Mother Nature and I are not on speaking terms. And I've decided I'm not going to drive again until spring arrives.
There's a winter storm rolling through Wisconsin at the moment. By the time all is said and done, it's supposed to dump a foot of snow, there's a chance for some icy mix and since the winds are supposed to pick up tonight, visibility will be close to non-existent.
Knowing the storm was supposed to roll in early this afternoon, I made sure to leave my parents' house fairly early today. In fact, I think I left their house 10 minutes after I saw the first snowflake.
Apparently I didn't leave early enough.
I swear, I was on the road for 5 minutes. I had just gotten on the highway and things were getting a little icy already. I kept my speed down though. I was in the right lane, but I had to change lanes to allow for traffic on the highway on ramp to merge. I checked my blind spot, turned on my blinker and started to change lanes.
Next thing I knew I was sliding. Spinning. There's more sliding and I'm freaking out because I have this feeling I'm going to end up in the ditch on my roof. I let go of the steering wheel and say a little prayer. I close my eyes for a moment and when I open them, I'm looking into the windshield of the car behind me.
Then we hit.
Front bumper to front bumper. I see a piece of my car fly off. No airbags were deployed and suddenly I'm facing west again. I pull off to the shoulder of the road, take a breath and see if I'm OK. I pull out the phone and call 911.
"I've just been in an accident."
Forty-five minutes later a sheriff's deputy shows up. We pull off the highway into a parking lot and he takes information about what happened as I sit in the back of his squad car. I end up getting a citation for failing to keep my vehicle under control - even though I was going below the speed limit. No one was hurt, thankfully, and the deputy eventually let's us go.
My battered car and I leave the parking lot. I head back over to my parents' house. I debate just staying at their house overnight, but it's supposed to get worse overnight and there's a chance I won't be able to get my car out in the morning. Mom and Dad tell me to go home, take the long way through town and go slowly.
I leave. It's still snowing. And still icy. I'm nervous. But I drive cautiously.
This time I'm less than 2 miles from Mom and Dad's. There's a stoplight up ahead. It's red. There are a bunch of cars stopped for the light. I start to apply my brakes early to allow plenty of time for braking. I start sliding again. I pump the brakes, just like they taught us in driver's ed. I still slide.
This time I end up in the ditch.
I can't help it. I start to cry. I pull out my phone - again - and call my Mom.
"I give up."
My Dad comes - but not before countless strangers stop and ask me if I'm alright - and he tries to pull me out of the ditch with his truck. We're helped by another random stranger. After almost a half hour of trying, we're successful and my little blue Focus is no longer stuck in the ditch.
We thank the stranger. Dad tells me to keep going to Oshkosh, but to take it as slow as I need to. And I do. It takes me an hour from when my car is pulled from the ditch to when I drive into my driveway. It's normally a 30 minute trip. But that pales in comparison to the fact that when you add it all together it took me 4 hours to get home today. Not fun. And even though I've driven in Wisconsin my entire life, I admit, what happened today shook my confidence when it comes to winter driving. But I know I can't let it affect me. It's winter. It gets icy. And like my parents say, accidents happen.
But the take away lesson? The next time the weatherman or the Department of Transportation says travel is hazardous and not advised unless an emergency? You can bet I'll be listening.