Skid­ding in a win­ter won­der­land

Kent County News - - OPINION - MEG JOHN­SON

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.

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