B-B-Blizzard of 1983

A blizzard warning did nothing toward stopping Dad from taking us kids camping. The day was blustery and it was February 11, 1983; the weatherman was calling for Philadelphia’s worst snowfall, ever! They predicted about 24 inches of snow for the weekend, and we were going camping anyway.

Our motorhome shimmied under the pressure of blizzard winds, and I was riding shotgun as Dad maneuvered the gigantic machine through blinding snow. Mom had begged him not to go, to stay home, just this one weekend, but Dad didn’t want to let me down. This weekend, we had been looking forward to it since last month; he only had one weekend off a month and that was the weekend we looked for every month, because we knew that camping was on the agenda.

Dad hollered over the 8-track player, “Turn the music down, I need to concentrate.”

I reached over and ejected C.W. McCall’s tape. Straightening in my seat I had a flash of thought, maybe I should be wearing my seatbelt; the thought was followed by me seeming to suck all of the oxygen out of the motorhome in one quick gasp.

Before us was a bright yellow sign marking the end of the road, we had to go left or right, we weren’t going to make it in either direction. On Dad’s side of the road was a neon yellow Jeep Wrangler sliding, slipping, and trying to avoid crashing into us. The dense snowfall made brakes useless and I watched as the Jeep tore through drifts of snow and Dad turned the steering wheel this way and that to avoid the other vehicle.

I wanted to cry, but I knew a nine-year-old doesn’t cry over silly things like this, or do they!?

After what seemed to be hours of the vehicles dancing upon the road, both came to a halt, mere inches from making contact. Dad cursed, something we rarely heard, but his nervousness seemed to shut down his vocal filter. He stepped from the motorhome, as I finally strapped my seatbelt with an unfamiliar click. I felt safe, maybe a bit late, but safe.

Dad entered the motorhome through the back door and pulled a snow shovel out of the shower, and I slipped my hands into my gloves. Together, the Jeep driver, Dad and I dug through the drifts of heavy, wet snow to free the vehicles.

As we dug a State Police Trooper pulled up to us, his gumball light barely visible in the heavy snowfall.

“Is everything okay?” he questioned.

I stopped using my hands to shovel for a moment, realizing how badly they hurt I removed my soaked gloves; shoving my hands into my pants pockets.

Dad spoke, “Yeah, I just missed the entrance to Tohickon Campground a few miles back.”

By this time the vehicles were freed from the icy depths of Mother Nature, so I climbed into the warm confines of the motorhome.

The Trooper led us to the entrance of our favorite campground, where he walked up to the driver’s side window of our motorhome. “They’re all locked up,” he said, as if we couldn’t see that for ourselves.

“No problem,” Dad said as he reached into the glove compartment, “we have the combination to the lock.”

I watched in awe at the dexterity of Dad’s freezing hands as he quickly turned out the combination and unlocked the gate.

The Trooper could have left us there, but he wasn’t quite done being the kind of officer that should be well commended. “How about I drive you to your site and we can dig you into your parking spot?”

With ease we climbed into the officer’s warm car and drove to a site of my choosing. Once there, the officer and Dad dug a spot for us to wait out the Blizzard of 1983. When we were settled in we realized that we had nothing to do all weekend, except campfires and board games; just the way we liked it.


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