Friday, January 30, 2009

Ditches, West DSM Police & Strip Clubs Part 2

So Mom gave me Dad’s AAA information and I dialed it into my cell phone while sitting in the car listing at a 45 degree angle looking into an icy ditch.

Kris is watching the oncoming traffic with a peeled eye. We definitely needed out of this position and quick!

“Due to a high call volume, your call may take 20-30 minutes to be answered.”

What?? Then the tow needs to be dispatched (if there’s any available). We’ll be stuck here for at least another hour!!

I didn’t think I could keep Kris in the car for a whole hour. I had to keep talking him out of getting out and standing on the shoulder. His instinct was to get out of the car. His instinct was wrong!

My instinct was telling me, “If you’re going to get hit by a car, let’s have another car around us for protection. Stay put girl!”

It was going to be a long hour!

About five minutes into that hour, while listing to the AAA hold music, a white pick up exited and drove past us and tried to stop. It slid. But it slid safely behind us and did stop right on the shoulder. There were three young kids in it and they deftly jumped out and trotted up the slope toward us. Kris got out to let them know we were ok and his feet immediately slipped out from under him and he fell straight on his a**. Poor guy!

The kids were very kind. Kris told them, “We’re not from around here, we’re not used to this!” One of them kindly responded. “We’re not used to this either!” Liar! This is a typical winter in Iowa. There will be snow there will be sub-zero temperatures, there will be ice. Still, it was kind of them to make him feel more comfortable.

Over the next several minutes we held our breath as a couple cars exited onto the ramp. Each time I prayed and Kris gripped the steering wheel.

Then out of the blue we see a police car. Yes! Some nice driver called our sorry butts in. He flipped on his lights and turned the car onto the exit ramp….and slid….right toward us.

“Dear Lord let him stop. Lord thank you for the police. Please don’t let him hit us.’

Kris gripped the steering wheel.

The cop car stopped less than ten feet from us with its back wheel in the mud. Phew!

Kris got out of the car (he didn’t fall this time) and I stayed on hold with AAA.

I’m watching and I see Kris talking to the cop and he reaches for his wallet and I see him reaching for his money??? What the hey? Don’t tell me this cop is picking on the California boy and is asking for moolah. Then it struck me, Kris may be following the protocol when dealing with Ventura (CA) cops. Boy is he going to be embarrassed when he realizes you don’t have to pay off Iowa law men. (Most the time.)

I see him put his wallet away with the cash still in it. And he continues talking. Soon he comes back to the car and recaps the story for me,

“Man, he’s really nice. I told him you were calling AAA and he said, ‘Oh they won’t answer. I’ll get you a tow truck.’

Then he asked how much money I had on me. As I was counting the money in my wallet he said, “Oh, not for me! For the tow. You’ll need $60 - $80”

He said he’ll let us know when he finds a truck that can pull us out.”

We waited a few minutes until the cop drove his car down the shoulder so he could talk to us through our windows.

“Ok, I have a tow on its way. It should be here in about 20 minutes. I’m going back up to the top of the exit and give you guys some protection.”

“Thank you so much.” We both said.

“No problem,” he said, “But remember, if I start sliding toward you….duck!” Then he grinned a big grin.

His humor was much appreciated.

Less than 20 minutes later we see a big red tow truck exit the ramp …..and slid. This time he slid almost all the way to the end of the ramp. Hitting his brakes did nothing.

Kris got out and walked down to the truck to talk to him. When he returned to the car Kris told me, “He said it’s too slick to pull us out. We’re going to have to wait until tomorrow.”

“What??!!” Besides having my mom’s car out in this frozen ditch over night I didn’t want to call my parents and have them get out in this terrible cold and weather to come get us and drive us back again tomorrow.

I started thinking of alternatives. I had decided that instead of having my parents come out, we would see if the tow or the cop could give us a ride to the nearest hotel where we would hole up for the night. We’d take a taxi back to the car in the morning again and get the car out.

I wasn’t thrilled at that prospect. But it was better than making Mom and Dad save our butts. Though I knew it would be a hell of a fight with my parents to convince them not to come get us.

Just as I resolved myself to this plan, Kris got out of the car to follow the tow truck driver who was now on his way to the cop car to tell the cop he couldn’t pull us out.

After just a couple minutes Kris returned to the car grinning.

“What’s up?”

“That cop is cool.”

Tha’s how I think of him to this day “Cool Cop”.

“What happened?”

“Well, the guy tells him he can’t pull us out because it’s too slick and he can’t get traction anywhere. So Cool Cop tells him: ‘Why don’t you just put your truck up on the freeway. I’ll get behind you and block traffic and you can pull them straight up the ditch.’

So I thanked him for that when the driver left and he says, ‘Hey, you guys aren’t from around here. I don’t want you to have to leave your car overnight. We’ll get you out.’”

