Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Bitter Cold Weather Blizzard Story

I know, I know, you're probably getting tired of us Northerners talking about the weather and how cold it is up here at the edge of the world. But when it's so cold and you're housebound for months at a time you've got to have something to talk about. There's always one-upsmanship in the weather category. So here goes, okay?

Back when Lovely Daughter was 5 years old we took a trip to visit Big Brother over the Christmas holidays. He was living in California at that time - out in the desert where he was employed as a "rocket scientist." Of course the weather was beautiful at that time - up in the 70s in the daytime although it did get a bit nippy at night.

One day Ole and Big Brother's son, who was about 12 at the time went out riding dirt bikes in the desert, and unfortunately they had an accident on their way back to Big Brother's house. Ole broke some toes on one foot and did some other damage to his leg (the one he just had surgery on in October. I think that's where all his problems started.) So he couldn't wear a real shoe because of his broken toes.

We had initially flown out there to buy an old Mustang (car) and drive it back to Minnesota to sell it. California cars are noted for not having any rust, you know, and California Mustangs were selling for big bucks back here at that time. Big Brother had found a beautiful creamy yellow '68 convertible with a black top for us. So when the time came we loaded up the car and headed north. We had the "smarts" when we packed to go to CA, knowing we would be driving back in January, that we better pack lots of warm clothes in case we got caught in a storm or something.

Of course at that time of the year there was bad weather in the mountains, so we had to take the southern route through Arizona and New Mexico to get out of there. All went well for the first day or two until we got up into Nebraska and we started hearing weather reports of a bad blizzard in South Dakota. That was back in the days when Ole thought he was invincible. We drove into the storm about the time we crossed the Nebraska/South Dakota border - and was it a storm to end all storms. Lovely Daughter was sitting in the back seat with every piece of winter clothing on that we had along, wrapped up in blankets and coats to the point that all you could see were these big brown eyes peeping out of her coverings. Ole and I had our long down coats on and couldn't stay warm. You see, this was a California car and even though it had a heater I don't think it had ever been turned on - and it wasn't working at all.

The snow was blowing so hard that we could barely see the front of the car, let alone see ahead of you. Ole many times had to stick his head out the window to watch the white line in the middle of the road. I watched the white line on the side of the road to keep from going in the ditch. And we heard on the radio at that time that the wind chill was 100 degrees below zero - and Ole with no boots on - just a sock and a moccasin on the foot with broken toes. It was so cold in the car that the snow was blowing in where the convertible top met the windshield. It landed on the dash and didn't melt. And if you know anything about South Dakota, you know it's pretty sparsely populated and it can be a long, long ways between towns.

I finally convinced Ole to stop so we pulled into Watertown, SD and managed to find a motel room. Fortunately Ole is very mechanical and automotively knowledgeable. So he dumped us in the motel room and took off to find something to fix the heater with. He found an automotive supply store that was open, bought what he needed and headed for the nearest car wash where he knew it would be warm and out of the wind so he could work on the car. He had to kick some kids out of the car wash that were hanging around doing nothing, flushed the radiator and the heater core, got all kinds of gunk out of it, replaced the thermostat and he was back in business. The heater blew all kinds of warm air.

So he stopped and picked up a pizza and made it back to the motel. Now the next problem was how were we going to get that car started the next morning when the forecast was for 40 below zero temps that night. Never fear, Ole's mind is always working. He had purchased a dip stick heater at the supply store, plugged that in and then took out the battery and brought it into the hotel room to keep it warm.

The next morning we woke up to bright sunshine and no wind and the 40 below temperatures. Ole brought the battery out and installed it, unplugged the dip stick heater and the car started right up. Now mind you, this car still had California plates on it, and it was the ONLY one at the motel that was running. Ole had a pair of jumper cables in the trunk, so he hobbled around in his moccasin and jumped a number of other cars to help get them started. The best one was when he drove over to a car with Alaska plates, hooked up the jumper cables and got the guy's car started. The guy looked in amazement and asked if Ole was REALLY from California. Of course Ole had to say yes, and then asked, "Does it always get this cold around here?"

We made the remainder of the trip without incident and landed home safe and sound within a couple of hours. But when I think of what COULD have happened to us in that storm - well, let's not go there, okay?

Love Lena


harrietv said...

How great to have a guy around who knows what to do in an emergency. My dad was that kind of mechanical-minded too. Husband -- not so much, even when he was all there. But he sure could install telephones.

Susan said...

Ole was really on the ball there!! I can't imagine driving in such weather anymore. Just thinking--did you get much use of a convertible in the upper Midwest--Frostbite Falls, you say? How often was the top really down. ha ha

Shear said...

100 degrees below zero! My feet started getting cold just reading this.

Carolyn said...

Don't take this the wrong way, but I think I love Ole. He's so...handy! And funny!

Bill & I have been caught in a few blizzards where I've had to keep my head out the window to watch for the side of the road. Scary!

Lena . . . said...

Oh, no. I don't take that wrong at all. KitchenLogic says she loves Ole too!