My Life Part 7: Road Trip in a Blizzard


As I left off in Part 5 (Part 6 being a “catch up” of some earlier events), we were leaving Virginia and heading for Ohio.  At my best guess we loaded up the rental truck, the cars, and headed out on March 3, 1971.  Why am I so specific on the date?  A search of weather records gave me the clue I needed for that.

Normally, the drive from Portsmouth, Va. to Cambridge, OH takes about 12 hours.  We left early in the afternoon on March 3.  The rental truck, among other things, had our aquarium with two goldfish and a couple of angelfish. (I have since learned that “mixing” cold water fish like goldfish with warmer water fish like cichlids–of which angelfish are a variety–is a bad idea.)

When we reached Pennsylvania, and got onto the Turnpike (Interstate 70 across most of the width of Pennsylvania) it started to snow.  It started to snow a lot.  A whole lot.

Let me paint the picture for you.  It’s night, snow is coming down thick and fast. (My sister joked:  “Is it snowing or are the angels just getting carried away with the powder?”) We can’t see the road except as a more or less flat strip  between the rougher terrain on either side of it.  My mother’s driving her car at the front of our little group.  My sister and I are in the back seat.  Our dog, Butch (I’ll cover his story a bit in another “catch up” post later) is with us.  Behind us is Bruce, driving the rental truck.  Following along in the very back is Denny, Bruce’s brother, driving Bruce’s Corvair. (Yes, the model that Nader had gone nuts about.)

I remember my mother making an offhand comment along the way that she couldn’t see the lines (after all, we could barely see where the road was) and she was simply following the hump that marked the center of the road.

Nothing but white visible in our headlights, and nothing visible outside them.  Today, as someone who had experience driving, including driving in inclement weather I can imagine my mother had her heart in her throat the entire time.

And the snow continued to fall, thick and heavy.

That specific date I was able to come up with?  In my searching I found the biggest snowfall each year for Pittsburgh and, here we are, 19.3 inches (49 cm to you metric folk).

Sometime during the trip, I fell asleep.

I woke in a new world.

Cambridge, OH is a smallish town in southeastern Ohio.  It’s the county seat of Guernsey County.  It’s “claim to fame” is the Cambridge Glassworks and the I70-I77 split which they claim as the “largest interchange in the Country” (the accuracy of that claim about which I refuse to speculate–define things tightly enough and I suppose it could be).

We stayed with “Uncle Denny”–Bruce’s brother–when we arrived there.

The house is still there (on the corner in this pic):

Dennys house

And, one of the things I quickly did at the time was go exploring.  Across the street (the side street just visible to the right in the picture), between two of the houses, and across a very small field and… Ooooh.  That was a river!

I ran back to tell my mother that there was a river just right over there.  It was a bit bigger than the canal where we used to fish on the camping property in North Carolina (and I have no idea what happened to that property except that since then the land has been developed and the “Cape Colony” that used to be private camping lots is now a housing division).

Denny said that that was Will’s Creek.  Fishing in Will’s Creek, both here and elsewhere, would feature a lot over the next few years.  Never caught much.  It just wasn’t a good fishing stream.  But I spent a lot of hours there.

Over the next few days I met some of the neighborhood kids and made a few friends.  I continued third grade in the school just up the street from the house, “Garfield Elementary School”.

It was a surprisingly good time in my life…for a while.

We’ll get into more, next time.



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