It was fifty-four degrees and mostly sunny when Sydney and I arrived in Limon, Colorado on Sunday, April 30, returning to Kansas from a writer’s conference in Colorado Springs. I had just passed the convenient store (even though I strongly needed a pit stop) because Sydney had just laid her head to the side and closed her eyes.
I was confused when I saw the flashing sign that said I-70 was closed. As I pulled onto the shoulder of the off-ramp with a dozen other cars I woke Sydney because I needed a map and my flip phone wasn’t up to the task.
Assuming I-70 was closed due to the high winds we found another east/west road and proceeded south.
By the time we stopped at Eads, Colorado to eat we had learned that western Kansas had received up to eighteen inches of snow. Although we didn’t have any reason to doubt our source, it was hard to believe there were traveling issues when we continued to drive with mostly clear skies and an occasional snow drift.
During our stop we heard highway ninety-six was reopened. Um, okay, maybe there is more going on than we realize. Further south, highway fifty remained closed. It was time to turn east.
Yes, it had snowed in Colorado Springs the previous day. But the roads were fine and there was barely any snow remaining. So at this point we still didn’t grasp the severity of the snow that blanketed western Kansas and stood between us and home.
As the sun set behind us and we entered Kansas (yes, it was almost that dramatic at the state border) reality began to take shape. It seemed like we passed across an invisible barrier that kept the cold and snow inside the Wheat state’s borders.
At one point the temperature dropped ten degrees almost instantly. Our speed was slowed to a crawl and we saw cars and semis stranded in deep snow drifts in the ditches. We wondered what we had gotten ourselves into.
Flashing lights and ten-foot high snow banks were the only indication we had entered a town. We learned from the officer that the electricity of Leoti had been off for over ten hours, the motel was full, and he thought one of the churches was opening up to provide shelter for stranded travelers. Oh, and they were stopping vehicles because the road ahead was down to one lane. As we tried to get across the highway to the motel parking lot to wait the Camry got stuck. Five guys and a tow freed us. In spite of the officer’s warning, several vehicles that had been stuck behind us drove ahead toward Scott City. We decided the roads couldn’t get much worse than they were in Leoti so we followed.
We continued to see cars in the ditch as we slipped and slid and watched the car in front of us do the same. We called ahead and found out that both Scott City and Dighton had motels that were full and churches opening up for those in need.
At the convenient store in Scott City we asked other travelers (including the ones who had been sliding in front of us) if they knew how the road were ahead. The consensus was that the road east was improved over what lay behind so we gassed up and continued on.
The roads improved between Dighton and Ness City but a light drizzle began to hit the windshield. It was well past midnight so we decided to stop.
The motel wasn’t anything to write home about. Well, okay, maybe it was, but not in a good way. An empty pool in the middle of the lobby without barriers, a bathroom door that took both Sydney and I to open, and a room that had seen better days are certainly stories that can be shared.
After a few hours of sleep we loaded up (neither of us brave enough to shower) and finished our journey with clear skies and a dry road.
I dropped Sydney off at Sterling College by eleven and I arrived home by noon – a mere twelve hours and one long adventure later than expected.