Have you ever been stuck in the snow in the middle of nowhere, Illinois? I have. Just a couple of days ago, in fact.
It all started out innocently enough. After a looooong string of snowy, cold, and gray days, we finally had a couple of days of sunshine this past Thursday (or was it Wednesday? Hmmm …) and Friday. On the first sunny day, we decided to head out in the evening for a little family drive. We were all feeling a bit stir crazy from the pandemic and the cold and the snow. Hubby and I haven’t even been able to walk because it’s been too cold. It was so nice being in the car, just enjoying the sunlight and being outside the house. Of course, I neglected to take my DSLR with me on that trip, and we had the most glorious sunset that evening. It was bold and magnificent and awe-inspiring. I grabbed some pics with my phone, but I felt dissatisfied with them, overall.
So, when Friday dawned with sunshine and blue skies, I was excited. My whole plan was to head out in the afternoon, about an hour or so before sunset, to enjoy the light and, hopefully, grab some fabulous sunset pics with my DSLR. The whole day was sunny and gorgeous. Cold, but gorgeous. Until it was time to head out for pics. Like clockwork, the clouds rolled in. It was like the Universe was trying to tell me something.
I refused to be daunted. I had planned to take pictures, and that was what I was going to do! I sent my “RAWR!” out at the Universe, and determined we would head out for sunset, after all. Hubby and Darling Daughter were more than willing, even with the cloudy skies. Have I mentioned we are all feeling more than a little stir crazy?
It was not a wasted trip in the least. I love Winter Sky. It’s almost hard for me to put it into words. There is something so peaceful and compelling about the way the skies turn pastel and soft during a Wintery sunset. I feel like these muted skies happen often in the Winter, but particularly so on cloudy days. It’s almost like I can look at those beautiful skies, with their soft pinks and purple-toned blues and blue-grays, and I can breathe again. I feel stress fall away, and my soul is uplifted. Winter Sky is like pastel watercolors that paint themselves before my very eyes. Sunset is a slow and unstoppable process. It marches across the sky at its own pace. And yet, I find I cannot take my eyes off of it. I could sit for hours, just watching the sky change colors and begin to darken toward night.
But, much as I love it, this story is not about Winter Sky. This story is about being stuck in the snow in the middle of nowhere, Illinois. I don’t know if all of Illinois is like this, but our town is weirdly surrounded by rural land, roads with no visible road signs or names, and corn fields. Lots and lots of corn fields. Our town is not big. It has around 100K in population, and the back roads lead to other, smaller towns that surround it. Most everything is flat, which means there are not many landmarks. This is particularly so in the Winter, when the corn is gone, and the fields are bare and full of snow. It doesn’t take long to get turned around or completely lost out in the midst of those back roads that snake between those fields.
This is exactly what happened on Friday. We were following the sunset, trying to get whatever photos we could. And, before we knew it, we were completely turned around and a bit lost. Not to fear, though, because we had GPS. And all wheel drive. What could stop us?
I’ll tell you what: S-N-O-W.
Our GPS took us down a road that was not plowed. We saw a sign saying it was not plowed, but the snow did not look that deep. This was our first mistake. And, clearly, it shows that we don’t know what it truly means to live through a snowy winter in Illinois! The GPS was pointing us down that road, so we headed in that direction. Once we got a little ways into the road, we realized the snow was much deeper than we thought. And we were in our very low sedan — mistake number 2. We got stuck once, but we managed to get unstuck and felt that we had no choice but to continue moving forward. We couldn’t really turn around and head back because the snow was too deep for that. Was this mistake number three? Maybe.
We made it a bit farther before we got stuck a second time. By this time, we were well and truly STUCK. We couldn’t back out. We couldn’t go forward. We couldn’t dig the car out enough to get it moving. Basically, we were at “leave the car here until Spring”. It was not pretty. And it was getting dark. And remember how I mentioned that a lot of these roads don’t have visible signs? If you are from here, you know exactly where you are at all times. But we are clearly not from here. We had no idea where we were.
I was the only one in the car wearing snow boots. So I got elected to hike back to the nearest house while Hubby and Darling Daughter tried to get a tow truck. I was not privy to all their efforts, but I know it involved a disastrous call with AAA. By the way, if you are ever stuck in the snow in Illinois, don’t bother calling AAA. They won’t even try to come help you. They won’t even try to figure out where you are! There was a second tow company that was closed due to illness. And then, my hubby finally called the tow company that actually came out and rescued us. Of course, since we didn’t know where we were, Darling Daughter had to figure out the GPS coordinates so that the tow truck could find us.
