Diversion – Snowed In

I guess I should start by saying telling a snow story as the temps climb into the 80s is a little weird, but we realized we never posted the story of our unplanned vacation diversion from a year ago, so why not share it now?

The plan was to fly to Los Angeles for a long weekend over Valentine’s Day.  That weekend has become a serious “get out of town” weekend for us since it’s almost always Washington’s Birthday weekend and cold and snowy in Washington. In 2014, both of those things were true. Greg’s family is in the LA area so it’s a built-in warm, sunny getaway destination. We bought the tickets early and started making plans.

Unfortunately, Mother Nature did NOT check with us to see if we had plans and as the weekend approached the forecast started looking gloomier and gloomier. First there was a possibility of snow, then a snow STORM was coming in. With our Thursday flight less than a week away, forecasters began predicting not just a snow STORM, but a serious, over-a-foot, wind-blowing, WHOPPER of a storm – ON THURSDAY night! Washington is not really capable of handling BIG storms very well and we knew that kind of snow would certainly shut down the airports.

On Monday I called the airline to switch to a Wednesday flight. We figured we’d just get out ahead of it. No such luck! The airline wasn’t offering weather changes yet so it was going to almost double the cost of the ticket to move to an earlier date. We decided to wait and see. The forecasted arrival time of the storm kept shifting … Thursday night, Thursday evening, Thursday during the day … oh no, NOT during the day! I called the airline back. The Wednesday flight was now sold out. We took a chance and snagged the early Friday morning flight. I hoped the airport would get the runway cleared overnight and the morning flights would be OK.

Knowing the roads would be a total mess, we decided to get a room at an airport hotel so we would be able to get to the airport Friday morning. Our thinking was the RUNWAYS might be clear, but the road crews have way more surface to plow and the roads may not be clear. And, our little roadster hates snow. We checked in Wednesday after work.

Then the storm hit. It was even earlier than predicted. It started snowing Wednesday evening as we were eating dinner at a restaurant near the hotel. It was packed! I mean, it was CRAZY packed! Not only had other people realized and done the same thing we had, but the storm was coming from the south and airlines had diverted flights to Charlotte, NC, to Washington and all the hotels were filling up fast. During dinner, the snow fell quickly enough to cover the pavement. It was that early time in a storm when everything is pretty and people are dashing around to get last-minute provisions.

We took advantage of a deserted parking lot to wander in the gently falling snow and enjoy the scenery without having to be a part of the hubbub. We discussed how the snow starting on Wednesday night was a good sign that our plan would be successful. If the snow storm arrived early, it should wrap up early, too. The airport would have plenty of time to clear the runways for our rescheduled Friday morning flight. Again, Mother Nature forgot to check with us.

The snow kept falling overnight. It fell hard and fast and deep. Cars in the parking lot were covered. The Burger King across from our hotel didn’t open that morning. The gas station was full of tow trucks refueling all morning. By noon we realized we had no lunch options – well, other than that gas station. We ended up navigating the snow piles across the parking lot to pick up a couple of hot dogs, a can of chili and a bag of Fritos for lunch. We also thought to grab some drinks. Looking ahead to dinner was a little disconcerting. The snow was still falling. This is NOT GOOD. The airline called about midday. It cancelled the Friday morning flight. I tried to reason with them … how could they know it would still be bad in 18 hours? What were our options for rescheduling? Could we just move our vacation to next weekend? All the answers were bad: The runways may be clear in the morning, but they weren’t taking any chances; we could reschedule for any flight in the next 72 hours; no, next weekend is outside the 72 hour window.

I hung up and got cranky … really cranky. I called to reschedule and was put on hold … for almost TWO HOURS. While I was on hold I tweeted about the awful situation. I whined to the world … and to the airline on Twitter.  That worked! The airline not only moved us to the next weekend but upgraded us. I was feeling a little better. OK, our beautiful, sunny, long weekend in LA would be pushed back. We had a bright white, snowy scene outside our window. It was midday and the snow had stopped. Over a foot had fallen. We knew we were stuck in the hotel, but at least we were warm and had wifi. Forecasters predicted a second blast of snow … it would start soon.  We called the restaurant where we had eaten on Wednesday. It was closed. We called for a pizza. Luckily Dominos was open for business. We could save some for breakfast. The hotel had run out of coffee and we were pretty sure breakfast on Friday was not going to be served.

More snow … quite a bit. By the time the second blast ended the cars in the parking lot were big lumps of snow. Overnight we heard plows clearing the Washington beltway and roads near the hotel. Apparently the gas station across the street was a major refueling point for plows, which meant the road in and out of the hotel parking lot was cleared.

By Friday midday (the hotel let us check out late), the roads were clear enough to get home. We had rescheduled flights for the next weekend, lit our gas fireplace and snuggled in for the weekend. Sure, our sunny, Southern California Valentine’s Day weekend was a bust, but we could still get out to the warmth a week late. In the end, it’s just a story to share, but proof that sometimes all your careful planning doesn’t mean a thing and you have to be ready to get through a diversion you may not have wanted with a smile on your face anyway. We had a great time a week later in LA, by the way.  We even got some sailing in and for the first time, saw a pod of dolphins lazily swimming in the surf.  Meanwile, it snowed again in Washington.  Life is good.

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