavy, and slippery; and Tim's car had left whatever tread used to be on the tires on roads far and wide. Thus we began to notice our difficulty climbing hills, which proved too great to overcome a while later.

Just after 3 AM, in snow about a foot deep, we arrived at the bottom of the hill below the town of Grand Cache, Alberta. We made four attempts at trying to climb that hill, getting as good a run at it as we could under those circumstances, but each time we stopped before we reached halfway. Every time we stopped, we got stuck. The car just couldn't get a grip, and neither could we when we got out to push. We turned the car around by pushing it, and eventually found our way to a stop on a roadside at the bottom of the hill. About 20 minutes passed when a 4 wheel drive truck arrived, some sort of guardian angel for lost and stuck sheep. He hooked a tow rope onto us and pulled us up the hill into Grand Cache, where we noted the barricade in the other lane saying "Road Closed"... It was 5:30 AM.

We were set free by the truck at the top of the hill, but not by the streets. Every time we stopped we got stuck. Get out and push, hop into the slowly moving car, drive to the next stop sign, get out and push, jump in the car... We went looking for a place to park, since we heard that the road from Grand Cache to Grande Prairie was closed as well, but it is hard to find a place anywhere off the beaten path when there is more than a foot of wet snow on the ground. We eventually found a place on a roadside behind a big truck. Tim and I got out and went to find some breakfast at an open restaraunt at about 7AM, while Leo stayed in the car to catch a few zzz's.

When we came out the car had moved deeper into the snowbank. Leo told us that he had been awakened by the car lurching, and had discovered that the big truck behind which we had parked was backing up and he didn't see us... Amazingly, no damage was done to the car. I guess the ground was so slippery that it moved quite easily...

We then pushed our way out of this ditch with the help of several other folk who saw our predicament, and drove up to the gas station to fill up. We pushed the car away from there and pulled up in the deep snow in a parking place in front of the gas station. The snow was still falling heavily. We turned the radio on to listen for road reports and hunkered down to get a bit of uncomfortable sleep. It was probably about 9:30AM.

We had been told that they were not expecting to open the road to Grande Prairie until about 6 that evening, so we were suprised when Leo got off his phone and said that the RCMP were declaring that the road was open just after noon. So we hit the road again, about 110 miles south of Grande Prairie. I phoned Val as we left Grand Cache and told her that we were coming and asked her to pray for our safety.

The road was clean enough to go 60KMH for about 6 or 7 miles, then it began to get narrower and narrower. Our path was fairly clear and getting clearer as we drove; we soon found ourselves behind the snowplow. This slowed progress, but we were happy to be making progress. We followed him for several miles, until he turned aside into a roadside turnout. When we went around him we were at the top of a long gentle hill, so we manged to make some headway for awhile, but when the road began to climb we slowed to a stop in a hurry. We were high-centered on the ridge of snow between our wheels.

With some more help from other motorists we got turned around and went back to find our snowplow... We got in behind him and stayed there for about an hour, until he had reached the end of his loop. The road, at that point, had been plowed probably a couple of hours before, and was passable, but with a few inches on top. We were able to travel at a reasonable speed, or so it seemed to us, until we started slipping from side to side, doing a complete 180, and slamming into a snowbank while going down one hill. We backed up traffic in both directions for awhile, until somebody with a tow rope and a hook came along to fish us out of the toolies...

We met another plow truck coming in our direction from the other way, and we managed to travel in his tracks for the remainder of the way, though not without a few near stops on some of the hills. Twice, Tim and I jumped out of the car when it was down to walking speed in order to push it up the hill, and the combined pushing help and absence of our weight in the car was sufficient for the car to make the top of the hill.

We arrived at home in Grande Prairie at about 5PM, only half a day late, exhausted, but home. Thank the Lord for our fine driver Leo, and our safe arrival!

2 comments:

Garrett said...

Yeah, the same thing happened to us. We arrived in Burbank to an unseasonably cold 85 degrees! I may have to get my X-mas board shorts out early this year.

Jamie said...

You poor fellow, Garrett!

All the earth will come under the dominion of Jesus Christ, including the cold parts, which account for over half of the land mass of earth...