While all of this was happening, I was hiking through knee-high snow and 19 degree Fahrenheit temperatures. I originally thought the house was only about a quarter of a mile or a mile away. It turned out it was probably closer to two miles, and it was through deep snow the whole way. The whole time I am struggling through the drifts and the ruts in the road, I kept thinking to myself, “Self, why were we so stupid? How in the world did we think we could get through all this dang snow?!?”
My entire walk through the knee-deep snow was for nothing. Just about the time I got to the porch of the house, Darling Daughter texted that they were on the phone with a tow truck, and that I should come back. Well, I take that back. She texted just after I struggled up the house’s icy steps onto the porch and knocked at the door. Guess what? No one came to the door. So it was a wasted trip in more ways than one. I sighed and carefully made my way back down the icy steps. And then, re-traced my way through the ruts and the deep drifts all the way back to the car. It’s Sunday evening, and I’m still coughing from all that cold air, by the way. And I’m still sore as heck!
By the time I got back to the car (after tripping and falling into a pile of snow), the tow company had figured out where we were. They told us to sit tight, and one of the drivers would be to us in about thirty-five or forty minutes. And so, we waited. And tried not to think about how we were in the middle of nowhere … in the cold … in the snow. Actually, it wasn’t all that bad. It was peaceful and quiet. And we had some good family time. We laughed and talked and shared memories.
Eventually, we saw the tow truck come up behind us. It was some distance away, but by this time it was dark. We could see the headlights. They parked and stopped for the longest time before, slowly, turning around and leaving. I looked at Hubby and said, “I think they can’t get to us.” But my tone was one of disbelief. It never occurred to me that the tow truck might get stuck. And yet, that is exactly what happened! The first driver got stuck twice. He shoveled his truck out both times, only to get stuck again. Eventually, he realized trying to move forward was futile.
The company owner called us and told us that the first truck was stuck and not able to reach us. He was coming to us with a bigger truck, so we should just sit tight. He was out of town on another job, and it would be about another hour before he could reach us. But he was coming. And so, we waited some more. By this time, it was pitch dark. And, of course, there were no clouds, so we couldn’t even look at the stars while we waited. Tempers were running a bit shorter by this point. Darling Daughter was hungry. Hubby was annoyed with all of our bad life choices. I had to go to the bathroom. Plus, my clothes were all wet. Remember how I fell into that bank of snow? Oh, and it had started to snow. Yeah …
Eventually, we saw the lights from the second truck behind our car. They were far back, around where the first truck had gotten stuck. I saw them stop and pause for a long time. I saw them flicker, and I knew the driver was walking in front of them, moving from one side of the truck to the other. I felt this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, because I was pretty sure this second truck was also stuck. I made myself keep this thought to myself, because everyone in the car was feeling guardedly optimistic at the sight of those lights. I didn’t want to ruin that.
The truck lights came a bit closer. Then, they stopped again. And I saw the flicker of someone walking in front of them again, moving from one side of the truck to the other. I had that same sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. But eventually, it kept moving forward until it was actually there, right behind our car!
In the end, it turned out the second truck also got stuck. But because it was higher than the first one, the drivers were able to dig it out. For what it’s worth, the first driver never left. He just turned his truck around and parked it on the side of the road, slightly out of our view. The two guys were so kind and friendly. And they were a very welcome sight! They drove their bigger truck back and forth over the snow behind us to pack it down. They ended up digging our car out of all that snow. They hooked chains to our back end, and they basically just winched us out of the snow while Hubby kept the wheel pointing straight so that we didn’t run off the road.
As Hubby was paying the bill, the second driver asked, “What kind of car is this, anyhow?” Hubby replied with the make and model and asked why, and the driver replied that he thought he wanted to buy one. He was very impressed we had managed to make it so far down that road. Hey, if you do something stupid, do it in the most spectacular manner possible. Right? Right!
So. All’s well that ends well, as they say. We managed to get winched out of the snow. The tow guys were kind enough not to laugh at us to our faces. We got turned around and headed toward home. We had left our house around 4:30PM that afternoon, and we finally made it home at 9PM that night. We made eggs, bacon, and pancakes for dinner. And we watched some TV together before heading to bed. I was exhausted from my snowy adventure. I’m still exhausted from it!
And I have resolved that I shall not leave the house again until Spring. Or, until the next time I want to take pretty sunset pictures.