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?”

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