Cool Cop.

I kept expecting at some point either Cool Cop or Tow Truck Guy was going to ask us to get out the car. But they never did. TTG hooked up the cable to the chassis and I was starting to worry that they were going to tow the car with us in it! The tow truck was 15 feet above us on the freeway, pointed in the opposite direction than we were. When that cable pulled taut it surely would tip the car over and I didn’t want to be in it when it did! Geesch! How long had this guy been towing? You’d think he’d know better than that!

TTG came to Kris’ side of the car.

“Ok, just point the wheels straight up the slope. Watch me for signals.”

Oh my God. They were going to pull us out with us in the car. I started praying and Kris gripped the steering wheel.

The initial jolted of the cable going taut and the car’s first pained lurch from the grip of the mud was the worst of it. Once the car straightened out, it when straight up the slope, out of the ditch and onto the shoulder of the freeway. We were free!

We were to follow the TTG to the next exit, exit and then pull over to pay him. It was one of those circle exits that doubles back on itself. Much tighter than the last one we did. I saw Kris tense when he saw it. Luckily, Cool Cop was following behind us. You know, just in case we did it again.

We made it safely and Cool Cop passed us on his way to his next adventure. Kris and I waved heartily as he drove by. After paying the TTG we got back on the road.

Cool Cop had told Kris how to get back to where we were going. Kris recapped the conversation for me:

Cool Cop “Ok, you’ll want to get on Grand Ave and head west. Keep going. You’ll see a bunch of strip clubs on your right. (Then he paused for a second) But you don’t want to go there. [Big grin]. Pass the strip clubs and the next exit will get you to the mall.”

We got to the mall safely. But we skipped the strip clubs.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Ditches, Strip Clubs and West Des Moines Police Part 1

So Kris was really getting a good taste of life during an Iowa winter. He had experienced sub-freezing temperatures, wind-chill, snow and ice storms. He had even had a few opportunities to drive on questionable road conditions.

But the day after Christmas, we decided that even though an ice storm had come through the night before we’d drive all the way into West Des Moines to do a return. We couldn’t take the return back to California with us since we didn’t have the same store out here. So we thought we better do it before we have to fly back. Besides, Iowa is prepared for this type of weather. The salt trucks have surely hit the main roads by now.

So off we went in Mom’s car.

We planned to stop on our way out of town at a little pizza pub for lunch. When we got there we were greeted by an employee saying the ice store took out their oven. They were waiting for the gas company to arrive. So unless we wanted only a liquid lunch, we’d have to come back later. As we left the pub Kris asked “What’s all this stuff that looks like broken glass all over the parking lot?” It did look like shattered glass was everywhere. Not just on the parking lot but on the walkways too.

“Oh, that’s the de-icing salt. Hopefully, they’ve gotten out to all the roads we need to take today.”

And they did. But we missed our exit.

The exit to the mall was not named what I expected it to be named. So I didn’t recognize it until we passed it.

“Oh well, let’s just take the next exit.”

I noticed the next exit was not a well used one. So it had not been de-iced. Also, it was one of those exits that instead of being a straight away; it curved sharply in on itself. And, it was on a decent decline. Even though Kris was driving pretty slowly for freeway traffic, I knew he was going too fast for this icy off ramp. I almost warned him to slow down, but I realized it wouldn’t help and I didn’t want to risk causing him to slam on the brakes.

The moment the tires hit the off ramp we started sliding. The back end of the car swung out to the right. Kris turned the wheel into the fishtail (without over correcting, just like a pro!) and the car started to right itself, then swing slowly to the left. Kris worked the steering wheel managing the fish tailing so that the car gracefully swung in a slow arc safely….into the ditch.

The ditch was steep enough that I feared us tipping over and rolling down to the bottom. However, the tires dug into the wet ground and we stayed put. Until Kris started trying to drive us out. He tried to go forward, the tires spun. He tried to go backwards. More spinning. And with each attempt, the car rocked and shuttered.

I said, “Ok Kris, I think it’s time to call a tow.”

I dug in my purse for my AAA card only to discover it’s expired! Well, I hope Dad has AAA.

As I dialed mom and dad’s house, Kris was keeping an eye on the cars on the highway. They were flying by at least going 55 miles and hour and since we were now pointing in the wrong direction, they looked like they were going to fly right into us. However, Kris was actually worried about someone trying to exit and sliding, just like we did, right into us.

While he was thinking of the best thing to do if a car exited the highway, I was trying to think of the best way to open the conversation when Mom answered the phone without making her panic. I thought of the standard, “Everyone’s ok.” No. that’s a dead give away something happened. “The cars fine.” No. Still that says something happened.

“Hello?” Mom answered on the second ring.

“Hi Mom. Say, does Dad have AAA?”

“Why what happened?”