Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Observations From A Trip Up The Road

Baby and I took another road trip last week. It was just a quickie ... up one morning early and back the next afternoon. So ... of course ... I had to make some observations and what fun would observations be, unless they are shared?

Now ... this trip, I must admit, was a true test of how much Baby and I have bonded. It was a true test of how well I've learned to handle her and how well she is able to protect me. You see, this trip was taken during a flooding thunderstorm of blinding rain, ear-shattering thunder and sky-splitting lightning. Traveling down the 75 mph turnpike at a scary 35 mph, it was definitely a test of Baby's tire traction and my nerves for it was note exactly optimum traveling weather.

My plan was to begin the trip at 4 am, however the meteorologist on my television was telling me about the possible twisters in the area and the hail using my house as a drum was the size of a hen egg.

I decided it would be best to wait.

Instead, my trip began at 6 am. It probably should have waited another hour, but I was already late and antsy to get to my destination. My first clue should have been the fact that getting out of my neighborhood included going through "puddles" that completely covered the street from side to side and were actually deep enough to hide part of the curb on each side. Once out on the main streets, the going was a bit easier as long as I managed to stay on the inside lanes and away from the sides. With windshield wipers going non-stop and rain beating a staccato beat on the sunroof, I made it to the turnpike entrance.

Did I mention that the toll booth doesn't have a covering? Yes ... it's always fun to roll down a window to face the elements of wind and rain in order to throw .50 cents to the toll booth basket and pray that one of the quarters isn't blown away. I almost opted to let caution go to the wind and run it, but knew that, as sure as I did, the toll booth cameras would snap Baby's picture and list her on the "Most Wanted" board. (Although, she would look pretty up there, next to that picture of the sleek black '67 Impala ...)

After a knuckle whitening hour of pushing against the northwest wind that was slamming my Baby with it's force, hurtling rain from all sides at us, the storm finally seemed to slow down. I wasn't sure if I had gotten ahead of it or if it had passed on by. All I knew is that the sky began to lighten from black and charcoal gray to a lighter, more dull metallic gray and the wind and the rain began to taper back to a manageable gust and patter. Picking up speed, I was finally able to begin to feel more like a car and driver, instead of a fish in a row boat.

Of course, then I began to check out my surroundings ... noting the water swollen fields, the overflowing ponds and creeks, and the man who was trying to get a load of wet hay unloaded from the back of a truck in order to feed the cows that were lining up at the trough, despite the lightning in the background and the miserable cold rain that continued to pelt out of the sky.

Observation number 1:
Farmers deserve much more thanks than they are given ... more dedicated than a postman because despite the elements ... wind, rain, hail, snow, ice, heat ... the animals must be fed.

Continuing down the turnpike, feeling calmer and more relaxed, releasing the clench that I'm sure Baby had to be feeling on her steering wheel, I turned up the music on my radio and listened to the sounds of Steve Carlson, CCR, BTO, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and others as they played from my Baby's speakers. The wind had died further to occasional gusts and the rain wandered between drops and drizzle. The most difficult part now was working to stay away from the 18-wheelers as they kicked up the water, throwing a fine, and very blinding, mist up onto my windshields.

Now ... in my old car, the windshield wipers were controlled by my left hand, as they were attached to the part that operated my blinkers. Baby's windshield wipers are a bit more complex, with varying levels of delay and they are located on the right side of the steering wheel. While I've used them before, this trip gave me ample opportunity of practice in adjusting the settings that would set the wipers beating from right to left and back again regularly, swiftly or delayed, or, if I so chose, manually.

Observation number 2:
It's a fascinating way to pass the time when one finds themselves attempting to match the rhythm of the windshield wipers to the rhythm of the music coming from the speakers. Best song to work with? Dude! Asia's ... "Heat of the Moment" makes for hysterical laughter and can only be done with the manual wipers.

Observation number 3:
By this point, I might be a bit slap happy with dealing with little sleep, worry for my mom's upcoming surgery, trying to get to the hospital before they took her and driving through torrential storms and floods.

In case you hadn't figured that out yet.

With the rain finally having abated two hours after beginning the journey, my stomach told me that it required more than just the large thermos mug of tea (RoT's Earl Greyer ... really really good!), plus I needed to simply stretch for just a moment. So, I pulled off at a truck stop that I have frequented before and knew to be clean and prepared to go inside for a moment.

Observation number 4:
It's when you're pulled over and ready to get out of the car that you find you haven't completely gotten out of the path of the storm.

I literally opened the door, got out, closed the door and took a step towards the entrance of the little shop when the heavens opened up and sent forth the gale force winds and the blinding rain, shattering my hearing and sight with the subsequent thunder and lightning.

Yep ... me and Murphy's Law ... we're just THAT tight.

Making a quick stop, grabbing a bottle of water, a bag of chex mix, a bag of dark chocolate M&M's and saying a prayer that the "looked like fresh" danish really was fresh, I took the bag - after giving the clerk a raised eyebrow and glancing at the rain outside when she asked me "Paper or plastic" ... seriously ... and dashed to Baby's door, pulling it open and jumping inside as fast as possible to avoid minimum wetness both on me and in her.

