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Backstory: Worst Driving Conditions


Published December 28, 2022 at 10:00 a.m.

From left: Erin Bennett, Aaron Michael Hodge and Katie Cawley - COURTESY OF LINDA TREASH
  • Courtesy Of Linda Treash
  • From left: Erin Bennett, Aaron Michael Hodge and Katie Cawley

This "backstory" is a part of a collection of articles that describes some of the obstacles that Seven Days reporters faced while pursuing Vermont news, events and people in 2022.

Reviewing plays isn't exactly hard duty, but it does require getting to a Vermont theater, come rain, shine or ice storm. My beat includes playhouses 100 miles away, around two and a half hours of driving — each way. Can't be late, can't be lost, can't go tomorrow and still make deadline. Sometimes I go alone, but my husband/driver/plus-one, Clarke, is the secret to my reviewing career.

On April 1, all of Vermont's weather extremes collided. Mud season was well under way, and whatever the clouds held would come down as freezing rain or snow thanks to temperatures at the tipping point. As we left for the Grange Theater in South Pomfret, it was raining hard — the fierce, vengeful kind that drenches your windshield and turns every passing truck into a moving geyser.

Still, it wasn't freezing — yet — when we reached the dirt road portion of the journey. Spring 2022 will be remembered as a mythic mud season, and Stage Road had that hubcap-swallowing look about it. Soon our car was waddling in muck, but we lunged and shivered and ground through. Even arrived a little early.

After the show, we emerged to a world of pure white. This was no snow shower but a heavy display of Big Winter. We took a different set of back roads home, a route I've used when driving solo. I gave directions from memory without consulting my phone in order to watch the sheets of snow and the progress of Clarke's white-knuckle driving.

When I finally looked for our blue dot on my map app, we were grotesquely far afield, victims of my poor navigation. It was midnight when we doubled back to Interstate 89, and the snow was whooshing like interstellar special effects. The pavement was occasionally broomed clear by wind, but it was mostly a swirling white sea dotted only by the safety blinkers of cars wedged off the road, frozen in fear. Cautionary tales.

The snowy gusts, shifting like desert sands, were gorgeous, and Clarke remained in good humor. We inched our way homeward uncertainly, but we made it. I didn't let the ordeal affect my review of BarnArts' A Streetcar Named Desire. I felt only relief, but, to be honest, I prefer opening nights in summertime.