This last Friday, my mom and our daughter traveled with me to Northern Minnesota.  Our main purpose was for me to meet my newest Great-Niece, Isla.  She was born in November and this was my first opportunity to get away and see her.  Since we had a long weekend, we took the opportunity to go.

It was a beautiful drive north and since I have had family up there my whole life, I’ve always loved the drive. My favorite part is when you get far enough north that the trees begin to change.  With the snow and the big open sky, it was a beautiful drive.

Ignore the random Twizzlers on the dash in the photo! 

Isla is such a good baby and I so enjoyed every moment of snuggling and feeding her and even changing one nasty poopy diaper! Isn’t she so precious??!!

This shot (below) is when I had to tell her good-bye.  Such a cutie.

I was also able to spend time with one of my favorite people, my cousin who is like my sister and best friend wrapped into one.  It was great to relax, catch up, and even watch DOWNTON ABBEY together on the same couch!
We headed home on Monday and even though they had gotten a light dusting of snow, the roads were in pretty good shape and we were making great time coming home.  (It is usually an 8+ hour drive). Once we got to Minneapolis, we started to hit some snow, but when I had checked radar earlier it was just a small band of snow right around the cities.  Since I was driving, I didn’t have the opportunity to look at radar again and as I traveled south, the roads began to get progressively worse.  In southern Minnesota and Northern Iowa, the roads are not exactly straight and flat.  They are very curvy and hilly.  The farther south I got, the more it was snowing and the worse the roads were getting.  As I crawled into a town about 15 miles from my parents, my van just quit.  Right in the middle of the road, I had no power steering, no brakes or acceleration.  I had no idea what was going on.  So in the snow I coasted into the parking lot that was thankfully right there.  I am so thankful that it didn’t do that while I was going up or down one of the enormous hills of NE Iowa.  Since my brother-in-law works in the same town I called him for advice.  After talking to him and a car repair shop and my husband, I restarted my van and it worked fine.  So, at this point, I decided to drop my mom off with my brother-in-law rather than drive their country roads and keep heading south to our house.  Another 20 miles and the roads and storm have reached blizzard stage.  Heavy snow and high winds make for nasty driving conditions.  
I kept creeping along, knowing that in normal conditions, I was still 1 1/2 hours from home and it was now completely dark.  As I went through a few more towns, I began praying.  Our daughter from the back even said, “Mommy, should I be scared?” to which I answered in my bravest voice, “No honey, I’ve got it all under control.” Knowing full well I didn’t.  I just kept repeating the same prayers over and over again. Asking God for protection and leading us home.  
After continuing through a few more towns, the van again stalled.  Thankfully, I was alone on the road and was able to pull over enough to restart it and keep going.  Not much before that, I had a semi on my rear end.  He would have had no time to stop before hitting me.  By this time, I had been on the road for nearly 10 hours with the last 2 extremely stressful and “white-knuckled”.  My nerves were shot and the tears were flowing.  I kept praying and inching along.  Then my wipers starting building up with ice and I couldn’t see.  Since I knew the road I was driving, I knew that there was a cross road coming up.  Once I reached it I would pull over and clean off my wipers.  As I was getting to this point, the roads were worse than anything I have ever driven on.  Snow drifts were starting to form, visibility was nearly nothing. I was keeping my sights on the taillights in front of me to make sure I was on the road.  Then the cars in front of me started swerving and going in the ditch, then I would see lights behind me disappear into the ditch.  This was not a good moment for me.  I finally arrived at the cross road, cleaned off my wipers and called my husband.  This whole time, our daughter was texting him for me. I would tell her what to say (location, status etc) and she would text it so he knew where we were at all times.  When I called him and heard his voice I completely lost it.  I didn’t think I could drive another mile.  I was a complete wreck emotionally and my body was exhausted from the tense driving.  Yet, I couldn’t do anything there in the middle of nowhere.  So, after my crying session and yes, our daughter heard it all, I decided to “man up” and keep going.   I knew there was a gas station about 5 miles ahead where the highway meets the interstate. I could get gas and take a break and check on the status of the interstate roads. I told Pat there was a car coming over the hill and as soon as it passed me I would pull out and follow it.  Well, guess what, I watched that car go in the ditch too.  It never made it to me.  So, I pulled out anyway.  Truthfully, I have no idea how I made it to the gas station.  Reagan and I took each yard light and said, let’s make it to that light and the next light and the next.  I drove 20 mph and prayed the whole time.
We made it to the gas station and I got inside and took a deep breath…..and I cried.  As we walked back to the bathrooms, there was a trucker who noticed my despair and helped calm me down.  He listened to me and told me to take deep breaths.  I’m embarrassed to admit the sheer panicked state that I was in.  But, my nerves were shot and I was a complete mess.  I must say, Reagan was my rock.  She stayed calm and quiet and was so helpful to me.  I think she helped me keep going.  After talking with the trucker (I never got his name) he advised me NOT to take the interstate as he just got off of it because it was so bad.  So, back to the car I went, put in gas and called Pat again.  After a long conversation, we decided that he would drive the 35 or so miles to the station and then I could follow him home.  I hated having both of us on the roads, but at this point the only other option was Reagan and I sleeping at the gas station.  
Pat finally arrived at the gas station, we switched vehicles so he could deal with the stalling van and I could drive the safer suburban and off we headed for home.  It was slow going, but I was in such a better state of mind knowing I was following my husband’s taillights all the way home.  We eventually made it home and I have never been so happy.  I think my body just collapsed and I cried tears of joy and fear and relief. 
An 8 1/2 hour trip turned into an 11 1/2 hour trip with the last 3 hours very stressful.  I am so thankful for my family who prayed for our safety, the trucker who calmed my nerves and listened to me, to Reagan for being a brave passenger and support, and to my husband who was my hero for getting me home.  I think a lot of factors played into getting home, maybe God was protecting me, maybe I was a really cautious driver, maybe I just got lucky, but what I do know is that I don’t ever want to be in that situation again.  
I’ve never been happier to be home. 
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