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Bad weather, awful traffic curb road trip

Sunday, November 7, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 4:40 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Last week, I went to Kansas City to have lunch with a friend I hadn’t seen in months. Somehow the telephone doesn’t have the same appeal as seeing someone face to face — and a little shopping never hurt either.

My husband wanted me to postpone my journey. He always worries if there is rain in the forecast. There were possible severe thunderstorms, but I was determined.

My first clue that maybe I should change my play date was when I merged onto Interstate 70. Within a mile I passed not one, not two, but three accidents! I said a prayer that no one was injured and continued on my way. The trip was fairly uneventful. It rained off and on until I reached the outskirts of KC — that’s when it began to pour. The rain came down in torrents. I was stuck in the middle of a six-lane highway. I couldn’t see more than five feet in front of me, and I was afraid to move out of the lane, so I kept going at a rate of 30 mph. Cars continued to buzz by me — some of them so close they shook the car. I started praying again, this time for me. When I finally got up the nerve to change lanes (I was going to stop on the shoulder and wait), the rain suddenly quit. I picked up speed. Just as I was rounding a sharp curve in the road, the downpour began again. I’m not the most skilled driver when it comes to curves, so you can imagine my terror when I was in the middle of an “s” and the rain diminished my view. I gritted my teeth and held the steering wheel in a vice grip. I didn’t dare hit the brakes. I imagined my car skidding off the highway and rolling over and over again. I took my foot off the accelerator and let the car slow down on its own. Once again, when I was literally crawling, the rain stopped. When I got out of my car, my legs were weak and I had a headache from squinting.

Although I was 20 minutes late, my friend was happy to see me. We shopped for an hour and then ate a light lunch — my stomach was rebelling from my morning adventure. We hugged and promised to see each other soon, and at 2 p.m., I got into my car to begin my drive home. Although the sky was still overcast, the storm had moved on.

The drive from KC to Boonville was uneventful. My compact disc player was not working and there was so much static on my radio I turned it off. I was getting anxious to get home and I figured I’d made pretty good time — I’d be at my garage door within 15 minutes.

Just after I crossed the bridge spanning the Missouri River, traffic began to slow. By the time I got to the next exit, it had stopped. I fiddled with the radio and finally got a station that was fairly clear. The announcer was reporting an accident one mile west of Columbia. That would be six miles from where I was stopped. Five minutes later, I hadn’t moved. I said a prayer that no one was hurt. I looked at my gas level, which was below one quarter, and added to the prayer. I read somewhere that it’s better to leave the car running than to turn it off and then restart. Besides, I thought we’d start moving any minute. I was wrong. I sat there for 22 minutes (I had nothing better to do than study my watch) and then the line began to crawl forward. I guided the car about 10 feet. Then the progression stopped again.

While I waited, I cleaned my purse and noticed that I didn’t have my credit card. I started frantically searching the car (keeping the wheel within my reach — I never knew when the line would move again and I didn’t want to get caught in the back seat). I couldn’t find it. I tried to remember where I could have left it. I sat there worrying and growing more impatient by the minute.

Finally, I was within 50 feet of an exit that could take me home. I watched several cars pass me on the shoulder. Then I gulped and tried it myself. I guided the car to the exit and raced down the country highway toward my home. Apparently, several drivers had the same idea. Just two miles from home, I was stopped in another line of traffic, this time for 15 minutes.

It took two hours and 45 minutes to drive the last six miles to my house. If my Kansas City friend wants to see me anytime soon, she’s going to have to come to Columbia. It will be awhile before I take another day trip.

If you have a comment or suggestions about what I should pack in case I’m stopped for hours on the highway, please e-mail me at jdh@socket.net


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