That Time My Surprise Christmas Road Trip Revealed a Major Life Change

A snowstorm and cancelled flights led to an unexpected journey with a twist.

Road Trip Buick
Kristin Shaw

On December 21, 2008, I was scheduled to fly back to Texas from a visit to my parents’ house in Indiana. My new husband’s birthday was two days away and we had plans to go to a San Antonio Spurs game I was looking forward to seeing. The night before, a massive snowstorm swept in, and I received the email no traveler wants to hear: your flight has been canceled. The airline offered to get me home on December 24, and that wasn’t acceptable.

As it turned out, my parents’ flight to Florida was also canceled. After a few calls and a fair amount of travel wrangling, we decided to jump in the car and drive down to Atlanta instead, where I could catch a plane to Texas and my parents would continue driving on down to the Gulf Coast. I didn’t know it yet, but my life was about to take a sharp turn for the better. 

Kristin Shaw

I hadn’t taken a road trip with my parents for many years, and we made easy conversation during the 12-hour drive. That is, after we got past the nail-biting frozen route along the northern half of Indiana; once we hit Indianapolis, the roads began to clear and the trees started looking more like nature and less like crystal sculptures made of ice.

The miles melted by as the three of us flew down the highway in Mom's Buick LaCrosse. Mom and Dad took turns driving and I read books and looked out the windows at the scenery. I would have helped with the drive, but something was off with my insides. It felt as though I had just disembarked from a Tilt-a-Whirl at the carnival and the curves made my stomach lurch a bit. Luckily, most of the drive was a straight shot down Indiana Highway 31 to Interstate 74, which merged into Interstate 75 all the way down to the Peach State.

Kristin Shaw

In Atlanta, we stayed overnight and I caught the first flight to Austin early on December 22, with plenty of time to get to the Spurs game. Later that week, I discovered why I was feeling wonky on the drive: a tiny hitchhiker had started growing inside me and was making his presence known in various ways before I even knew he was there. 

My first (and only) child had taken his first road trip with me when he was the size of a jellybean. 

Kristin Shaw

My son is now 12, and he’s the best road tripper I know; last week we embarked upon a two-day road trip from Texas to Florida for Christmas (in a new Grand Wagoneer, which is possibly the best road trip vehicle on the market right now). His head is buried in either a book, his notebook, or his iPad most of the time, but sometimes we’ll make a game out of finding license plates or playing "I Spy" from the front seats. He’s comfortable on the road, and he finds the rhythm of the long yellow stripe and low rumble of the highway as soothing as I do.

Merry Christmas, everyone, and happy holidays. May the road you choose in 2022 be a good one. 

Got a road trip story to tell? We'd love to read it in the comments below, or you can send a message to the writer at kristin.shaw@thedrive.com.