by Maria Ruiz
Maria often shares stories with us about Santa Barbara history, her travel all over the world, her dogs, and life.
“Where are we?” Ted asked.
“I don’t know.” I answered. We were driving through the large Greek city of Petras, and the road signs were big and legible. However, they were written using Greek letters mixed with English letters. I was completely lost. Finally, he spotted a sign pointing our way out of the city.
We were on our way to visit the wonders of Greece, and the myths that still abound in the minds of Hollywood movie makers.We arrived on January 2, and the tourist season was definitely over, but we found the country to be friendly, warm, and a joy to visit. We stuck to the main highways of Greece and soon found ourselves in the southern part of the country. We were driving our rented Toyota RV, a brand new beauty from a dealer in Madrid. We had stayed in many nice little places along the trip and now headed west, into what turned out to be, a hair-rising adventure. We planned to visit Kalamata where they grow the delicious olives.
The highway was four lanes wide, and we traveled along with ease. It turned into a two lane highway, and it was a Sunday morning, so traffic in either direction was light. I noticed there was a light snow on the ground, and we were approaching the foothills. As we drove, the snow became thicker on either side of the road. It was sunny, and there was nothing to warn us of any danger ahead. We were making good time and almost didn’t notice that the snow on either side of the road was getting deeper. When the snow seemed to be about two feet deep, we noticed that someone had cleaned off the road leaving only one car lane wide to drive on.
We drove and I noticed the snow top was rubbing about door height on my side and the clear part of the road was still only one lane wide. I noticed Ted was holding the steering wheel very tightly. We couldn’t turn around or move off in either direction if we should see another vehicle coming from the opposite direction. We were tightly packed in with the snow banks rubbing the sides of the RV and only one way to go. Backing up would have been quite a chore since neither of us had really marked where the one way had started. It was further exacerbated by the fact that, quite often, on one side or the other, the road skirted steep drops to the valleys below, and we couldn’t see the edges. We kept going, as though we had any choice, praying that, since it was a Sunday morning, there wouldn’t be any traffic coming from the opposite direction.
After about an hour, we could see we were approaching a small town. Maybe there, we could get some information about the condition of the road ahead. Our RV didn’t have snow tires, and I had never driven in conditions like this. Ted, coming from Wisconsin, had, but I could tell he wasn’t happy about it. We kept going and by now the road was going up at a rather steep incline. As we entered the tiny town, we could see many men standing on both sides of the cleared path.
I spotted what looked like ice on the road ahead of us and men shouting and urging us on. Ted had a determined look on his face, and I was holding my breath. There we were, going uphill and wedged in snow about five feet deep. Ahead of us was a patch of ice and a turn to the right in the road. We couldn’t see if there was any traffic coming, and Ted took a deep breath. He pushed down on the accelerator, and we started to climb the hill when we hit the ice. The RV started to slip back down, the men all started to yell at us and wave us on. Ted pushed the pedal harder and the RV shuddered, then lurched forward. Somehow we managed to get the front wheels on dry pavement and then, the back wheels. The men were all shouting and putting up their thumbs which I took for “well done.”
We moved on slowly and soon began to descend. Both of us were now breathing. As the snow level lowered we began to talk about how a modern country with a national highway system could clear half a road and had no warnings to drivers before they were literally captured in a snow bank.
Another adventure among many in this country where civilization sprouted.