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Eagle Summit

The third and final installation of the Alaska Administrator Coaching Project training is this weekend. The first two of these were incredibly rich experiences, and this weekend promised to be no less important. My plan was to leave after school on Wednesday, drive to Fairbanks, catch an Alaska Airlines flight to Anchorage, and be in my hotel room by midnight.

During the day yesterday, several people came by the school to tell me how bad the road was and that I should reconsider my travel plans. I checked the Alaska State Highway Department’s road conditions website. Other than being forewarned, I don’t know why I even check it. If my plans are to go, then I’m gonna roll the dice and see if I can get through. The highway department called for a condition red with sustained winds of 50 miles per hour with snow, blowing snow, and snow drifts blocking the road. In short, blizzard conditions.

I left Circle at two o’clock, thinking that this would give me plenty of time to get up to the summits before the road crews knocked off for the day. As I drove into Central and out the other side, the winds continued to increase. Snow blew across the road in those ghostly vapors that are usually seen only on the tops of the summit.

As I approached the gates that mark the approach to Eagle Summit, I first noticed the plow truck parked in the middle of the road and then noticed that the gates – like those in front of a railroad crossing – were closed. It was just after three in the afternoon, and it was the first time I have ever seen the gates closed. The plow truck driver climbed down from the cab of his truck and walked up to my window. “I just closed them. It’s bad up there,” he hollered over the increasing volume of the wind.

I figured I was being protected by my own reckless enthusiasm, and since there was really nothing I could do about it, I might was well embrace it. I turned around and headed back to Circle, making a mental list of everything I could accomplish that evening before striking out again the next morning. As a friend of mine always says, “If I gotta do it, I wanna do it.”

Since I was no longer in any hurry, I stopped in at the school in Central to talk to the teacher there. We stood around for a few minutes, and I told him I’d be back through the next morning. As I pulled out of the school parking lot, prepared to turn right and back to Circle, a large plow truck was heading left and back toward the summit. I turned to follow him back to the gates that hung closed across the road.

At the gates, a battered green pickup truck waited. The driver of the plow truck climbed out of the cab of the truck once more and came to talk to me. Shouting now over the driving wind, he thumbed toward the battered truck, “He’s got a medical emergency, so we’re gonna get him through. Tuck in close behind and I’ll get you to the top. The blower is up there waiting for us. Have you got four wheel drive?, ‘cause your gonna need it.”

I followed closely, as ordered. As we got to the top of the first pass, the plow truck waived us around and we met the giant snowblower. We both followed the blower for about a mile across the summit. The wind rocked my truck back and forth and snow blasted against my windows like sand. As I focused on the taillights in front of me, we crept along together at three miles an hour. There were times when the wall of snow next to me rose to my window where the blower had carved out our path.

It was a white knuckle and sweaty palmed twenty minutes, but we made it safely across. I drove on the Fairbanks and got there just in time to catch my nine o’clock flight to Anchorage.

Posted on Thursday, January 24, 2008 at 11:04PM by Registered CommenterBrian Rozell | Comments4 Comments

Reader Comments (4)

Brian, as I was reading this it reminded me of the time we drove to Michigan for my dad's funeral. We were just heading up the highway towards Grand Rapids when it was snowing so hard we couldn't see. I had to put my head out the window to make sure we were still on the highway. While Ing' drove down the middle of the highway. Frieghtening but yet exciting!!
January 29, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMom
The Lord is watching out for you Dear. I'm so glad you had the snowplow to help you across the Pass. Much Love, Mom
January 29, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMom (Lizabeth)
Where's the photo? I'm glad I wasn't with you. I think that's an experience I can live without. I love you. I'm glad you are home safe and sound.
January 30, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterWife
Young people are so stubborn :-) and gotta do what you gotta do.... Kathy is right about that memory of driving in a snow blizzard. It was so blinding and the road marks were no longer visible, we have to just kinda stay in the middle of the snow depression hoping and praying that we were driving in the middle part of the road. Scarry and white knuckled like yours for sure. Funny I have forgotten that episode of our lives.
January 30, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDad

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