Fixing up my little nest of goodies, starting her engine and heading Baby back onto the highway, I took a bite of my danish. It wasn't bad ... not completely fresh, but not bad. I thought to myself that I should have let it be zapped a moment in the microwave and of course, then, in the back of my mind, I'm hearing Dean from Supernatural's episode, "Simon Said", saying just once he'd like to eat something that didn't need to be microwaved at a mini mart.

Did I mention that I might be a bit slap happy?

Did I mention that it wasn't 10 minutes after leaving the truck stop that the rain once again slowed to a light, occasional mist?

Yeah ... not kidding ... me and Murphy ... we're that tight.

Heading on up the turnpike, breakfast, such as it was, is completed. The M&Ms are stowed in my bag for later snacking and the chex mix is open and occasionally being munched. I'm getting closer to my destination and, I'll be honest, I'm beginning to get a bit more anxious to get there. Still, conditions that they are, I keep Baby set on a cruise control of the speed limit. No need in Murphy letting the highway patrolmen have fun with me.

To occupy my mind, since it's way to early to be calling my friends and passing the time with my cell phone, I begin to let my gaze wander around the countryside. Now ... I know that they've been there ... I've traveled this road dozens of times over the last 18 years ... but it was on this trip that it simply amazed me as I realized the number of adult video shops that are located along the highway. I'm serious. Big signs advertising "XXX Videos" and "Adults Only" flashing neon in the pale gray light of morning. There aren't any other businesses. The towns are located back and away from the turnpike. These places have been opened in the abandoned buildings left from previous occupants such as Stuckeys, Nickerson Farms, etc. Those family friendly places that I remember stopping at as we traveled from Texas to Iowa and Kansas City to Minneapolis to visit family and friends during my childhood. The bright red roof or the pale blue trimming has been replaced with black and white and the rooms that held the restaurants serving homestyle food and offering tourist trinkets of t-shirts, tumblers, bells, & spoons have been replaced with ... well, I don't know and I don't want to know what the inside looks like now.

Observation number 5:
How can things be changing for the better when those places where parents felt safe to let their children roam, searching out candy and treats while they stretched their legs, have been replaced for places that are dark and advertise and cater towards the baser, primal instincts of our species?

Plus ... what the heck! These places are 24 hour and I'm here to tell you that many of them had cars and trucks parked in their lots as I passed and it was barely 8:30 in the morning!

That's. Just. WRONG.

Moving onward, I approached my destination. The rain was beginning to pick up and I was needing to pay closer attention. Keeping a close eye, I made the right exit and Baby hurtled towards the hospital where my Mom & Dad were waiting. Startled when my cell phone rang, I heard a family friend's voice telling me that they were taking my mom to surgery and wanting to know how much longer I would be. Checking the signs, I knew that I still had atleast 10 minutes to get to the hospital and then it would be a matter of the time it took to find a parking spot and get inside to the surgical area. Luckily we've been through this before and I knew in my mind exactly where I needed to go and how to get there.

Pulling into a parking spot, I gave a quick and silent thanks ... for the traveling mercies, the safety from the elements, for having Baby handle the roads like a champ ... and I ran into the hospital, stopping briefly at the door to close my umbrella and drop it into one of the handy dandy umbrella shaped plastic bags that the hospital provided at their entrance.

Arriving to the surgical waiting room, I found my family's friends but noticed the absence of my father. Finding out that he had gone with my mom to the prep area, I dumped my stuff and went to the large information desk I passed as I entered the room. Using my best "I've been delayed by the storms and I'm her daughter and she truly needs to see me before she goes" voice, I pled my case to the volunteers stationed there. Locating my mom in the computer, they glanced at each other and then back at me and one nodded to the other who rose and told me to follow her, that she would take me to see my mom.

And I did.

Despite the elements, the lack of sleep, and the slap happiness, I had made it in time to give my mom the hug and encouragement that she needed from her eldest child and, as I posted earlier, make it to the doctor's smile on the other side of the hours of waiting.

Final observation:

When it's really important, we do the things we need to do. We face the finger clenching elements and feed the cows or travel the turnpike and we do it with a rhythm that matches the music of our lives, with a giggle and a grin. Dry or wet, we take the sustenance when and where we can and we hurtle on, mindful of the past that is rich in memories, passing by the evil that surrounds us as we make our way to the ones who need us and love us.

But then ... those are just my observations on this trip. We'll see what happens next time Baby and I decide to go somewhere.


raputathebuta said...

Using my best "I've been delayed by the storms and I'm her daughter and she truly needs to see me before she goes" voice, I pled my case to the volunteers stationed there. Channeling your inner-Sammy, eh Keeper!

I'm glad that you & Baby made the trip safely!

InkyOrchid said...

I'm glad to hear your mom is recovering and you and Baby had a safe journey.

Tigerpride09 said...

Ear-shattering, that's my word!

I felt I was in an adventure book!

I loooovvvveeee your stories, I love to read them and see them in my head.

See ya tomorrow(Sunday)


koosh said...

Worth the length, thanks! *squishie hugs*

Windshield wipers... A couple of years ago, driving southwards with a friend, I began whining about how my windshield wiper settings were either too fast, or too slow, and she casually and innocently suggested I "try turning that part" of the control device, and I was rendered utterly speechless meeting this real live intermediate setting.

Consider: Baby & I had spent about roughly a decade together at that point... Oops. The things you learn about a car! ;)