And so we left Susan, turning around after heading to Canada.
I went on my merry way, heading in the correct direction down Highway 39 to I-88. I stopped in Rochelle for a break and decided to buy an adapter so I could listen to the music on my I-pod. I plugged it into the cigarette lighter. Didn’t work. I returned to the store and spoke with the person at the checkout. She sent me to the Trucker’s Store area where I spoke to a more media-saavy person. I exchanged the adapter I had and the lady helped me set it up. Once again, I was on my way (after hanging around the truck stop for about an hour!)
Things were good. I reached I-88. Maggie has an I-Pass in her vehicle, so I didn’t need to worry about the tolls. (Thank you, Maggie!) Crossing western Illinois went well. I thought of stopping to see Craig Lacy in Port Bryon but decided to continue on into Iowa. I stopped at the World’s Largest TruckStop just west of Davenport and took a short break. I felt I needed to walk around awhile to rid myself of the “sleepies.” The day was cloudy and gray. The snow on the ground blended in to the horizon, mesmerizing me as I drove. I blasted my I-pod tunes, singing along when I knew the words. Gotta stay awake. I had been driving for about 5 hours by then.
I called Dennis periodically. He doesn’t like me to drive and talk, so I called whenever I made a stop. I stopped in the Amanas and gassed up the vehicle. It started to snow. I told Dennis it was snowing. He related that it had snowed in Omaha earlier in the day but passed through. I figured the same would happen in Iowa. I left the Amanas with fresh coffee and some Amish bread for home.
As I drove towards Des Moines, the weather got worse. The wind was picking up. The snow was very heavy and visibility became less. I measured visibility by mile markers and found it was less than a mile. Semis and cars kept zooming by, but I discovered I had decreased my speed to 50 mph. Even that seemed too fast at times. As I neared Grinnell, I started planning my strategy. I would stop and give Dennis another call and let him know I was slowing down. I saw the sign to Grinnell. Just a couple more miles to go. Suddenly, a light on the dash lit up! What was it? Driving alone in a car I had never driven before is bad enough, but when a dash warning light turns on, it becomes more worrisome. I couldn’t figure out what it was. It was near the gas gauge and looked like an upside down omega sign with little arrows in it. Everything else looked OK. No strange sounds were heard, although that was hard to judge with the wind whipping around and the semis zooming by. What was this funny little symbol? It was kind of like a bowl with a rim. Who knew? I finally arrived at the Grinnell exit and drove into the Subway/gas station that was right off the interstate. I sat a moment and then the light next to the little upside down omega lit up that said “ABS.” I called Bill Fann and told him of my dilemma. “There are dash warning lights on. What are they?” The ABS light went off and Bill said that was good. He told me the other light had been a problem for them in the past, but it was benign. “Not to worry.” This was the first that Bill knew that Maggie was sick in Illinois and I was driving her Toyota. We were on the phone awhile as I explained what had transpired. After hanging up, I called Dennis and told him about the snow and the dashlight as well. He said he and Joe would meet me in Adair, Iowa, so I wouldn’t have to drive the last leg of the trip after a long, tiring day of driving. (Isn’t he a great guy?!) He was willing to meet me in Des Moines, but I told him I was only 50 miles away from Des Moines and it would take him 2 hours to get there. I thought Adair was a better plan.
I decided to go in to Subway and have a sandwich since it was 5:30 pm by then. It was getting dark. I sat where I could see the interstate. As I ate my sandwich, two state patrol cars with their lights on headed from town towards the interstate. I watched as they closed the on-ramps to the interstate! Oh, no! Now what?! The snow continued to fall hard and fast. The Subway kid told me it was suppose to snow all night, but they were only going to get 1-2.”
I finished my sandwich and went back to Maggie’s car. I noticed there were a few motels nearby. I had stayed in the Days Inn before and wasn’t too crazy about returning to that one. There was a Best Western that might be OK and a Comfort Inn further up the road. I guess I would see about checking into one of them. The patrol cars were gone now, so the interstate was open again. Maybe I could continue on.
Instead of getting out of the car and brushing the snow off, I opted to roll down the passenger window to clear the snow. Pushing the button, the window descended just fine, but…when I tried to get the window back up, it was stuck! Great! How what? I called Bill again and asked him if there was a trick to getting the window back up. We discussed our options and he told me it had happened before. They let it sit in the garage overnight and it went back up the next morning. OK. I am in a snowstorm. There is no garage for me to park it in. I decided to drive up the road toward Grinnell and see if there was an autobody shop that might be able to look at it.
