The snow started when Big Jake and I crossed into Ohio, slowing traffic to a crawl and making the both of us more than a little nervous, since our ride - Jake‘s 1991 Chevrolet Cavalier - wasn‘t exactly what you‘d call an “all-weather” vehicle. But the weather proved no deterrent: nothing would. For in Jake‘s jacket pocket were two tickets to Super Bowl XXVI, between the Washington Redskins and Buffalo Bills, and come hell or high water (or blizzards for that matter), we planned to be sitting in the seats at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minn., for the kickoff.
(A Cavalier like Big Jake's, though his car was white.)
That trip - back in January 1992 - gave me just a taste of the long-haul trucking life I‘d be writing about. Covering around 945 miles in about 20 hours (we weren‘t going 60 mph the whole time, with the weather so bad) we left on a Friday afternoon, plowed through the snow into Indiana by late Friday night, then got up and finished off the trip to Minnesota on Saturday. Sure wished we could have flown, but with all the flights booked by the wealthier denizens of Washington, D.C., we took the only other option available: Jake‘s Cavalier.
(This is what the roads looked like as we barrelled our way north to Minnesota.)
Jacob Perkins, one of my best friends from college, died last year after a massive heart attack, so the memory of our road trip to the Super Bowl (the only one the National Football League ever held in a “cold weather” state ... just our luck ...) holds a special place in memory for me. Team driving all the way out to Minnesota over two days, then back in one shot (violating hours of service rules in the process) proved to be a lot more taxing than I thought it would be.
(The Metrodome ... site of Super Bowl XXVI.)
One thing I discovered is just how brutal the deep winter is in Minnesota. Filling up outside of Minneapolis after we arrived Saturday evening, I had on every stitch of clothing I‘d brought and STILL the cold cut through me like a knife. Local residents laughed at our Virginia license plates, and us, as they filled up their cars wearing just sweat suits. “This isn‘t cold - wait until a clipper storm comes through,” they told us. “THEN you‘ll see what cold is really like.”
(The city of Minneapolis at night ... sans the snow and freezing cold, though.)
Fortunately, no such clipper materialized. Game day arrived with bright sunshine (though the mercury hovered around 15 degrees) and we couldn‘t wait to get into the balmy 70-degree interior of the Metrodome. The Redskins dispatched the Bills in fine fashion (37 to 24) before the 63,130 packed in the seats. Quite something to see this worldwide event live, let me tell you.
On the Monday after the game, we left for Washington D.C., winding our way through Chicago traffic, past South Bend, Indiana (home of the University of Notre Dame, the ‘Fighting Irish,‘ who we both rooted for despite attending Virginia Tech) and arriving back in Maryland in the wee hours of Tuesday morning. That kind of all-night driving I haven‘t repeated since, for I still vividly remember how spacey I felt despite the hot coffee and frequent rest breaks.
Later on, as I started covering the trucking business, that all-night drive gave me vivid insight into the challenges big rig drivers faced piloting 80,000-pound tractor-trailers on dark roadways. Yet it‘s also a treasured memory, one of a good friend no longer here, sadly.