Half the school districts in my surrounding suburbs are closed. Minnesota is about to break its February record for total snowfall.
And I get to drive to Milwaukee.
In 2015, my Northwestern Wildcats put together...one of the weirder 10-win seasons I can remember. The year opened with a 16-6 thumping of Kevin Hogan- and Christian McCaffrey-led Stanford, with true freshman Clayton Thorson ripping off a 42-yard scamper to put Northwestern ahead for good.
It kicked off a bizarre season, in which the ‘Cats were both...good?...and simultaneously very bad. They went on the road and beat Duke in a scorcher. They shut out Minnesota at home. (OK, that’s nothing new.) They somehow saw off Nebraska in Lincoln, 30-28, had a wild Jack Mitchell kicking day (missed FG, missed PAT, game-winning FG with seconds left) to beat Penn State 23-21, and, of course, SNOWBALL GAME at madison. 10 whole wins.
Oh, right: And they took a 38-0 ass-kicking at Michigan, followed by a 40-10 homecoming loss to Iowa. So there was that, too.
What was my response? To eagerly get tickets for an Outback Bowl showdown with the Tennessee Volunteers. Fun, right?!
I’m not rehashing that game. What I am rehashing, though, is how I got there. You see, we were relatively fresh out of college still, and flights were prohibitively expensive (a lesson we learned after opening the pocketbook to fly to Jacksonville in 2012-13).
So we drove. From Chicago. To Tampa.
Except I couldn’t drive from Chicago to Tampa, because I lived (and still live!) in Minnesota. So I got to take the first leg by myself, leaving Minnesota and driving through a snowstorm to Milwaukee, where I spent the night, before finishing out the drive after 3-4 hours of sleep.
The drive was miserable. Maybe 5-6” of snow across the state of wisconsin, which isn’t a notable or considerable amount, save for whatever it did to driving that day. A 5-hour drive turned into an 8-hour slog, with me cowering in my compact car as semis hurtled by doing the full 70 miles per hour and trucks spun out on the freeway ahead of me. At one point, on the descent (I say that tongue-in-cheek) into Eau Claire from approximately miles 61 to 63, a gentle grade down into the Chippewa Valley, I sat gently on my brake as, I’m pretty sure, my car slid quietly for a good mile, never really gripping the road but not going fast enough to spin out, either. Pure ice. Puts that 40-car wreck from a couple weeks ago in perspective.
But I made it to Milwaukee, parked, and did neither of my normal Milwaukee activities—eating and drinking copious amounts—and just went to bed at 10pm, exhausted by whatever the fuck had just happened to me.
Today, I think about that as the snow comes down harder and I set my little Ford Focus on I-94 again, off to meetings in Milwaukee bound to be much less pleasant than a 24-hour drive to Tampa and subsequent ass-kicking.
At least Rocky Top won’t be playing.
Tell us your snow-related travel horror stories in the comments. Stay safe out there.