A D-icey Adventure
Our hard-earned holiday trip was worth it
December 1, 2005
Dad hit us with a big surprise. “What do you say to spending New Year’s at the cabin?” he asked.
Photo by Christy Heitger-Ewing
We were more than ready to ring in 1988 – cabin-style. We were psyched for a week of skiing, ice-skating and snowmobiling.
When departure day finally arrived, we all piled in the Chevy Blazer and hit the interstate. Hours into our 500-mile trip, I closed my eyes and imagined what the cabin would look like in winter: trees without leaves, limbs draped in snow. I bet the lake would look larger, too, in the absence of docks and boats. A smile creased my lips as I daydreamed about the week ahead.
Suddenly I was jolted back to reality when Mom slammed on the brakes. My eyes popped open only to find the highway directly ahead littered with smashed trucks, vans and police cruisers.
The Blazer began to fishtail. We had entered a two-lane skating rink and appeared headed for the same fate as the vehicles ahead. After spinning 180 degrees, we slid backward down the interstate for at least 1,000 feet before coming to an abrupt halt in the median. Our hearts raced as we realized how narrowly we had escaped crashing into surrounding vehicles.
Soon thereafter, an officer approached our car to ensure we were okay. He told us the road up ahead was just as icy for the next few miles, so he instructed us to shift into 4-wheel-drive and head down the median until we were clear of the mess.
Two hours later, just as the sun was setting, we turned onto the cabin’s gravel lane and were greeted by the familiar sound of crunching rocks beneath the tires, though slightly muffled from the snow on the ground.
Like a giddy teenager, Dad stuck the key in the door. But the lock wouldn’t turn. Eyebrows furrowed, Dad took the key out, studied it closely, then inserted it again. Jiggle, jiggle. Still no luck. The lock was frozen.
With no year-round neighbors nearby (and cell phones still years away), Mom and I drove to the local general store to use the pay phone while Dad and my brother Dan continued to fight the lock.
As luck would have it, this was a Sunday, so no locksmith would help us until morning. The cashier suggested we buy a can of Lock D-Icer. She said to just spray it on the frozen lock to thaw it.
Back at the cabin, as Dad prepared to use the D-Icer he announced, “Here goes nothing!” He was right. Two measly squirts of foamy air oozed from the defective nozzle before Dad hurled the can into a snow bank.
By now it was after 7 p.m., the store was closed, and the temp was dropping fast; we needed a Plan B.
Perhaps we could bunk in the car for the night. Mom opened the back of the Blazer to see how many blankets we had packed. But when she tried closing the window, it wouldn’t budge. So there we were with a frozen open car window and a frozen closed cabin door.
Teeth chattering, nose running, and fingers so blue they resembled berry popsicles, Dad did what any freezing, frustrated, frenzied father would: He grabbed a big rock and heaved it through the kitchen window.
“We’re in!” Dad proclaimed like Indiana Jones finding his way to the Holy Grail. And that’s pretty much how we all felt – like we’d survived a perilous adventure and had at last found serenity in the much sought-after and highly anticipated treasure (i.e., the cabin).
Though the first day offered a bit more adventure than we wanted, we created plenty of great memories that week. We made more snow angels than I can count, fell down on skates more times than I care to admit, and skied more miles than our knees appreciated. And to top off the warm, fuzzy holiday feeling, on New Year’s Eve we watched in delight as fresh powder blanketed the ground. Nineteen inches fell in total, enabling us to spend the remainder of our vacation frolicking in our own winter wonderland.
We kept the infamous rock Dad used to gain entry into the cabin. It sits on our property near the kitchen window. Some call it a great piece of cabin history. We call it the spare key.
When not skiing, skating or sliding across highways, freelancer Christy Heitger-Ewing jogs the trails around her family’s northern Michigan cabin.