Not far up the road, I found a promising place. There were three tow trucks out front. The store looked like a former Standard gas station from the 1960’s with the huge glass windows slanting inward and the wide flat roof. It was open. I pulled in between the tow trucks and sloshed through the snow to the front door. (I was glad I had decided to bring my snowboots along for the trip even though it looked good when we left Omaha.) It wasn’t an autobody place but the man was very nice. I asked if he had some plastic I could put across the window so the snow wouldn’t get in. He went into the back and came out with a large BLACK trash bag. “Great!” I thought. “It’s dark out now, it’s snowing and the window will be covered with a black bag.” As I looked around his store, I noticed some clear plastic mattress covers. I wondered why a tow truck service would have mattress covers for sale, but I figured this was a better option for me to use on the open window than a black trash bag. I asked the guy if I could buy one. They cost $2.98. I reached into my billfold. I had $3.00 left! Shouldn’t have bought that bread in the Amanas.
The tow truck guy helped me put the plastic in the car window, securing it with the car door (since I couldn’t buy any duct tape.) The snow kept blowing, but at least it wasn’t getting in the car now. He tried to pull the window up while I pushed the button and it budged some. He suggested I try the button now and then and see if it goes up at all. “Be sure you push it the right way, though,” he warned.
I turned around, left the tow truck guy and headed back up towards the interstate. I started driving toward the ramp, the plastic whipping around and making so much noise, I could hardly think. It was cold even though the snow wasn’t blowing in as much. The heater on full blast wasn’t warming the car up much. The dashlight was still on. I had had it! Do I really want to continue on? I drove into the Comfort Inn parking lot and called Dennis.
Dennis wasn’t at home now. He and Joe were on their way to meet me in Adair! I tried his cell, but I couldn’t get through. I went ahead and checked into the Comfort Inn.
I told the lady at the motel counter a short version of my dilemma and she checked me into a nice room, Room 113! I looked at the keycard and said, “You’re putting me in Room 113 after all the bad luck I’ve had!” She laughed and said, “Honey, your luck is going to change.”
I trudged back out in the snow to get my luggage and any valuables Maggie had in the car. With the window open, I knew it wasn’t safe to leave much out there. Fortunately, the motel had a cart so I could load up everything without making several trips in the snow. As I was loading up the cart, three white vans pulled into the parking lot and out stepped about 20 Amish guys, with their beards, black hats and plain clothes. I couldn’t believe it! What a sight! I felt like I was in some weird movie! It was surreal. I almost chuckled at the sight.
I spent the night in the motel room. It was very nice (and warm) with all the amenities. I called my boss and told her I wouldn’t be in until later in the morning. She told me her husband’s family lives in Grinnell. I figured she would know I wasn’t making it up then. Joe called my cell and I told him I had tried to call Dad. I let them know I had checked into the Comfort Inn. Fortunately, they hadn’t gone too far. They were in Iowa but had just gotten off I-29. They could drive back to Omaha (where it wasn’t snowing) in no time.
The next day I got up around 5:00 am, had the complimentary breakfast as the Amish guys started to gather in the lobby. I saw one Amish woman carrying a sewing machine out of her room. I was so curious about them, but they didn’t speak to anyone. I left the Comfort Inn and headed towards Des Moines. As I drove, I realized I had definitely made the right decision. Between Grinnell and Des Moines, I counted 11 cars in the ditch. A couple of the cars/vans/SUVs were badly damaged. None of these vehicles had been then when Maggie and I headed east a few days earlier, so I assumed they were all from the night before. Most of the eleven vehicles were between Grinnell and Newton, just a few miles’ distance.
As I drove, I was able to push the window button now and then, and eventually it was all the way closed. At last, I could be comfortable. The dashlight was no longer on. All was well with the world. I arrived home around noon, changed my clothes and went to work. I felt I had left a strange world and had returned to my routine life at last!
For my birthday, Joe gave me a St Christopher statue and said, “Put this in the car and be safe, Mom!” I didn’t realize how worried my son was about me that night.
Although I didn’t encounter a cyclops or Circe or the Sirens or a many-headed Scylla and whirlpool, I felt a little like Odysseus, trying to get home, facing obstacles along the way. It just took me an extra day, not ten years, but it felt plenty long!
P.S. I thought you’d get a kick out of the sign in the motel room. Note, “this sign” costs $25. I opted not to take anything!
ADDENDUM: Maggie and Bill stopped by the house Wednesday and picked up her vehicle. She had stayed in Rockford two extra days before feeling better. She took a bus to O’Hare airport and hopped on a plane to Omaha. Bill drove in from Lincoln and met her at Eppley.