May 24th, 2009



Yesterday, I had to go to the far side of Des Moines, on a high volume traffic day, for my glasses appointment. I stopped at Indianola to see if J. wanted to go along, but he had other plans.

"How are you doing time-wise?" he asked, groggy from lack of sleep.

"I allowed an extra hour for the unexpected. I should get there about forty-five minutes ahead of my appointment, baring accidents." I had never said that, nor even thought it, before venturing out onto the Des Moines freeway traffic, even though I've lived in Iowa and driven on the I-35/I 80 part of the interstate as far back to 1967 as I can remember (when I graduated from Westmar, over northeast in Lemars, about 30 minutes NE of Sioux City.)

I left and got on the four lane right outside of the city limits, where the speed soon kicked up to 65, which translated to a traffic flow of almost 70. I stayed on the right and drove the limit, set on cruise. When we got west of Des Moines, sometimes there would be four lanes per side, allowing for the turn lanes and the blend-in at speed lanes. I stuck in the center, where there was less lane-hopping.

I used to drive a horse trailer, and try even in a quick-braking car to leave that stopping distance ahead of me. Cars/vans/pickups would zip into the empty space and stack up, so I was constantly backing off to keep the gap. We rounded the turn back east, and the Merle Hay road was just two and a half miles away when all lanes filled evenly and fully. I began to work over to the right. I had one more lane to cross when I noticed a flurry of tail lights ahead. I backed off, insisting on that gap. Traffic across all lanes slowed. A Semi left the far left "fast" lane and worked into the next lane.

My brain translated "wreck on the left ahead". The trucker's height let him see what we were blind to. A mile crept by at 55, which seemed incredibly slow after breezing along near 70. Soon, we were going 40, lots of tail lights and fast braking in all lanes. The people behind me were easing down sanely, gradually, without brakes, instead of passing and filling in, as had been happening. 30... 20... a gap showed up on the extreme right, so I pulled into it and closed up to the car ahead. I could see the exit I needed less than 1/2 mile ahead. The accident was going to be BEORE that exit. I could feel it in my bones.

The right shoulder was open, but empty. I crept forward. Soon, a tow truck loomed on the far left, then a patrol car, a smashed vehicle with the front end looking as if it went head first with someone. The car was slanted across the lane at an angle, pointing into the oncoming traffic obliquely, as if it had come from the west bound lane and crossed. But instead of an easily-hopable median, at this point, the two four lane halves of the interstate boasted a substantial window-height cement barricade, all intact as far as the eye could see. Evidently, the driver had lost control and spun into it from our side, carooming on around as though on ice, even though the paving was totally dry.

Several figures worked over the front end of the car. Beyond them, a second wrecker ended the vehicle chain. I decided they were trying to unmash the front end enough to attach the car securely to the wrecker for towing. It sure wasn't going to be drivable.

Gawk over, the earliest beginnings of the right turn lane was at hand. Forewarned is forearmed. With extreme relief, I crept over and sped up to the munificent speed of 25 mph to exit as posted.

When I exited, with glasses, several hours later, I turned east and circled the rest of the city. I enter south east, so it is pretty much the same distance either way around.
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    Iowa "happy bird" native noise for a Sunday morning.
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"Oh, You've GOT to Post It!"

I tell mom, who is approximately 1500 miles away, each time I plan to be gone for a while. Old habits seem to die hard. She's way too far off to do anything. It is just a way to stay connected, maybe?

When I went up to West Des Moines last Thursday, I didn't have to be anywhere before 10 a.m., when the computer store opened, but Spelunker decided I needed to get up at 5 a.m. I tried to go back to sleep, but it was a no-go. I was thoroughly, maddeningly, awake. Eventually, I left, leaving plenty of "find it" or "construction detour" time. I pulled into the parking lot at 9:48, greeted the bird feed seller next door to the computer store when he went by at ten 'til, and was reading patiently when James arrived.

He ran computer tests, unsuccessfully, until an hour past his closing time, then I stopped in at the write-in at Scooter's to see how to post the finalized version of my story on line. It got dark while I was there, as the meeting didn't break up until slightly after 9.

All the light sources were turned into sparklers. Street lights, headlights, lit signs, all twinkled and glittered. This must be like what living in a decorated Christmas tree would be like. I had a pretty good headache by the time I got to Indianola. I took two extra strength Tylanol, then went "shopping" at Hy Vee while it took hold. The meat department (I went there for the fresh fish) was closed. I still managed to come up with $44 worth of stuff. I was now an hour and a half from home, at nearly 11 o'clock. I debated stopping in at J.'s to see if the couch was available, but really just wanted to get home. I had frozen goods in the cooler, which would hold pretty well at 50°, I thought.

I left town, but by the time I took the exit from Hwy. 34 to Hwy. 14 at Chariton, my eyeballs were feeling quite gritty. Only 30 miles to go, but I'd better sleep a bit.

Right at the corner is the entrance to a cemetery I'd used as a rest area before. This time, I didn't pull very far in, however, for some reason. I got some warm clothing out of the trunk, using the crocheted neck scarf and elastic waste sweat pants as a pillow, and draping the light weight coat over my short sleeved shirt, I closed my eyes and zzzz'd.

Suddenly, a knock on my window jerked me awake. Shades of the two cop, hand on gun approach when I was eating KFC in the Centerville park out of season, having come in an unmarked entrance with no idea it closed for the winter, much less that this late in the year, it was still closed, I had a very nervous police man on my hands.

I had to fumble around to find the keys to start the engine so I could lower the window. As soon as I unlocked the door, he opened it.

"Have you been drinking?"

"No. I don't drink." I have a chocolate malt cup three bottled waters, and a formerly ice-filled cup, now melted, with me in front. Heavy "drinker"... I held up the malt container, and see him eyeballing the spring water bottles. "I got tired, so I pulled over."

"Where are you going?"

"Promise City."

"May I see a license?"

I dig it out for him. He disappears for a bit, then returns. "There's a lighted gas station just down the road where you'll be safe."

"Actually, a woman alone sleeping in a well-lit spot in sight of all is NOT as safe as one out of sight." Has he traveled enough to realize that? Does he know about looking vulnerable? Appearing weak to preditors? Why risk getting into tense situations when they can be avoided? I don't keep a gun in my glove box like my girlfriend JL does. I can't wave it under an overly protective guard's nose like she did at the base of Old Smoky to aid our argument to be allowed to sleep quitely and ALONE at the top.

"I won't stay much longer. I just need to be okay to drive."

How can a policeman argue with that?

"Is there someone at home to call for help?"

"No, I'm alone."

He knows it is only a 30 minute trip, so he finally says, "Okay, I'll let you get back to sleep."

I know I will be checked out repeatedly until I vacate. I sleep restlessly for a bit more, then drive home. By 3 a.m., I have all the frozen stuff either in the house fridge or stashed in the freezer in the old house and am safely in bed. I did NOT tell him I'd ever been there to sleep for a few hours before. If I ever do it again, I'll go down into the back section even though I can't block the lights as readily back there, as the trees are smaller. It's a beautiful cemetery. I've pulled in there and eaten at times, too.

I like tree-covered spaces. They are relaxing, calm, serene, compared to buildings, bright lights, and bustling crowds. Gas stations are full of unpleasant fumes, semi noises, and car stereo systems that share their listening taste(LESSNESS) with the known universe. Sleep there? He's GOT to be kidding.