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Slip-Sliding and Switchbacks

by Paula Shablo 2 months ago in Series · updated about a month ago

Ice, Snow and So Far To Go

Learning to skate? Happy dance?

Previously in Part 8: Ready

Part 9:

Good morning, Dear Diary,

Well, I should have decided to drive through the night. Just look at this!

I got really worried about missing the turns and getting us lost. Once you get to a certain point in those mountains, turning the van around with the trailer attached could be a real problem.

Well…it could be a real problem for me, at least. Remember, I told you: I am not a great driver.

Now I have another driving fear to think about…

Do you think this van is wearing snow tires?

I’m going to have an apple and some crackers before I tackle this conundrum. So there!


Okay, just for the record—it’s fracking cold out there, my little college-ruled buddy. You’re lucky I didn’t drag you outside.

I’m beyond grateful that I have a coat and gloves—pretty good deal at the dollar store. The gloves, I mean. Hey, free is always a good deal. My best deal was the coat from the sporting goods store, though. They really know how to keep you warm outdoors.

I wasn’t too happy with my morning’s elimination process. My ass is a block of ice. (I know, too much information!)

The pond is now frozen over. I saw some ducks out there, learning to skate. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or feel sorry for them. To be honest, I was just glad to see them.

Ducks are alive! Hurray!

Since you can’t pat me on the back, I will do it myself. I’m very proud that I grabbed that tarp at the last minute. Otherwise, my mattress and the generator would be ruined right now. So, pat, pat, pat. Go Shelby.

I’d also pat myself over the bottles of iced coffee, but anyone would have grabbed those.

I wonder if those Ducks have any eggs?

Stop it!

Nice heater ya got there, white van. Thank you. Now—do you have snow tires?

Okay, I’m done for the moment. Gotta hit the road.


Dear Diary, (Again)

Shelby was never meant to drive in winter.

Damn it, it’s not even winter yet!

I have spent the day saying things like “If only” and “what if” and “Why, why, why?”

If only I hadn’t been in such a rush. If only I didn’t start driving just as it was getting dark. If only I had just kept driving instead of deciding to wait until morning when I could see better.

If only I had decided to stay one more night at the hotel!

But, no!


What it I slide off the road? What if we can’t get through? What if there’s an avalanche?

Why did I do this? Why didn’t I wait?

Why did the world go to hell so I’m forced into asking all these other questions?

God damn, what a day!

The last time I went to my grandmother’s cabin, it was summertime and I was a little girl. I remember stopping at the junction for gas and ice cream, and then driving on until we left paved highway for dirt roads and then just—you know—going to Grandma’s.

Snow makes everything different. The roads are slippery and dangerous, for sure. But the landscape changes entirely, too. And with the wind whipping around, some of the road signs have gotten hard—sometimes impossible—to read.

Where am I?

It was nearly noon by the time we reached the junction. You can be certain I was in no mood for ice cream. Gasoline, though? Yes, please.

Coming upon the little town, I got my hopes up. It’s like I can’t help it. When I get close to a store or gas station or little groups of houses my heart rate jacks up a notch and I find myself craning my neck in all directions, looking for any sign of life.

I mean, come on. I saw ducks this morning. Why shouldn’t I hope?

Sadly, the little convenience store slash gas station was just like every other I’ve seen since the End of the World—empty and silent.

The door wasn’t locked, though, so I went right in.

It was like walking into a freezer. No power, obviously. I checked out the bathrooms, and once I determined that water was running, I used the facilities and washed up.

Why does the water run without power? How does that work?

Never mind. I’m just glad it did.

I poked around the store. Like many, it had a backup generator. It was off—good news. There was gas in it—better news. I got it started, turned on the gas pumps and filled the van’s tank.

I used up a lot of gas during the night, so I could run the heater. I would have really regretted it if this store hadn’t worked out in my favor.

I grabbed some peanut butter cookies off the shelf, then snagged the oatmeal raisin ones for Mom and the chocolate chippies for Aaron.

I come bearing gifts.

There were pudding cups and fruit cups, and I took those, too. Also more chips because, why not?

I found a little treasure trove of microwavable beef stew and a good old fashioned coffee maker.

I brewed a pot of coffee and heated up stew. I gobbled it down, using a plastic spork. It was so good, I heated a second and ate that, too. I refilled the store’s jumbo coffee mug: “Buy now, Refill for only $0.79!” I added creamer, grabbed a few candy bars and loaded my goodie bags into the van. Then I went back inside the store, used the bathroom again and turned the generator off.

No sense in wasting resources. Someone else might come along and need gas.

Now that I think about it, I suppose it would have been nice of me to make sure the generator was full of fuel.

Another switchback after this curve. Aughhh!

I sat in the van until it was nice and warm again, then slipped off my coat and put it in the passenger seat. I wanted full mobility in case I needed it.

I studied my map and the route I had marked. It looked so close by, I was sure we’d be there in record time.

Well, I told you what I remembered about going to Grandma’s. Now let me tell you what I forgot.

I forgot about the twisty road.

Also—I’m dead certain now that this van is NOT wearing snow tires.

Well, a little tortoise once said, “Slow and steady wins the race.”

I will go to my grave with those words on my lips. Along with, “Take care as you drive. Arrive alive.”

That’s my plan.

I drove slowly, with the van in the lowest gear. Once we left the highway, it wasn’t quite as bad as far a sliding and slipping went, but the road winds and switches back, and I just didn’t dare to pick up speed.

It amazes me that I don’t remember the twists and turns. Knowing me, I probably likened it to a roller coaster and thought it was fun.

It is NOT fun. My neck and shoulders are aching from tension and repetitive movements: left, left, big curve and switch back right. It is all rather roller coaster-like, I suppose. If I was going faster, I might feel the need to vomit.

We have reached the highest point, finally, and I am tired. Once I saw this scenic overlook pull-out, I decided I was done for the day and night. It’s nearly dark. It’s not snowing anymore, but it’s windy and the road is icy. Enough is enough.

There’s plenty of room for me to pile on the blankets and have a good night’s sleep. I know we’re getting close to the last turn off, and it’s not far, but I’m taking no risks.

I’m not even going to try to look at that scenic view tonight. Morning is soon enough.

I’m burying myself in blankets now. Good night, pen-pal.

White. What was I thinking?

Next Up, Part 10 --Reunited

This story is the 9th in a series featuring Shelby and her little friend, Diary. All the stories are part of the Summer Fiction Series Challenge. You can read the rest of my series here:

Part 1 :

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Part 5:

Part 6:

Part 7:

Part 8:

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Thanks for reading!


Paula Shablo

Daughter. Mother. Grandma. Author. Artist. Caregiver.

(Order fluxuates.)


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