The forecast was for rain turning to snow in the D.C. area, so I looked for an earlier flight home. There was nothing available going to Dulles, but I was able to get a flight to Reagan. When we left Chicago, the pilot announced that he was expecting minimal acceptable conditions for landing nonetheless the flight went smoothly. When we landed snow was falling, and from that point on my trip home was a slow grind punctuated with complete stops for hours at a time.
There was no gate available for our plane, so we sat on the tarmac for an hour and half, while United tried to figure out how to handle five planes with four gates. The idea of backing an empty plane away from the gate for 20 minutes while we unloaded was dismissed as too passenger friendly. I sat there worrying that the roads were getting worse and that traffic would be bad. By the time we got off the plane, the snow on the ground was visibly deeper than when we had landed.
I had to get Dulles to get my car, so I hopped the metro for Rosslyn where I hoped to catch a bus straight to Dulles. We had a fifteen-minute delay at Arlington Cemetery when the train in front of us broke down. While waiting I overheard a couple talking about checking into a hotel, because they could not get home. I would later realize that fifteen-minute delays were trivial during the great traffic jam/snowstorm of 2011 and heading for the comfort of a hotel would be the smart thing to do.
I was deprived of an another serious delay when the bus driver warned me that he would not be leaving for at least three hours. I searched for a cab and lucked out to find one fairly quickly. We had gone less than a mile when we turned into a completely blocked road. Eventually the police showed up and did something to relieve the congestion, but we had gone less than a mile in an hour and a half.
The batteries on both of my cell phones were nearly drained. I wanted to call my wife, Margaret, and tell her where I was and how I was making my way home. I searched by backpack and found the charger for my work Blackberry. I plugged into the cigarette lighter. I was able to send Margaret texts and give her call after it charged up. It was reassuring that I would have a fully charged phone for the rest of the trip. Unfortunately, my Blackberry has very poor internet browsing and my music is all on personal cell phone. So I was left with listening to the radio.
The cabbie had the radio tuned to a news stations and we heard about fallen tree branches, power lines, and jackknifed trucks blocking roads. As we started to move we were counting the rear wheel drive Mercedes and BMWs that were stuck. The cab driver seemed to take some delight in that as our minivan plowed through the snow. It took a little over three hours to get to Dulles.
I hadn’t had dinner yet, so I had a Cinnabon and coffee at the airport to fortify me for the rest of the drive. Cinnabon was the only restaurant that didn’t have a long line. I was seriously considering staying at the airport for a while, but the roads had seemed clearer as we approached the airport. I got my car and headed out. Margaret and I had swapped cars, so she would have the RAV4 if she needed it. I got to drive her VW Beetle home, which is no a car with good ground clearance.
The snow was tapering off as I took the Dulles Greenway north to Leesburg where I could get US 15 north to Frederick. The Greenway was pretty clear of snow and the traffic was not heavy. I was able to drive at 45 to 50 mile per hour. There was more snow on US 15, but I soon caught up to a snowplow, which was going slow but made it easier for me to drive. Just outside of Lucketts, Virginia we came to another complete stop. Police and emergency vehicles showed up. The plow driver came to tell me that they had to go help clear a jackknifed truck and to not follow him. This turned out to be another hour and half delay. I sat watching my gas gauge and worrying that I might use all my gas.
I got home at 2:15 AM, which was 9.5 hours after I landed at the airport. About half off that time was sitting at a standstill. I should have stayed in Chicago. They have lovely weather this time of year.