“50 percent chance of snow as temperatures hover around Franco Harris”
Jamie Miles (columnist)
Number 34. I stared at the “34” illumined on my car’s thermometer. Dear God, please stay Walter Payton. No Marcus Allen, Jim Brown or Franco Harris.
Last weekend, I attended the Florida Christian Writer’s Conference. The retreat bordered an enormous sandy-bottomed lake and trees dripping oranges. On Saturday, the temperature soared into the 80s. Sunshine and flip-flops.
On Sunday, I awoke to The Weather Channel broadcasting lots of blue and pink over Alabama marching towards Georgia.
Talking with my husband, I questioned, “Lots of snow headed toward Madison. Should I try to drive home?”
“Snow? No snow. Just lots of rain,” he reassured. “You’ll be fine.”
My husband lived in Minnesota for many years. I grew up in Florida. This equaled a vast chasm between our safe driving winter weather perceptions.
Leaving the conference early, I planned to arrive in Madison before temperatures dropped and ice coated the roads.
Driving along, I received calls and pictures from husband, children, friends and neighbors. “Lots of snow. Having so much fun! DRIVE SAFE.”
Reached Fort Valley navigating a somewhat icy I-75.
Instant messages from friends. Weather bad. Be careful. Roads nasty in Madison.
“I’m fine. Roads a little slick, that’s all.”
Then at Macon, I turned onto Highway 11 at 5:30 p.m.
Snow, ice and freezing precipitation poured from the heavens. Two lanes, the world going Antarctic in 30 seconds and I was 50 miles from home. That’s when I started obsessing about the “34” on the car temperature register.
Don’t hyperventilate, just focus. Driving a two-wheel drive Suburban (Minnesota husband felt no reason to buy four-wheel drive; it never snows in Georgia), I feared my future held impending two-wheel, two-ton toboggan free fall into frigid, deserted ditch.
“Go slow, 15 miles an hour if you have to,” my husband confided. “Just get home.”
I wanted fast. Speed. It took steely resolve to inch along. I craved my driveway five seconds ago. Would I arrive before 34 degrees became Franco Harris?
I loved Franco Harris. I loved black and gold. I loved “Have a Coke and a smile.” Silly me, Mean Joe Greene sipped that Coke and tossed his jersey. Jersey number 75. Yesterday held sunshine and light-hearted commercials featuring defensive tackles. Today rained snow and threatened running backs wearing numbers lower than Tony Dorsett.
Once on Highway 83, got to Monticello, then Shady Dale.
Creeping, creeping along as snow-laden branches bent arthritic hands out to snare my Suburban sled. Once white-knuckling my way to Pennington, I remembered to breathe.
Crossing over I-20, the BP closed. The most beautiful darkened green and yellow gas station I ever laid eyes on. I made it, blessed home…and still Walter Payton.
I always pegged God a Bears fan.
Published in the March 5, 2009 edition.