March 19, 2012

Spring Break Forecasting

Spring Break can mean a number of things for college students. Unsavory things, usually.

However, for the zombied-out graduate student, Spring Break is an absolutely necessary escape hatch through which a (perhaps false) sense of sanity and humanity is reached.

The three weeks leading up to this Spring Break pushed me to depths of obsessive-compulsiveness that I've never experienced before. I'd have to check the stove or electric kettle about 15 times before I can leave the room. Studying is sort of difficult when all you can think about is the fiery appliance that will be your doom.

Anyway, I managed to slap down a few midterms and flee from Flagstaff to the comforts of Kearney, Nebraska. It's a little-known Spring Break destination sporting a few decent restaurants, unpredictable weather and a boyfriend.

This trip, I really lucked out on weather. This will be sort of ironic later, but for now, consider that it was over 80 degrees every day I was in Kearney. In March, this is a surprise, even for Nebraskans. March can be blizzard, tornado or heat wave...or all of those things.

The nice weather was a blessing. A little sun-induced vitamin D does me a world of good, and lots of outdoor walking always invigorates me.

Besides several days of quality boyfriend time, I got to see my Grandparents and my brother. One of the downsides to moving away is being so far from family, especially young family who seem to grow about 6 inches every season.

So I spent my break from TESL-ing at NAU drinking gallons of coffee from Barista's, doing some light reading and writing on a term paper, and making fun of the un-muffled car sounds of Kearney.

Seriously, have you heard the noises that a pick-up can make with a few modifications? Rocket ship.

This morning, inspired by my last Barista's treat, I asked the boyfriend to check the weather in Flagstaff on his phone. I think he said something like, "winter storm warning, 8-10 inches expected." I had visions of the mountainous Interstate-17 between Phoenix and Flagstaff covered in ice and snow, and my little Mitsubishi flying like an unguided sled down the slopes. An adventure, yes, but not exactly a bus ride through rural Cambodia.

So there I was, finally on I-17, the final leg of my journey home, and the rain started to freeze. The sign about the road said "Winter Driving Conditions: 4WD or chains recommended."I had neither, but I felt that common sense could probably will me through it. Cars and trucks whizzed around my cautious 55 mph.

Not sure how exciting I can paint the next 5 hours or so--I was incredibly tense and I drove very slowly. The freezing rain changed to pure snow after Camp Verde, and the last 50 miles or so of my trip were a pure white out. If you've never had the pleasure of such conditions, Imagine a blank white canvas. Now pretend that's the view out your windshield. Where is my lane? Where are the other cars? Where is the sky? Where is the edge of the mountain road?

Petrified, but too scared to stop on the side of what I imagined was "the road" (for fear of the speedy vehicles that passed me every so often), I continued to death grip the steering wheel and follow the faintest of taillights and tire tracks.

Here's the part I don't like. Normally, I am the most over-prepared person in the room. I have two sharpened pencils, a shapener and spare eraser for any test, I always carry gum, kleenex, and chapstick just in case, and I usually have a few gallons of water and a blanket in my car for emergencies. Actually I did have a bottle of water, but that was the extent of my preparedness. I didn't even have a coat or gloves, not to mention flares, boots, or really any winter survival stuff. I wasn't planning on a foot and a half of snow greeting me after Spring Break.

When I finally arrived in Flagstaff, I got thoroughly stuck at the bottom of my driveway. Nine times.

I gave up and parked a few blocks away, out of the way of plows.

Only after I got all the way to Flagstaff did I find out that there will be no school tomorrow. Dang. The one 48 hour stretch of time when I don't check my e-mail, it's something very relevant to my safety.

Anyway, a snow day is a snow day, and I am grateful for an extra day to collect myself at altitude before taking the plunge into the rest of the semester.

This morning I was wiping some sweat off of my newly tanned brow, and this evening, I was clawing at the ice chunks that were once my windshield wiperblades.

Thanks, universe, for a wonderful and unpredictable Spring Break. Just what I needed.