New Castle News

December 28, 2013

Josh Drespling: What's that they say about the best laid plans?

Josh Drespling
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — I planned my holiday travels carefully. I knew exactly how many hours it would take, how much gas was required, and had prepared for the hefty tolls levied by the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.

I purchased the required snacks and beverages to appease my wife and daughter on our five-hour drive to the other side of our glorious Keystone State. For some reason, they are unable to complete a car ride of any substantial distance without a bag full of junk food and multiple drinks for each of them.

I rearranged my work schedule to accommodate my early departure on Christmas Eve. I worked over thirteen hours the day before in an attempt to complete all the needed work so I could easily escape and begin my winter journey. Everything was falling into place. I arrived home a full twenty minutes ahead of schedule to find my wife putting the final touches on packing the car. It was chocked full of what seemed like a hundred presents for my in-laws, my family, and, mostly, my daughter. Such is life when your in-laws live 350 miles away.

We were doing good, and my time management was impeccable. We even had enough time to drop my car off at the mechanic's for some brake work (Can't wait to see that bill.).

We were on the road, and I glanced down at the clock on my dash. We were a full two minutes ahead of schedule. What a great start! We would arrive at our relative's house at around 7pm. Just in time to partake of the Christmas Eve festivities, food, and company.

We flew across Route 80 avoiding any trouble, traffic, or delays. A quick halt at a rest stop and another to get gas and visit the local Subway for some grub. As we reconvened our trek down the highway, the snow began to fly.

Quickly the road surface was covered, and the electric road signs were flashing messages about winter weather advisories. As our visibility decreased, our travel speed quickly diminished from a constant 80 mph to 55 or 60 mph. This was going to ruin my timeline.

As we pressed forward and exited from Route 80 onto the North East Extension of the Turnpike, our speed quickly dropped to a mere 35 or 40 mph, then down into the 20s.  This was destroying my timeline. We were going to loose so much time due to the weather. Rather than arriving at around 7pm, we were quickly looking at 8pm or later as our new arrival time.

Eventually, we ended up directly behind a PennDot truck. I held our position as I followed him for several miles, letting him clear a path for us.  He began to slow as we turned a bend and I could see the red glow of tail lights for miles ahead of us. We came to a complete stop.

Inside I was screaming, “NO!” This was the death of my planing and time management. We were now completely removed from our original arrival time. My plans were shot and we were sitting in the car, parked on the turnpike. A few moments went by, and I eventually put the car in park and eased the seat back. I was resigned to being in that exact spot for a very long time.

Fifteen minutes turned to an hour and eventually two. We got word from some people who had walked ahead that there had been an accident, which was reiterated by the several police vehicles and tow trucks that passed us on the shoulder.

It appeared as though everyone was OK and no one was injured, but this mishap had completely closed down portions to the Turnpike and destroyed my impeccable plan.

During the delay, we got listen to various Christmas songs on the radio and enjoy the antics of my daughter acting out such classics as, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.” It was actually a fun time and the 135 minutes that we sat there flew by.  The only problem was that the refreshing beverages that I brought along for our journey and that my daughter had consumed a hour or so earlier, rapidly became a bathroom emergency.

Let me tell you, sitting on the Turnpike in a winter snow storm with hundred of strangers is not the place you want have a bathroom emergency. We eventually began to move again and made it to our destination without any accidents, but next time I will be enforcing a strong one-drink maximum rule for any passengers in my car.