Sunday, February 14, 2010

Road trip, end of day 4

After my coffee with C.F. in Des Moines, I came out of the cafe to brilliant sunshine. The snow had stopped. But before I'd left, I'd looked on the internet at the radar for the area, and saw a storm coming down from the northeast. It would cross my path as I headed north.

I got on the freeway anyway and took I-35 north across northern Iowa. At first it was easy going; then the wind picked up and began blowing snow across the road. As I was in the leeward lanes -- the southbound lanes were more exposed to the wind -- I wasn't too worried. But toward sunset, after I'd been driving about an hour, I began to see cars that had run off the road. I had seen the same thing in the morning, and in fact asked C.F. about it, and she said that the cars with florescent green streamers on the aerial were those which had been checked by the highway patrol and their occupants rescued if necessary. Those cars were waiting for tow trucks and might have been there for a few days, she said.

At first I saw cars like those, with the green streamers, but then I started to see cars which actually had people in them. then I saw two cars off the road with one overturned. And then I realized there was a stretch of about half a mile, on a broad, sweeping curve, where about 10 cars had gone off the southbound lanes into the hundred meter-wide snowy median. WTF! When I looked back over my shoulder at the mini-diaster -- there were already emergency vehicles arriving -- I saw that the setting sun was right in the eyes of these people in the southbound lanes as they rounded the curve. (Here is the only picture of a crashed car I was able to take.)

Fuck, I thought. How come all these people -- presumably locals -- had gone off the road and I was still on it? Was the sun in their eyes really that bad? I started to get a little paranoid -- was there some danger lurking around the next bend that would claim a dozen cars from my lanes?

The wind was clearly getting worse. It was getting dark. A man on the radio said it was ten degrees. C.F. emailed me and said to get gas now because it was going to get really cold and I didn't want to be outside the car. I drove another half hour, exited at Clear Lake, and got a motel room, another Super 8. Drifts of snow two feet tall were piled up on either side of the driveway. It is like the freaking South Pole here, and I'm not even in Minnesota.

At this exit is the first Denny's I've seen since Nevada. One of the illusions shattered for me during this trip is the ubiquity of Denny's. Also Starbucks -- until today at midday I hadn't seen one since Salt Lake City. I hadn't had a decent meal since breakfast, so I headed for the Denny's. I personally had no traffic disasters; in fact, my rental car, a Ford Focus, is handling like a champ. (The approximately 20 cars I saw today that had gone off the road were of all types and sizes, so clearly having a "heavy" car does not necessarily mean you won't spin out.)

1 comment:

katia said...

wow, sweetie. i'm glad you're okay. how dramatic. be safe!