From March 23-26, I was supposed to be in Seattle for the PCA/ACA conference. I was scheduled to give my Women and Slasher Films presentation on Thursday at 9:45. I was super excited to go!
As is typical out West, we get hellacious spring storms. I received a message on my phone Tuesday morning that we would be under a winter storm warning from midnight that day until 6:00 Wednesday evening. Since my flight left at 11:00 on Wednesday morning, I decided to head down a night early so I wouldn’t get trapped in Wyoming.
I checked what the weather was supposed to be like in Denver, and they were under a winter storm warning too, but they weren’t supposed to get as much snow as we were. I figured I would still be able to get out, so off I went.
When I woke up Wednesday morning, the world was blanketed in swirling white. Not only was it snowing, it was also blowing. I was up by 6:00 so I could shower and partake in the free breakfast at the hotel. My plan was to leave for the airport around 9:00 or 9:30, but after seeing the weather, I figured I should head out a bit earlier. I decided to leave at 8:00.
Getting to my vehicle was an adventure. The snow pelted me in my face, and I had to clean a few inches of wet, heavy snow off my windows. And it was still coming down. Still, I was optimistic.
As I pulled onto the main road that led to the highway, I got stuck in a line. I figured there had been an accident, so I got into the other lane, which was actually moving. It didn’t take me long to realize that I needed to be in the not-moving lane, so I flipped a U-y and got back into the line. Where I sat.
At one point, I happened to glance into my rearview mirror and saw a black truck sliding sideways toward me. No doubt the driver hadn’t been prepared for the line (which would have been hard to see through the snow) and had to slam on his brakes. I immediately tensed and waited for the impact. Thankfully, it never came.
I honestly can’t tell you how long I sat in that line, but it was long enough for panic to set in. I was texting my husband and my mom that I wasn’t going to make my flight. I wasn’t even sure I was going to make it to the airport. Finally, the line moved. I had been right: there had been an accident. And it was on the on-ramp for the highway. I was rerouted several miles up the road to another street that connected with the highway that took me to the airport.
The weather wasn’t improving at all at this point, and the roads were covered in snow. Traffic was moving at most 30 mph on roads with normal speed limits of 75 mph. My knuckles were beyond white as I gripped the wheel. I keep plodding along, though. What else could I do? I was committed at this point.
I was behind several vehicles on the road with snow covering the signs. I had my phone with directions on my lap, but since I was so focused on not running into anyone, I missed the exit for the airport. I just about lost my mind. I had to travel a few miles up to the next exit, on the most craptastic roads you’ve ever seen, then turn around and head back.
Cars were off the road everywhere. I passed two semis that had jackknifed into the median. The red and blue flashing of highway patrol lights barely cut through the fog and snow. My heart was in my throat.
Finally, I made it to the airport. When I was halfway there, I had received a text from the airline that my flight had been rescheduled to 3:50 that afternoon, but since I was already committed to getting to the airport, I decided to keep going. Where else was I going to go? At least there I would have bathrooms, food, and places to plug in my electronics. Plus, it would relieve some of my stress.
I parked in the economy lot, at the end farthest away from the main terminal. If I could have gotten closer, I would have, but that was my only choice. Braving the winds and dragging my suitcase through slush, I headed in.
I was able to check in and get through security in about 5 minutes. It was the fastest I’d ever gotten through at DIA. I was still optimistic that I was going to make it to Seattle. I found my gate, then went and got some coffee and some food. Pulling out my computer, I decided to get some work done while I waited.
After a while, I headed back to the gate. There had been some announcements over the intercom about flights, so I wanted to see what the status of mine was. I went up to the desk, and they put me on a waiting list to maybe get me out earlier than 3:50. I then went and sat back down.
I never made it to Seattle. A little while after talking to the ticket agents, the entire airport shut down. No flights in or out. In addition, the road in and out of the airport was also closed due to the snow. I was trapped.
So, I did the only thing I could do: I stood in line to get a refund on my ticket. I was in line for more than an hour, but since I couldn’t go anywhere, it didn’t matter. At least I was warm and safe.
After that, I had to go to the main terminal to get my bag. If I could have stayed at the gate, I would have. There were a lot less people and more food options. I could have found a place to settle in and sleep. But I couldn’t leave my bag.
By the time I got my bag and was standing in line for food, the road out of the airport had opened and my husband had found me a hotel for the night. You have no idea how happy I was. I hadn’t been looking forward to sleeping in the airport, but I would have done what I had to do. At least I had my toothbrush.
I started my trek to the farthest regions of the economy lot. Part of the parking lot had been plowed, with the exception of where my Jeep was parked. The snow had drifted, so I had to walk through snow that came up to my knees, and I couldn’t drag my suitcase through it. Needless to say, I got my workout in for that day. When I finally got into the Jeep and had it started, I had to break through a drift, rolling backward and forward multiple times to finally get through the snow.
At this point, irritation, exhaustion, and anxiety were taking their toll. I drove to the exit to find chaos. Apparently, the gates wouldn’t open, so we were stuck. I lost it at that point. I started crying. Eventually, maintenance workers made it so the gates would open, and I was off to snow-covered-road hell.
I am ever so thankful that I have a 4-wheel-drive vehicle, but even that doesn’t make me super comfortable on crappy roads. I was gripping the wheel so tight, my hands were cramping. It took me maybe 40 minutes to get to the hotel, but it felt like an eternity. There were many moments when I just wanted to pull over and say f*ck it. I wanted to wait for a tow truck to take me to the hotel, but I knew it wouldn’t happen. I knew they were busy, so I had to keep going.
As I pulled into the parking lot, I broke into tears again. I was shaking so bad, I could barely sign the paperwork. At this point, I was hoping that my adventure was over. I had made it. The sun was out, and the snow was starting to melt. Everything was going to be all right. But nooooooo! Here are the other “fun” things I had to endure:
- As I stepped off the curb to head to the Jeep to get my suitcase, I thought I was stepping onto solid snow. Instead, it was slush, and I soaked my jeans up to my knees.
- There were a series of restaurants within walking distance of my hotel, and since I didn’t want to drive again, I decided to check them out. They were all closed. Once again on the verge of tears, I decided to find the closest gas station and take the food back to my room.
- I had tried to order a pizza and have it delivered, but they weren’t delivering because of the road conditions.
- All I wanted to do was relax and watch TV, but the storm had knocked out a tower, so there was no TV.
- Thankfully, there was wifi, so I logged into Netflix and watched Z Nation.
When I finally made it to Cheyenne, I found out that the road was closed to Laramie because of an accident. I decided to bide my time by doing some shopping, then having lunch at Red Lobster. When the roads were still closed, I backtracked about 30 miles to take a cutoff and come home by a divided highway.
A 2-hour trip took me 5 hours to get home, but I made it. If this taught me anything, it’s that my travel window is from the end of May until August—and that’s it!