One coach. 8 youth. A chaperone. Two vehicles.
-50F windchill. Blowing snow. Interstate closure. “Brrrr!” and a few other choice words.
Teenagers have jobs and commitments. Parents agreed to a one-night trip. Coaches and chaperones have lives beyond volunteering. Staying is a major curveball.
We had a budget for one night. The girls brought X amount of spending money for 24 hours. If we stay, who foots the bill? Staying is a financial unknown.
Safety deserves top honors on the priority list. At 4 PM the road is still closed, and the sun is setting. Even when the road opens, it meant driving in the dark through the Red River Valley, notorious for its blowing and drifting capabilities. The negative temperature was forecasted to plummet another ten degrees overnight. The blowing snow would cause drifting, slippery roads and the temperatures would create “black ice” conditions. Is it safe to take 2 vehicles full of kids on a road trip?
Which One Wins?
Luckily, “signs” directed our decisions. The road was closed so it wasn’t about “us” and our preferences. One car’s transmission balked at shifting into drive. And, the hotel had a cancellation during our four-mile whiteout drive from horse barn back to original hotel. They slipped us into the rooms. Once the perseverating was over, we relaxed and planned the following 18 hours.
It was wonderful to watch these teens find a problem and immediately create a solution. Swimming presented a problem: the wet suits from the prior night were frozen balls of fabric. Time to run some hot water to thaw before wearing. Rearranging sleeping arrangements was another collaborative effort. Saturday schedules were reviewed; the group calculated that we must awaken before 6 AM to get home around 10 AM. (PS this plan didn’t account for the slippery snow-covered roads at -16F air temperature Saturday morning. It was a great goal that simply needed a bit of modifying during the drive.)
Our hotel was in a suburban area surrounded by restaurants. Even though the rural roads were drifted shut and plows had been taken off the roadways, visibility was improving by the hour. So, for dinner on our bonus night, we ventured one mile to a Hibachi grill to meet all dietary needs. Some of the kids were low on money; remember we were supposed to be home already. The menu was full of unfamiliar terms. The youth took risks and ordered new-to-them food. Coach covered the cost. We learned money management, to push through mental fatigue, and to try different foods.
6 of the 8 youth are new drivers. There were abundant learning opportunities around winter driving and this North Dakota adventure. On the way there, it was above freezing and raining. Was that a gust of wind or was it a patch of ice at that underpass? How does physics work with frozen ground, rain and wind? Is it safer to pass or to follow a slower vehicle in this crazy rain? On the way home, it was a constant battle to keep the windshield clear enough to see with five humans breathing inside and -16F outside—what a great discussion on air flow. We deliberated about snowdrifts, snow pack on the roadway, whether to pass or follow, safe speeds, limiting brake use, coasting, following distance, etc…
One coach. 8 youth. A chaperone. Two vehicles. Another screened volunteer drove 60 miles to meet us. We swapped vehicles so I could attend a statewide meeting. Teamwork in and out of the competition. Decisions were made with the best interests of all in mind. Kids made it to their scheduled Saturday events. In the end, everyone was happy to be home safely!
- Forest Lake American Legion donation after we worked BINGO on the 4th of July
- Direct Bore, Inc for the cash donation
- Anoka 4-H Horse Committee for picking up the rest of our unexpected expenses