From Sunshine to Snow How Much the Weather Changes During a Cross Country Drive

After getting back from Laredo, I had a few things to take care of in the office and I was up to Wisconsin. I took care of those things and was able to hit the road around 12:30PM. I heard I would be running into some interesting winter weather when I hit Iowa. The weather was really nice in Austin and the day before it was sunny and 84 in Laredo.

On the I35 exit from the toll road, I noticed a very tall truck camper. It was kind of windy and I thought this thing might blow over.

Overall, the weather was nice. By the time I hit Oklahoma, the trees were definitely changing colors.

By the time I hit Kansas, it was getting cold. The one thing that is going out in my car is the HVAC box that is behind the radio. Basically the door sticks (this is a common problem from my internet research) and the knob doesn’t turn. I have to manually move it by taking the panel off by my knees. It can only move between vent and floor, so I keep it on defrost. The same thing happened to the temperature blend door, but I have to use an Allen wrench to move that. That’s what I did at a travel plaza in Kansas. I basically turned the heat on all the way. I guess this beats paying $600 for a new part and ripping the whole dash apart to fix it. For some reason, even with the fan off, it’ll still let hot air out so I ended having to open the windows every here and there to cool off the car.

It was definitely getting cold and windy in Kansas. Eventually it started to rain a little bit.

By the time I hit Missouri that rain had turned to sleet. It was around 38 degrees and I was watching the temperature diligently to know that the closer it got to freezing, the slicker the roads would be getting.

By the time I hit the Iowa border, the roads were becoming glare ice. I could only do 35-40mph and it was going on 1-2 in the morning. I decided to stop at the wayside for the night. There was already some snow accumulated on the ground.

It was very windy and windy to the point where the Iowa flag was wrapped around the pole.

I went inside to brush my teeth and get ready for bed. There were storm warnings out at this point.

By the time I got back to my car, there was a small accumulation of snow on it.

The cheap Walmart sleeping bag did pretty well throughout the night. I crawled into it and slept with the driver’s seat reclined. My legs definitely stayed warm. I wore my thick jacket and ironically my shoulders got a little cold. I had the window cracked most of the night so the humidity wouldn’t build. I ended up closing it later in the night because it did get a bit cold. When I did wake up, my windshield needed to be scraped from the inside. Later on, I was happy to find out my vent emitted enough heat to act as a defroster and keep my window clear.

After a snowstorm, it is usually peaceful. This was the case after this storm.

I was happy that I pulled over for the night. The whole rest of the drive, I swore I couldn’t go more than a few miles without seeing a car in the ditch. This was the bridge after the wayside I stayed at. As you can see it is still very slick and the person must have just hit it as an ambulance was picking them up.

A mile or two up the road a double trailer semi also decided to rest in the ditch.

Slightly further up the road was another car in the ditch. With seeing several vehicles, including a semi, in the ditch, I knew this was going to be an interesting drive.

I was happy to see the plows out in full force cleaning up the roads.

One thing I found is people didn’t seem to heed the warnings of other drivers that went into the ditch. Here is a prime example of 2 cars going into the ditch in the same spot.

In a lot of cases there was only 1 open lane of traffic.

As you can see in the above picture, my windshield wasn’t the cleanest. I found that the driver’s side spigot for my windshield washer fluid had frozen up. That made an additional challenge to driving. The second some water would spray up from a vehicle, I’d crank the wipers to take advantage of that moisture to get the rest of the salt off my windshield.

Now the crazy thing is I’ve driven through a lot of winter weather. Being a native Cheesehead, this weather does not faze me. I’ve never been in the ditch before and people are all surprised when I tell them the story of how I got caught in a Canadian blizzard going from Winnipeg to Thunder Bay. They can’t believe I can get around in my Focus in that kind of weather as good as I do.

I could feel the car shimmy every here and there and knew to let off and gradually slow down. I also kept my distance just in case. In some spots with the clear open lane, I was able to do 65-70. The speed limit in that area was 70 so I was able to make decent time. The speed I could drive was definitely dependent on where I was as the road conditions were constantly changing.

There were a ton of people who decided not to drive like me. Even though in a lot of places I was doing the speed limit, they decided to pass me on the icy lane next to me doing probably around 80mph. I couldn’t tell you the number of cars I saw in the ditch. I just knew that, in Iowa, I couldn’t go more than a couple miles without seeing another car in the ditch. Some of the cars were freshly in the ditch with their drivers getting out or, even worse, inspecting the damage because they hit a bridge or some other object. I guess the people passing me didn’t take these “canaries in the coalmine” and kept driving fast only to be in the ditch 10 miles ahead.

When I hit Minnesota, the accumulated snow became less and less. Eventually when I hit Wisconsin, there really wasn’t any snow.

It stayed partly cloudy until I got close to my parent’s house. Eventually it started snowing a few flurries.

When I got to my parent’s it was sunny again. The picture above was taken on the same road they live on. By their house, the grass was still green and it was sunny.

You could definitely tell my car was through a lot of winter weather.

I was happy to be home and done with driving in this crappy weather. I was also happy that my winter driving skills didn’t deteriorate from living in Texas and that I was able to make it home safely and without incident. The ironic thing is, later that night, the spigot for my windshield washer fluid unfroze, right at the time I didn’t really need it anymore.

To see more of my adventures, click on the map! Or if you prefer to see a list of more blog entries, click here.

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