Stranded: Driver realizes winter car kit importance

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Sarah Gregory
  • 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Fearlessly, my husband and I set off on the Autostrada. Destination: The Christmas market in Salzburg. We had Heidi, our sturdy and reliable Honda Civic. She may have not been the best looking car, but Heidi never failed us on any of our road trips.

With just our hats, gloves and jackets we thought we would be prepared for the chilly Austrian weather. Of course, these items were fine for the weather around Aviano, but they would prove to be no match for the wind and snow over the mountains.

Once we got there, the wind quickly pierced through our bundled layers, sending us running for the nearest café. A few mulled wines and cappuccinos later, we were ready to brave the outdoors again and the crowds.

We spent the next two days exploring the town, shopping at all the vendors, ice skating and fortifying ourselves with gallons of spiced wine and coffee. Most of our purchases were sweaters, scarves and gloves. Yes, we already had gloves, but two pairs were better than one. Trust me.

Alas, it was time to head back home. Although the market was magical and everything we thought it would be, the drive back home unfortunately wasn't.

It began snowing shortly after we left the main part of Salzburg. By the time we got on the Autostrada, traffic was traveling at about 80 kph, which, as most of you know, isn't very fast. About 30 minutes later, traffic came to a complete standstill. For about five hours. Meanwhile, the light snowfall turned into a mini-blizzard. Periodically, one of us would jump out and clean off the car so we could see what was or wasn't going on.

One snowball fight and countless card games later, my husband and I decided that traffic was not going to move and we were just going to have to sleep in the car. It's amazing how being trapped on the highway in a snowstorm can quickly lose its appeal.

As hope of sleeping in our warm, comfortable bed dwindled, so did the conversation.
Suddenly, we saw traffic beginning to move. We were saved! Of course, the roads were so bad by this time that the going was extremely slow. Several times we slid sideways or got stuck in the snow. At one point, my husband was pushing our car free when another vehicle came speeding toward us. Terrified, I said a quick prayer as I watched the other car slide out of control, narrowly missing us. My husband got back into the car white faced.

It wasn't until we crossed the Italian border that the snow stopped and we could travel more than 40 kph. What's normally a four-hour drive took us six.

The result of this trip is that now my husband and I always check the weather report before going on a trip - whether we're driving or not. And, we now have a winter kit in our car, complete with a blanket, cat litter, ice scraper, first-aid kit, hand warmers and energy bars.

Had we been prepared with these items before our trip, being stuck in the car could have been a lot more comfortable, if not pleasant. The actual drive would have been a lot less treacherous as well. It's a good idea to have some of the basic items in your car, even if you don't plan on doing any road trips this winter.