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I imagine for most folks going to see Christmas lights around town is a normal occurrence. Whether you visit a popular light display that’s been going on for years, a popular neighborhood that is all decked out, or maybe even the latest episodes of “Christmas Light Spectacular” have pointed you at a local destination for your light viewing. Our family is no different and we love a good light display. In North Carolina there are lots of options and we usually make a half-day trip out of it. There’s a very popular display outside of Winston-Salem, NC that we love to visit. This display is miles long through winding hills with a shop and store halfway through the show. Lots of folks visit and it’s a great trip for everyone.
It’s likely obvious that our family doesn’t do Christmas in a small way. Our trips to see Christmas lights has grown in the past few years, we’ve taken more folks as the family expanded and our friends have tagged along as well. One particular year we decided to go but had a group of over 10 people! There was no reasonable way to fit everyone into a single vehicle but that’s where the issue arose, half the fun is being able to all go together and chit chat on the way. After all, it’s a 2-hour drive one way from Raleigh to Winston-Salem, so there is lots of talking to be done! Challenge accepted, I thought...
I rented a 15-passenger van and decided we would load everyone up and visit the lights as a group. So, the day finally arrived, the van was picked up and we all headed to our designated rally point. We piled everyone into the van and set off to Winston-Salem. There was only one slight issue... as we pulled out of the driveway the first snowflake hit the windshield.
We knew there was a potential chance of snow and freezing rain tonight, but the storm accelerated throughout the day and got to Raleigh much faster than expected. We decided to carry on as North Carolina winter weather is notoriously hard to predict and as much as Greg Fischel wanted it to snow that day, we just weren’t sure it would.
Well, we were right, it didn’t really snow. For those familiar with North Carolina winters, we only really get a good snow every few years. What we DO get a lot of is ice. It comes down looking like rain, maybe sleet, but ends up as nice think sheets of ice. Don’t think it’s bad? Ha! Just Google “Raleigh Snowpocalypse” of February 12, 2014, and you’ll see what I mean. Luckily this trip wasn’t in February but nonetheless it quickly devolved from a light snow dusting into pure freezing rain.
Mom was in the passenger seat next to me and we both were determined to make it out to see the lights. Folks in the back were a bit uneasy but the van was doing great in the snow and the forecasters seemed certain that it would let up for a bit to allow us to get to the lights. We kept checking the light show organizers pages and the lights would in fact happen and open that night. We made it to just outside of Burlington, NC when we felt our first sway of the back wheels. Mom and I looked at each other and made that face of “humph, this might not happen after all” but continued determined to make it happen. Two more minutes and we could both see the road starting to glisten in the headlights and knew the trip was over. Black ice had started to form and if we didn’t turn back now, we’d likely get stuck or worse.
We pulled into a small gas station and told folks to use the bathroom and grab snacks. When they came back, we told them we’d have to head back due to the ice. They all laughed and said, “yea, it took you both long enough to figure that out...” Mom and I were a bit disappointed, but we turned the ship around and headed back. We decided to head to a restaurant and have dinner with the full crew instead. What started as a 2-hour drive to see lights ended up being a 3-hour drive to get dinner!
Things don’t always go as planned during the holidays but being with your family and friends is ultimately what makes the season so important. Getting Christmas lights with Mom was one of my favorite things to do and we continue the tradition to this day, we just own the 15-passenger van now instead of renting it every year!
What traditions and fun stories do you and your family have? We’d love for you to share them!
We’re glad to have you along for the ride with us,
Brenton and all of us at Beth’s Christmas