When our car hit a patch of black ice, our plans for the evening skidded off course and into a snowy ditch.
We just wanted to get back to Bradley in time for our classes the next morning, but Mother Nature had other plans.
Since many Bradley students travel from out-of-state or are outside of Peoria, snowstorms are a source of stress for a large percentage of the campus population. The masses of slippery snow and freezing patches of ice create dangerous driving conditions.
Even the most seasoned snow drivers need to remain focused, alert and slow moving. This is beyond being a tad more careful on your quick drive to high school; for many, this is hours of intense concentration.
And unfortunately, accidents can happen to the most careful and safety-conscious among us.
Luckily unharmed, my friend and I waited in her car, in the ditch, for three hours. Finally, a police officer answered our calls for help that the towing companies would not offer due to the blizzard conditions.
The remarkably attractive cop dropped us off of the local Super 8 motel. Did I mention the power was out throughout the entire town? With the little vision we had and by bumping into strangers every inch, we could see that the motel lobby was swarmed with stranded people trying to get a room.
Every room in every motel and hotel for over 30 miles was booked, and the roads to get anywhere were blocked off. There was also little hope for the return of electricity anytime soon, which meant no food or heat. Plus, our car was still in a ditch.
That’s how we ended up huddling up with around 10 strangers on the dirty motel lobby hardwood flooring, only thin fitted sheets and hand warmers trying to warm us for the 10 hours spent in cold darkness, not sleeping. The night sounded of our chattering teeth and growling stomachs, peppered with newcomers barging in and asking about room availability to a chorus of bitter laughter.
The night brought us friends – a middle school science teacher passionate about his seven kids and controlled explosions, who became a father to us that night, and a 6’7” travelling fraternity advisor, jolly and a great friend to all, who acted as our big brother.
Once the electricity returned at 7 a.m., the four of us walked to a diner to complain together about the frozen state of our toes, the misfortune of our lives, the aches in all our bones and our weary, greasy attitudes. Everything up in the air, we chewed on our first food since the afternoon before and wondered about our cars, bank account balance and our ability to reach safety within the day. Our tattered crew devoured big breakfasts to regain strength.
Eventually, by Monday night, my friend and I made it back to the Bradley campus with a new sense of camaraderie and new appreciation for heaters. It had been one of the worst days of our lives, and we genuinely were not sure if we were going to survive, but it certainly makes for a good story now.
Other than those guys we all know who wear gym shorts year round, I think we can all admit that winter in the Midwest is cold and unpredictable. The icy air and slick roads bring out the fighter in some and make the rest of us retreat to our blanket-wrapped homes for months. Of course, winter is about holiday cheer and sparkly snow and finding a boyfriend only for warmth, but even the winter enthusiasts must admit that some parts of winter just … suck. Winter disasters can happen outside of Hallmark movies and oftentimes do not end as merrily either. So, be careful driving, walking and generally living during these months of snow and ice.
As the semester draws to a chilly close, I’m wishing safe travels and warmth to all students and faculty so that we all return for warmer (and a couple cold) months next semester.