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Tradition no more: Premature celebration

By JUNE LEMEN - | Nov 25, 2019

This year, we ended celebrating Thanksgiving with Bill’s family the week before Thanksgiving. One reason was that his sister and brother-in-law, who had hosted the holiday, were going to be traveling on the actual Thanksgiving Day, so they called us and asked us if we would mind coming down a week early.

We did not. As a matter of fact, we were happy about the change.

If you ever traveled at Thanksgiving, you know that it’s a tough travel week, mostly because so many other people are traveling as well. And if you drive to your destination, the way we do, you know the traffic is going to be bad, and you develop your own routine to make the travel as easy as possible

And we do. We have a route that we have fine-tuned through the years. It is technically a few miles longer, but it enables us to avoid major traffic congestion. And driving is not a problem for us. Bill prefers to drive; I like to drive; and Lucy is a good traveler, as well. We look forward to our annual trek to Kentucky, and this year we were excited because since we were not going to be traveling during the actual Thanksgiving week, we were going to stay a day longer and we figured the trip would be easier because not as many people would be traveling.

We were right. We left last Monday after leaving Rilian at the kennel. The trip was fine. We made great time and there was noticeably far less traffic. After we got into Frankfort Tuesday night, there was plenty of time for family dinners as well as trips to our favorite places. Lucy was able to spend a whole day with her Aunt Kim. Bill and I had a day together of shopping and lunching. And Bill’s mother’s assisted living has a family Thanksgiving night, the week before Thanksgiving, so we were able to go to that and see many of his aunts and uncles and cousins, which was fun.

So everything was going along swimmingly, until we saw the weather forecast. The Broyles’ family Thanksgiving was scheduled for noon on Saturday and we were planning on leaving at 5 a.m. Sunday morning and driving straight through, which we usually do on the trip back. It’s never been a problem: we’re used to doing a day in the car and we switch off as drivers.

But this time, there was a problem: The entire world was forecasting several inches of snow late Saturday night in the Charleston, West Virginia, area, which was directly in our path home very early the next morning.

The more we watched the weather, the worse the forecast got. It was clear there was going to be precipitation of some sort all the way home, and if you’ve ever driven through the mountains of West Virginia during heavy snow, it’s an experience that you don’t want to repeat.

So we decided to leave right after dinner on Saturday afternoon.

We pulled out at 2:11 p.m. It was already misting – a light, cold mist, but nothing too serious. The driving (and the visibility) was fine.

We made great time.

But the weather got worse the farther we went. The rain would come and go, varying from mist to bucket-loads, and then back to steady annoying drizzle, but never stopping. It was not as irritating as the fog, which swept in at the most inopportune times — usually when we were on a part of the interstate highway system with little ambient light — but we soldiered on.

And on.

It was difficult. I’ve driven in conditions when I’ve been scared before, but I have not driven in conditions where I felt like I was in an episode from the “Twilight Zone.”

I could hear Rod Serling in my head: “The American family returning from Thanksgiving, driving home the way they always do. But while they think they’re crossing from West Virginia into Maryland, they are actually heading into the Twilight Zone. They will never arrive at their intended destination.”

That’s what it felt like. We drove and drove and drove in the rainy dark. Sometimes, I was able to go 75 miles per hour; sometimes 45. We finally stopped at 3:45 a.m. at the Alexis Dinner in Newburgh, New York, because I was really starting to feel that without a coffee infusion I was going to visit slumber-land and drive us right into a ditch.

Plus, I needed to stop hearing Rod Serling’s voice in my head.

After the coffee, we kept going — through the rain and the fog and the darkness.

We arrived in Nashua at 7:11 a.m. Sunday, a mere 17 hours after we set out on this seemingly endless journey.

Maybe flying isn’t the worst way to travel after all.

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