last chance“This is your last chance. Don’t miss out!” Now doubt you’ve run across the “last chance” words warning you not to miss some fantastic savings or opportunity that you can’t possibly live without.

Well, recently I encountered a different kind of last chance, one I have literally lived to tell you about now.  

In early January, I drove to Nebraska for a belated family Christmas visit/business trip. I enjoyed smooth sailing on my way to the Lincoln area, zipping along fairly dry interstates with only mild pockets of snow dotting the farmland between Colorado and Huskerland.

I started checking the return trip weather days before I even left home. During my time with family, I rechecked the weather forecast daily, wondering what the winter weather would do “out West.” All my weather sources said it would possibly snow in the evening of my return drive. Whew! I was in the clear. Or was I?

What Doughnut Hole?

Driving west on I-80 was uneventful until my college roommate called me and informed me that her brother just east of Colorado Springs was in the middle of intense snow whiteout conditions. Hmmm…I called my neighbor in the Springs to see what she was hearing about the snow. She looked online and said the Springs was in a “doughnut hole” and was not expected to get snow. The snow would come later in the day, west of us.

Uh-huh. Sure. By the time I reached the Nebraska-Colorado border a few tiny flakes were wafting around. An hour later, I was in light blowing snow on an increasingly slushy Interstate 76, about three hours from home. A thick fog was encroaching and looked ominous toward Denver. I consulted my neighbor again, and with her guidance, we decided it would be best for me to head south on Highway 71 and skip the questionable Denver storm ahead.

I pulled off Interstate 76 at Brush, Colorado, and filled my gas tank at the only gas station I could see. The snow was now in full fury. A sign at the Highway 71 intersection, advised no gas or services were available for the next 75 miles. I breathed a sigh of relief that I filled up my tank.

A Numbing Blur

The next two hours are sort of a numbing blur to me. About 15 minutes south of Brush, I met my first vehicle also braving the road conditions. The semi-truck whomped my windshield with heavy snow-slop (my new word). Instantly, I couldn’t see a thing until my tired windshield wipers struggled to clear the mess. Man, that was dangerous! I cautioned myself as I slowed to regain my view of the road.

For more than an hour, I didn’t see another vehicle on this narrow, two-lane highway. This proved almost lifesaving for me, as I soon hit fierce blowing snow so intense I could not even see the front of my vehicle. I feared careening into an oncoming semi. I couldn’t see the road at all! Once I caught a glimpse of the 50-foot drop-off to my right on the hills. I veered off onto the grassy shoulder three or four times. Where was the center line?

Soldiers talk about foxhole survival. This isolated stretch of rural highway was my blizzard foxhole. Several times I borrowed famed singer Carrie Underwood’s lyrics and cried aloud, “Jesus, take the wheel!!!!!!!” I was dead serious as I faced being dead if He didn’t intervene. (I haven’t heard that song in years, but the four-word title sure makes a succinct prayer.)

Past the Middle of Nowhere

You know what’s ironic? I was headed toward Last Chance, Colorado. Yep. Last Chance is an unincorporated village in the middle of nowhere. Truly. Its population is roughly 23 and there’s only two houses in town. The rest of folks from this almost-forgotten blip on the map reportedly live on the nearby ranches.

I remember when Last Chance had a gas station, bar and store. You could always stop and get gas and use the facilities on your drive between Interstate 76 and Highway 24 on your way to/from Colorado Springs. Not anymore. You can still find a fire station, tiny park and the brick Howard United Methodist Church . . . and plenty of abandoned buildings.

The other distinguishing feature of Last Chance is the four-way flashing stoplight intersecting Highway 71 and Highway 36. But you know what? On my horrific snow-swirling afternoon drive in northeastern Colorado, I never saw any stoplight. I never even saw the Last Chance highway sign or the town’s sparse buildings. I saw nothing but white snow slamming my car for an hour—and gratefully no other traffic. I drove right past the middle of nowhere.

My “Jesus, take the wheel” pleas delivered me straight into Limon, along Interstate 70 and Highway 24. Civilization. Less snow and wind. My two collie girls and I survived that snowmageddon! It took us another hour and half to make it home, but I have never been so grateful to be alive and still kicking.

Last Chance Lessons for Us All

So what profound revelations did I acquire through my near-death, Last Chance experience? Here are three:

  • Just Keep Going.
    When the going gets tough, when the road ahead is too difficult to see, just keep inching ahead. I later realized that if I had stopped on Highway 71 or tried to pull over to the ultra-thin shoulder, another car might have crashed into me. Sometimes, when you can’t see your way forward, the best option is to solider on until you can reach safer ground.
  • Prayer Is Your Lifeline.
    Trapped in that blinding snow, I didn’t hesitate to call out to my Deliverer. We have an ongoing dialogue that started back in my youth. How’s your lifeline to your Creator these days? He’s listening 24/7 and cares about EVERYTHING you face. Blizzards. Bombshell news. Bummer relationships. Bankruptcy. EVERYTHING.
  • Last Chances Can Lead to Better Choices.
    Today you may feel this is your last chance to get things right in your life. Your last chance to make amends. Your last chance to see real change. Chances are, your current crossroad is really an intersection for fresh freedom and new adventures ahead. You can choose a better way to reach your destination. I’m doing the same. Learning from my desperate drive toward Last Chance, I will never drive that lonely stretch near the middle of nowhere in wintertime again. Oh, the joy of recalibrating in life.

Thank you for staying with me in my latest last-chance adventure. If you need tips on wintertime driving or how to utter succinct prayers, I’m your girl. But first I need to go online and listen to Carrie’s “Jesus, Take the Wheel.”