A Road Trip Gone Wrong (Part 1): the Series of Events that Had Us Stuck in Our Car for Over 30 Hours

It seems appropriate to post this today, as it is currently snowing outside in Abilene, TX. I posted the picture below and said “I can confirm it is much more pleasant to enjoy the snow from inside your own home than on the road or in a hotel.”

MY BACKYARD – 1/10/2021

This post will be published in two parts: (1) the story – a series of unfortunate events that led to our 30-hour road trip, and (2) my tips and takeaways from the experience.


For the holidays, my family and I drove from Texas to Arizona to visit my parents and had a great time. We drove because we really did not feel good about being on an airplane with lots of other people (you know, COVID). The drive is long, about 15 hours or so, but it’s doable in one day. One very long day.

As our trip came to an end, we pulled out of my parent’s driveway in Phoenix around 8am Central time, never expecting that over 30 hours later, we still wouldn’t be back home.

Our trip got a lot more interesting after El Paso, when we came to a dead stop on I-10 for 9 hours. You read that right, 9 HOURS! There was some snow and ice, and a few semi trucks had jack-knifed on the highway, causing both sides of I-10 to close. Unfortunately, that left literally thousands of people stranded in their cars on the highway from about 6:30pm until 3:30am. People were turning off their engines and going to sleep – what else was there to do? Fortunately, our 4-year-old son had a great time. We unbuckled his car seat and he sat up front with me in my lap, then he would climb to the backseat… he had t.v. shows and movies to watch… eventually he fell asleep for the night, nestled in the nook between the back and front seats. (Oh, to be a kid again with the ability to fall asleep anywhere!)

The other side of the highway opened up before ours did, and we made the executive decision to cross the median (through some snow) to try to find a gas station and a BATHROOM. There was one gas station nearby, and my husband and I stopped there, as did everyone else on the planet. We thought about finding a place to park for the night, when we noticed that east-bound I-10 traffic had started moving. At this point, we were 19 hours into the trip, and while we were tired, we just wanted to get home. So we got back on the road.

I’d like to say that that was the end of our trials, but alas, it was just the beginning. Thirty minutes more or so of being back in moving traffic, we came to a dead stop, AGAIN. At this point it was about 5am. I was in the driver’s seat – too hyped up and anxious to sleep. I watched the as the sun rose and the sky got lighter around me. My son woke up and asked if we were still on our trip. “Yes,” I answered weakly. “YAY!” was his response.

This second dead stop on the highway was where I started to lose it. The snow and ice was worse in this area, and it would have been a lot riskier to try to ford the median to the other side. We had no idea how long we were going to be stuck there, and had zero control over any of it. Also, I realized I needed to use the bathroom again, and on top of that I had only gotten about an hour or so of sleep in the last 24 hours. My husband, ever the optimist, reassured me that we would be fine, would in fact NOT die on the highway, and that we would see our home again soon.

10:30am was when the traffic started moving again (this time we were only stuck for 5 hours). We stopped at the first gas station we came to (along with everyone else on the planet again). We were now 26 hours into the trip. We decided that we wanted to try to make it home – we were 5 hours away. We made it to Big Spring, TX (2 hours away from home) but it had started snowing again. The roads were getting bad, like really bad. We watched a car spin off the road in front of us, meanwhile our son was blissfully unaware, singing along to his favorite t.v. show in the backseat. It was so frustrating to be so close, and have to call it quits – but it was the right decision. Around 3pm, 31 hours into the trip, we were safe and warm in a hotel room for New Year’s Eve.

My son wanted to know what we were doing for our New Year’s Eve party. He was stoked that we were staying in a hotel where he got his own big bed (we had a room with two double beds). Our “party” consisted of us counting down from 10 and yelling, “Happy New Year!” at 6pm. Dinner was whatever food we could find in the hotel lobby (aka. Cheetos, popcorn, etc.) and the few snacks we had leftover from the trip.

We ended 2020 with a bang – but we were thankful to be safe, and especially thankful that our 4-year-old (excuse me, I mean 4-and-a-HALF-year-old) son was unaware of the dangers we had faced and simply enjoyed our adventure together.

Stay tuned for Part 2, where I’ll share my tips for what to do if you find yourself in a similar situation!

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