When one thinks about setting a new record, the thing that likely comes to mind is how fast one can get from Point A to Point B, not how long it takes to cover a set distance. But on Dec. 16, without a shadow of a doubt, I set a new personal standard for the amount of time it took to drive from Hannibal to St. Louis.

When one thinks about setting a new record, the thing that likely comes to mind is how fast one can get from Point A to Point B, not how long it takes to cover a set distance. But on Dec. 16, without a shadow of a doubt, I set a new personal standard for the amount of time it took to drive from Hannibal to St. Louis.

I won’t crow that my eight-hour excursion was the longest amount of time ever needed to go from Twainland to Archville. There was a time when the trip required days. Of course that would have meant making the trip by wagon (not a station wagon) while staring at the rumps of a team of mules every inch of the way.

I’ve made the trip when a majority of U.S. 61 between Hannibal and Wentzville was two lanes, instead of four, and it never took that long. I’ve driven the route in blinding snow and torrential rain, and it never took that long. I’ve made the trip with a back seat full youngsters who seemingly had bladders the size of peanuts, and it never took that long.

So what turned a typical two-hour trip into a marathon? Ice. Lots of it.

With the family of my wife, Nancy, slated to gather for its annual gift exchange on Dec. 17, I, like countless other travelers at this time of year, started paying attention to the weather forecast days in advance. And while precipitation was being predicted, its form and time of arrival kept changing.

With an increasing chance of freezing rain and/or snow forecast as Saturday progressed, I decided to head out early Saturday morning and then layover until Sunday when the sun was expected to shine. However, when the forecast took one final twist, which increased the chance of freezing rain earlier on Saturday, I convinced myself that heading in Friday afternoon would give us the best chance to beat the storm.

After waking up to falling snow Friday morning, and then listening to reports of weather-related accidents on the newsroom scanner, I was wary when my bride and I headed south around 2:30 p.m. But much to my relief, MoDOT had U.S. 61 in great shape so we made good time initially.

We were just past the U.S. 54 and 61 junction when I noted my car didn’t “feel” quite right as I passed another vehicle. It didn’t shimmy, but it didn’t feel normal either.

At about this time I noticed the northbound traffic on U.S. 61 was crawling along as if they knew something I didn’t. Then my co-pilot and I started noting a handful of cars off the road. I then watched in my rear-view mirror as a car partially in the median was slid into by another vehicle. It was then that the marathon officially began.

As we crept southward I kept telling myself that at any time we were going to encounter the ice-melting warmer temperatures that had been forecast, but the temperature never budged above 30.

While there were brief spells when we were stopped on the highway for accidents, most of the time we were moving, albeit slowly. That’s more than my son, Caleb, could claim. He sat for three hours on I-55 somewhere in Illinois.

As afternoon transitioned into night, hunger pangs never set in thanks to Nancy who had the foresight to pack a PBJ sandwich and some homemade cookies.

Traffic finally began to thin out after we crossed the Missouri River near Chesterfield and I found myself daring to run at unheard speeds of 25 mph.

As we turned from I-64 onto I-270, we found motorists running at near normal highway speeds. But after hours of “tiptoeing” along, seeing numerous accidents and listening to dire highway condition reports on the radio, I couldn’t bring myself to join the crowd.

As we pulled into my in-laws driveway at 10:30 p.m. Nancy and I heaved a sigh of relief, thankful our eight-hour marathon was over. And while it’s said records are made to be broken, that’s one I hope to never break.

The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the Courier-Post.