Wednesday, December 26, 2012
I'll Quit Making That Joke Now
I left my brother cleaning up the shop after we put the new top on the Jeep, got gas (a fill -up for $35.00! Be still my heart!) and headed to my mom's. Mom lives out in the country on gravel roads. Her location got part of that blizzard that hit the 19th-21st through the Midwest. I had my worries about the gravel roads.
The highways to Iowa were, for the most part clear. There were sections where drifting had occurred and the road was wet or slushy or had hard packed snow on it. I followed a semi hauling grain for a long time because I figured out when he slowed down, there was stuff on the road. He could see better than I could and 55-60 was a good speed to average on Highway 30 between Clinton and Cedar Rapids.
I headed north. There is a cross-country route to get from Cedar Rapids to mom's but I would stick with the roads I knew. I turned left to go to Center Point and started up the hill. The back side of the hill was slushy and had spots of packed snow. I slowed down and applied the brakes. At the bottom of the hill is a railroad track. The east side of the track was clear. The west side was ice with two trails where wheels go. It was packed snow.
I hit the snow and the back wheels went right and then left and then right again as I tried to steer out of the skid. Always turn your wheel with the skid, so I need to turn to the left. I could hear the calm voice in my head. But actually doing that in the franticness of a skid isn't always possible. I went right into the ditch and then the car turned. Whump. Stopped.
The engine was still running. The lights and my holiday music were still working. I probably won't be able to listen to Nat King Cole sing "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" again without remembering being in the ditch.
Breathe. I'm okay, just startled. I put the car in 4 wheel drive and tried to rock it back and forth. Nope. I was stuck. I tried to call my mother but her line was busy. That's when the panic started to creep up. Was my phone not working out here? I tried 3 times before calling my brother. "Yeah?" Okay. He answered. It's not the phone.
Dan organized his daughter and her husband and my mom. Mom came and got me and took me to the farm so I could be warm. Once the crew arrived, we headed back to the Jeep. At this point, I realized I had put the Jeep into the ditch completely perpendicular to the highway. It was completely square, at a perfect 90 degree angle. I couldn't have done that had I tried. I also noticed that it was a completely clear Iowa December night. There was snow all around and not a cloud in the sky. There wasn't a breeze either. You could see the black velvet of the sky and millions of twinkling stars. If I hadn't put the Jeep into the ditch, I would have marveled at this. I remember hundreds of nights like that where I'd stand in the driveway with my dad, my feet and fingers getting numb with cold while dad would look up and pick out constellations. I saw Orion but that was all I looked for.
Dan had to shovel some snow away from the Jeep. Then he hooked a tow strap to the back frame and Blake hooked a strap to the Suburban he and Christina have. On the count of 3, Blake pulled and Dan gunned the Jeep. There was some wobbling but it popped out of the ditch. I was so happy I started to cry. Dan said, with all the stress of putting it in the ditch, he'd drive me to mom's. This was the first time, since buying the Jeep in 2002, where I have ridden in the passenger seat.
The caution tape? Well, between the time mom came and got me to the time we got back, the county sheriff had been down the road and had tagged the car. There had been a green sticker on the back window. I should have pulled that off because we lost it somewhere between the ditch and mom's. Why save it? Well, I wanted to see if the guys at the office would notice. Usually the sticker has a time frame for when they want you to get the car out of the ditch. This did not. Blake joked that they looked at how it was in the ditch and thought, "Good luck getting that out."
The stress of this mini-adventure caused my RA to flare up. I guess that's to be expected. I felt so badly that people had to drop whatever they were doing on a Saturday night to come help me, even though everyone said it was okay. "Families do things for each other," my brother reminded me. This is true but I'm usually better about things like this. I did notice, as I sat in the car waiting for mom, that people coming from the east were moving over into the middle of the road. I probably should have done that, but I didn't realize it was as bad as it was.
And, there was a wobble in the car as we drove to mom's. Dan surmised that the snow had packed in around the wheels. Before I left to come back home, I chipped out what I could see. There was still a wobble when I hit 60 but when I stopped for gas, all the snow had melted and the wobble was gone.
So, I shall cease making the following joke. "If you don't like my driving, get out of the ditch." Give me a couple of months and this whole incident will be funny. Right now, I still get the shakes thinking about how I could have rolled my brand new top. It did keep me warm while I waited for mom.
Beverage: Darjeeling tea