Three hours. It took three hours to get home from work tonight.

Diamond announced that they were closing at 4 o’clock today due to the inclement weather. I was close to wrapping a project at 4, and at 4:15 I dropped the text for a catalog section for January’s catalog on a desk in Purchasing. There was something I was supposed to do yesterday and it got lost in the shuffle of a strange email chain that really didn’t involve me, so I did that (which took about two minutes), so by 4:25 I was on the road.

I was not the last person to leave Diamond.

The parking lot was a little hinky, but once I was on the streets of Cockeysville, things were fine. I stopped for gas (I didn’t want a repeat of the night where 83 was closed due to a mudslide), and was on 83. And 83, at least past exit 33 was smooth sailing. (To give you some idea, at this point I was about sixteen miles from the office, so almost halfway home.)

And then 83 became a crawl.

My initial thinking was that while 83 was clear in Maryland, it might not be in Pennsylvania, so the traffic back-up was due to that.

It wasn’t. There was a tow truck in the left lane a few miles ahead, pulling a vehicle out of the median, which closed the highway down to a single lane.

Once I got past that, 83 was smooth sailing again…

…and then I hit the Mason-Dixon line.

By now, I was an hour and fifteen minutes into my trip home.

83 between the state line and Shrewsbury was garbage. It was slick and covered in black ice (there were a couple of times I felt the back end of the Beetle move in a different direction than the front end).

The overhead sign at the state line also said that 83 was closed at Leader Heights Road, which is where I get off the expressway to go home. While I could take any of exits 4, 8, or 10, as each have ways of getting to Dallastown, some easier than others, I wasn’t sure what the road conditions would be.

And as I went past exit 4 for Shrewsbury, a voice in the back of my head said, “That was your best chance.” But traffic was moving past exit 4…

…until it wasn’t. Then it became a slog to exit 8.

I decided I was going to take exit 8. The way home from exit 8 is hilly, through sparsely populated farm county.

And when I got to the bottom of the exit ramp at exit 8, having to snake my way around a Greyhound bus that was hung up there with its flashers on, I saw the road conditions. “This was a really bad idea,” I thought.

So, I got back on 83, heading south toward Shrewsbury. I would take the road from Shrewsbury to Stewartstown, then take 24 from Stewartstown up to Red Lion. These roads, I thought, would be heavier traveled that the road from exit 8 to Dallastown, so they should be in better condition.

83 south from Glen Rock (exit 8) to Shrewsbury (exit 4) was a barely cleared one lane road. But the exit ramp to Shrewsbury was good, and 851 from Shrewsbury to Stewartstown was good.

24 from Stewartstown to Red Lion was not good.

In some places it was clear. In some places, there were clear tire tracks. In some places, it was packed snow.

I don’t care that the speed limit signs on 24 said 55. Road conditions didn’t justify 55. It was rainy, there was packed ice and snow on the roads, it was dark, visibility was poor. Hell, even in good weather, road conditions on 24 don’t justify 55. I kept it slow, about 35 to 40, sometimes dropping down to 20-25. The guy riding on my bumper — and when I say “riding on my bumper,” there were times I couldn’t see his headlights in my rearview mirror — didn’t like that I was keeping it slow.

And then there was the cop.

About two miles south of Red Lion there was a traffic backup. I saw flashing lights in my mirror and pulled off to the side. The cop went around. People ahead of me starting doing K-turns in the snowy road and turning around. I truly had no idea where I was, so that wasn’t an option for me. My bumper riding “friend,” however, whipped around and drove off.

The issue was an 18-wheeler had become hung up on a hill, so the police were waving people around.

And when I finally reached Red Lion, there was another 18-wheeler hung up, this time in an intersection. Police were directing traffic there, too.

In between, though, I skidded out and, to my everlasting shock, I was able to steer through it. My back end went in one direction, and something I did corrected it and everything was fine.

I won’t say the trip became “smooth” at this point, because it didn’t — the roads were still garbage — but it became easier. I took 74 in Red Lion toward Dallastown, and then the choice for me was how I wanted to approach home. I took Park to Broad and then across, and Pleasant Street was, surprisingly, well plowed. I was worried about the hills, as there are some steep ones, but it turns out I didn’t need to worry.

Getting into the apartment complex was a right bitch, though. I had to cross the snow berm made by the snow plows, and the parking lot wasn’t plowed. I got hung up the first time — there’s a slight incline to the entrance — so I backed up and gave it a second try, which was successful. I just needed some more momentum.

I could hear the snow and ice scraping on the bottom of the Beetle as I drove through the parking lot. It was 7:30 when I put the Beetle in park.

Three hours, and I was home safe and sound.

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