We sat at the end of the runway at JFK, waiting for the engines to roar and the plane to start moving. After a few minutes, we were all starting to wonder why nothing had happened. A bing-bong, and the Captain made an announcement.
“Ok folks, I’ve got a warning light on in my cockpit that tells me that someone back there still has a cell phone switched on. And believe me, this plane aint goin’ nowhere, ’till that phone is switched off.”
There was a flurry of people checking their mobiles and as I looked towards Geoff, I saw him go bright red and surreptitiously turn his off, hoping no-one had noticed……….I had though………..
An hour or so later and we were circling Detroit in the dark, on final approach. We already knew the weather was bad, but looking out over the city with the lights twinkling and piles of snow all over the roads, it looked pretty amazing.
There was another announcement, this time from a flight attendant.
“We are now on final approach and will shortly be landing at Detroit. The weather on the ground is rather windy with snow showers, and a temperature of minus 1 ….”
We smiled at each other. Minus 1 sounded fine. Another hour or so later – after a white knuckle landing in severe crosswinds – we were waiting outside the airport for the Hertz rental bus to pick us up and take us to get our car. We couldn’t believe how cold we were. How could minus one feel so arctic? Geoff suddenly noticed that the bus shelter we were waiting in had a timed electric heater in it – he switched it on and we immediately started to feel a touch more comfortable. It slowly started to dawn on us. Minus 1, minus 1 …….minus 1 Farhenheit! In our ‘language’ it was actually about minus 17 Celsius!
And so, our Christmas 2008 adventure started. I will say right now, that this is not a ‘mountain’ post, but a ‘snow-road-trip’ post. Also, although the reason we were over in North America was not really for a holiday in the normal sense – we were there to scatter my mum’s ashes – it is by no means a sad story. In fact, we had a wonderful time and one of the best holidays we’d had for years.
The background to the trip was that in the August of that year my mum (who had moved back to England from Canada after my dad died), also sadly passed away. Not long before, she’d told me that she wanted her ashes scattering back in Canada, with my dad’s.
“It’ll give you an excuse for a holiday!” she said.
So there we were, picking up a 4×4 in Detroit. We took 10 days to drive up through Michigan, cross the border into Canada at Sault Ste Marie, drive to a hill near Elliot Lake in Ontario where we left my mum with my dad, and then drive back down to Detroit.
We cooked Christmas dinner in a hotel room in Petoskey (in Northern Michigan), bought ourselves some snowshoes (which we tried out in a few places) and generally had a fantastic amount of fun in the snow. And through all that, the temperature hardly went above minus 17 Celsius for the whole trip. My mum and dad were both very much ‘seize the day’ kind of people and never wasted a moment of their lives, and I know for certain that fun was what they would have wanted us to have in those 10 days.
Here’s a short snowy video of our goings on: