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.