Saturday, January 29, 2011

Icy Roads and Mardi Gras

Last night we all retired early so that we could arise early and get on the road for the girls' swim meet in Minot.  Warmups started at 10:00 A.M. Central time, which is 9:00 for us.  It's usually a good three-hour drive to Minot, so leaving at 6:00 A.M. would have gotten us there under normal driving conditions.  However, after a few days of above-freezing temperatures, things turned very cold very quickly last night, and I knew we'd want extra time so that we could drive slowly as needed.  I figured a 5:00 A.M. departure would be good, so I got up at 4:00 to check the road report.  The state transportation department's Web site offered a travel map on which all the state's highways were marked with red: no travel advised.  Ugh!

The dad in me agreed with Susan, who promptly snuck into the daughters' bedrooms to shut off their alarm clocks and then went back to bed herself.  No sense in risking everybody's lives trying to make our way across the state on icy roads just to get to a swim meet.

But the native North Dakotan in me thought, "Ah, we could probably make it.  We could just start out and see how the roads are.  I'll bet things will clear off once the sun comes out and the sand trucks and snow plows get out onto the roads."  I mean, really: I'm from western North Dakota.  We don't check the weather to see whether we should travel; we check it to see what to be prepared for when we travel.  But we will travel, in any case.  We have places to go and things to do, and if we were to let winter weather stop us, we'd never get anything done.  We simply learn, while growing up, how to handle a vehicle on roads covered in black ice or how to use landmarks (e.g., highway mile markers on the shoulder of the road, hay bales in the ditches, fence posts in the pastures alongside the road) to navigate on a road in whiteout conditions when even the lines painted on the asphalt are not visible.  Bring it on!

So, I felt a bit like a failure for not taking on the roads to Minot today . . . but later we heard from several friends who had been on those roads and who said we'd definitely made the right choice.  We got a lot done at home today and were around this evening to attend the Mardi Gras celebration (see this and this) held at the Catholic high school just half a block north of us.  Instead of making a Scandinavian Saturday supper this week, we opted for the Mardi Gras meal of crudit√©s, deviled eggs (ironic for a Catholic school, no?), cole slaw, a rice dish, scalloped green beans, ham, fried chicken, homemade chicken noodle soup, buns, milk, coffee, and homemade bars for dessert.  The line to get into the cafeteria to eat was long and winding, but the delicious food was very much worth it . . . and we got to visit with a lot of people while we waited in line.

Afterward we went into the gym, which was set up with concessions stands and game booths, like the midway at a carnival. Susan bought a fistful of tickets so that the girls could play some games, and then we stepped into the slow-moving mass of people crowding the aisles that ran between booths.  It was so packed in there that there was absolutely NO getting past anyone . . . we just weaseled our way into the stream and floated along until we saw a game that someone wanted to play, at which point we jostled for the edge and pushed our way out.

We were instantly hot, uncomfortable, crabby, and regretful that we had bought so many game tickets . . . especially after seeing that most games required only one ticket to play, meaning we'd be there all night trying to use up all the dumb tickets!  And immediately we saw that the other parents there were in the same situation.  Everywhere we looked, we saw sweaty, red-eyed adults being tugged by eager little children, the parents looking around desperately for anyone without tickets so that they could offer to give away their own.  Typical exchange:

Parents A: Say, could you use the rest of our--

Parents B: No!  No!  For God's sake, no!  Jessica, run!  And don't make eye contact!

We saw tons of people there whom we knew, all of whom were willing to exchange pleasantries with us but all too ready to make a dash as soon as the conversation turned to the topic of giving away tickets.  We chatted a bit with our across-the-street neighbors, whose two young boys were yanking at their arms to get to the next game; and before we knew what was happening, Darren (the dad) had handed over several strips of tickets and disappeared into the crowd, leaving us with twice the number of tickets we had started out with and the sinking feeling that we would be stuck in that gym many hours longer than we had intended.

So we did the same thing to others.

Susan's cousin Todd, his wife Trista, and their kids were there tonight.  Todd and Trista politely declined our offer of game tickets and deftly dodged our efforts to stuff the tickets in their pockets.  So I handed a strip directly to their little boy Trae, and they were not willing to make him cry by ripping them out of his hand and shoving them back in my face (although they may have wanted to).  I unloaded a couple strips of tickets on a former student who was walking around but hadn't yet gotten around to buying her own; and I gave a couple more to a little boy from our church as he and his mom stood in line for the cakewalk.

Oh, and our girls utilized some of the tickets, too, to play games and win little trinkets and stuffed animals.  They kind of "got into" our own little game of Let's Find Booths that Require the Most Tickets Possible and Burn Through These Tickets as Quickly as We Can; and we split up to maximize the time, each of us using up tickets simultaneously at different games.  The girls did enjoy playing and brought home some cute little items, although they had perhaps more fun just seeing and visiting with so many friends from school.  I even won something myself: a chocolate bundt cake from the cakewalk booth!

We managed to get out of the carnival two hours after entering . . . which was about 3.5 hours after we had arrived for the meal.  Still, it was a much better way to spend our time than driving white-knuckled to and from a swim meet today . . . and now we've got a cake!


  1. I remember going to the Mardi Gras as a kid -- I don't remember my aunts rushing me through the booths. Maybe there were fewer people in attendance then, so more space to move around...or perhaps they possessed more patience then than I do now. :-)

  2. With the cold weather, it sounds as if alot of people had the same idea. Something to do without having to spend alot of money or be home with whining kids that are bored! ;-)