Skidding in a winter wonderland
We just wanted a little adventure.
Friends, look: I’m a bedraggled working mom of two kids under age 3. Likewise, my sister Katie is a busy woman with a terrible daily commute and a toddler of her own. We don’t get to spend much time together, just the two of us, and I rarely venture outside of Maryland.
Katie got wind of a Hanson holiday concert being put on in Williamsburg, Va., and I went nuts trying to get tickets. Hanson has been our favorite band for two decades now, and we’ve seen them many times in many places — but never at Christmas. I sprang for the good seats.
We started watching the weather a week out, and I nearly went slack with anxiety when “possible winter weather event” started popping up in the forecast. But everyone predicted “a little morning snow, turning to rain” for Williamsburg. The news did. Weather apps did.
As a meteorological enthusiast, I know circumstances change. Weather forecasting is not an exact science. The temperature dips a few degrees more than predicted, and suddenly those rain showers are inches of snow. I get it! I do.
And that’s why, at the last minute, we packed a bag. Sometimes my anxiety is useful, see: worst-case scenarios are always in the back of my mind. If the weather did turn ugly and we needed to stay overnight, I reasoned, I would most definitely want my glasses. And dry clothing. And Chapstick.
Katie stuffed a bag, too, and we threw everything into the back of my brother-in-law Eric’s Subaru. Look, Eric: Never again will I tease you about requiring all-wheel drive. OK? OK.
The drive to Williamsburg was smooth. I watched the traffic and weather from the passenger side, and it appeared to be only flurrying at our destination. Kate and I sailed through Virginia without issue, hitting little squalls around Richmond — but otherwise calm.
We parked in a field at the winery, ecstatic to have made it and finally getting excited. But little snowflakes soon turned into fat flakes. As someone who is prone to worry, I told myself that I couldn’t spend the entire concert fretting about how we were getting out of there. We’d made the arrangements, spent the money, driven three hours. If I couldn’t at least enjoy myself during “MMMBop,” what was the point?
The show itself was great. We were under a large heated tent, and I relaxed from the third row — the closest we’ve ever been! — during Hanson’s set. Katie and I danced. We sang loudly — and badly, but no matter.
At some point, though, I became aware of crews trying to clear snow from one side of the tent. A short time later, I began to feel cold drops hitting my head. It was a small stream that soon picked up steam, and I “joked” with my sister about finding our nearest exits.
You could tell the band was distracted. Crew members were coming on stage, whispering to Taylor between songs. More people were clustering in the wings, gesturing and conferring with one another. The crowd was starting to murmur. Something was clearly up.
The good thing about living with anxiety is that, when something bad really does happen, you’re quick to spring into action. By the time Hanson was announcing that they had to cut the show short due to concerns about too much heavy snow on the tent, I had my coat in one hand and my sister’s paw in the other.
After three hours under cover, we weren’t prepared for the winter wonderland that had exploded outside. At least 4 inches of snow were underfoot.
This wasn’t good, obviously. The long, windy country roads leading back to the venue were clearly not plowed. Katie and I ran through a series of “what should we do” conversations, quickly evaluating the pros and cons of waiting to let the crowds clear out versus getting stranded in the dark at the winery.
We weren’t getting back to Maryland that night, that’s for sure. As soon as we got the Subaru fired up, I began researching local hotels. There was a chateau of sorts on the property, but no way for us to physically get to it. We were bumping along in a single stream of cars with police trying to help stranded motorists push their vehicles out of fields.
It was a mess. A serious, serious mess. Roads were almost impassable. Cars fishtailed all around us. Katie was driving, and said nothing beyond me coaching her well in advance of where we might need to turn on the unrecognizable streets. When we finally got onto a main drag, it seemed worse: slushy and treacherous. We were blessedly close to several hotels, but four miles might as well have been 40.
I’ve never been so happy to see a Holiday Inn Express in my life.
I was fully prepared to beg the receptionist for a room with this sob story, if necessary, but there were plenty of rooms. We were able to walk to dinner at a burger place next door, and I have been thanking my lucky stars that we got through all that unscathed. My sister and I both passed out before 9 p.m., exhausted after the adrenaline crash.
The next morning, Hanson posted photos of where we’d all been clustered for the show. The tent actually had collapsed minutes after the last folks evacuated.
We wanted adventure. Getting stranded out of state on a work night definitely qualifies. Only for Hanson.
Follow Megan Johnson on Twitter @rightmeg.