Expect the unexpected and you will never be surprised. The one thing that I have never experienced before and hope to never experience again happened today. Driving along Interstate 494 through the Minneapolis suburbs found me needing to change lanes and upon doing so hit a massive pothole that took out two of my tires on the passenger side, one of those tires was only a week old.
A small twinge of hope began to creep in until the dash indicator came on that I had a low tire. Damn. I moved all the way over to the shoulder and put on my four-ways. Conclusion: not going anywhere, anytime soon. A call to AAA and being on an Interstate made me a priority and within the hour a tow truck had arrived and began taking an assessment of the damage and getting the car ready to be towed to my dealership a few miles away.
Aria was with me the whole time and got to enjoy the ride in the tow truck and hung out in the waiting room at the dealership where from the moment we walked into the shop until our departure everyone had to stop what they were doing and come over to say hello. Three hours later I walked out of the dealership with new tires, a nice bill, and a delayed departure. It could have been a lot worse on so many levels, to sacrifice time and money for my safety was well worth it.
Finally, we were on our way, however, I wasn't deaf to the weather report that showed Southern Minnesota was going to get some snow that day, between 3-5 inches, and the heavy stuff was right through my route. Knowing what lied ahead I maintained a higher speed as long as I could but the further South I went, the clouds became darker and thicker and sleet began to hit the window. I was happy to have four new tires on because the road went from dry, wet, to slushy to snow covered in a matter of a couple of miles. Visibility was also dropping and the wind picked up. I knew the further West I went, the better the weather would be so I kept moving forward and the sign for I90 appeared ahead.
I took the ramp and, Oh My God!, it was riddled with potholes. There wasn't an inch of road for the next two to three miles that wasn't torn up or holed up. I could have cried and slowed down to avoid any repeated issues. A few exits later the Interstate finally smoothed out and cleared up enough to get back up to speed and the rest of the trip through Minnesota was snow showers, blowing snow and strong winds with roads that went from slushy, wet to dry.
After the stressful morning, this drive was hard to stay awake and focused on. Coming down from the excitement of the day, low visibility, which meant nothing to look at and an eight-hour drive ahead lead to a lot of yawning, stretching, seat adjusting and window opening to make it through. The miles clicked down slowly. I was never so happy to finally see windmills, dozens of them, that lined the road and the field, at least it was a momentary distraction that woke me up for a few more miles.
It felt like I had done a 6-hour drive, which was only 3.5, the "Welcome To South Dakota" sign appeared before me. Thank you! For a moment I thought the state had moved away from me. I pulled over at Sioux Falls, gassed up, revived up and walked Aria. She too was getting tired of the drive and ready to be out for good. Five more hours to go. The good news was, once I crossed over into South Dakota the speed limit increased to 80 MPH and the roads were dry. Blessed be! I set the cruise and away we went...for about two miles then I hit road construction which brought us down to 55 MPH and a four-lane road went down to two lanes.
The wind was a factor for the entire way to Rapid City, the car was being pushed to the side and at times it felt like I was being pushed back from the head on wind. Passing trucks was always a wake-up call as I came out from being next to their trailers a gust of wind passed us causing a sway and tighter grip on the wheel and just when I thought I was going to get bored again the town of Crow Creek lingered ahead.
It was a beautiful area to drive into and coming from the East it offered a panoramic view of the rolling hills that, today, were sprinkled with patches of snow that looked like cotton. The massive lake that laid below with a beautiful railroad bridge off to the left and a local car bridge on the right.
The sun was setting in the distance and thanks to the wind I had to fuel up one more time and the usual stopping spot was closed. I finally pulled into a small, deserted town that had a gas station that closed before 7p on the weekdays. There was a tall, thin older gentleman that was walking the property, I pulled into the gas station and hoped these were 24-hour pumps and inserted my card. The gentleman walked to the end of the store looked around, turned and walked back in the direction he came. He didn't acknowledge me once, nor did he even look up in my direction. I looked away for a moment and when I looked back he was gone.
A gust of wind blew past me and there was no sound of a car being started or driving away. Nor were there sounds of footsteps along the dirt parking lot. He was simply there one moment and gone the next. It was something that made me perk up and felt I should be getting on my way sooner rather than later.
I remained outside while the gas slowly pumped and looked around if this area were in the South I would have expected to see a tumbleweed roll across the road. Old equipment and run down buildings were all that I saw. The sound of the Interstate in the distance and the wind were the only noises that could be heard. The town was completely deserted.
The pump continued to click away and I kept looking around, a glance at the car showed Aria was up on the seat as well. She was watching me, watch all that was not going on around us. I was not frightened or nervous, just curious about this area. It finally clicked off and I was back in my car, getting ready for the last hour and half of the drive. By the way, the parking lot was also full of big, deep, water-filled potholes. Damn.
I90 was under construction in this area so I took one of their detours which was a smooth side road and change of scenery for a few miles. The GPS freaked out and told me to "turn around when possible". I would not.
I knew I was heading West, the direction I needed to be going, and knew that I was running parallel with the Interstate. Just calm down GPS; it did not. Only when I saw the Interstate next to me did it finally give up, recalculated and guided me back to it. Where there was a large truck stop I could have gone to instead of the deserted one a couple of miles back.
Back on the Interstate, I drove towards the remaining sunset which had a pink glow near the horizon and up towards the sky it changed to a light blue, with a hint of purple, a little red in the back and a darker blue made up the clouds that were blocking out the sun. Beautiful, calm and peaceful.
A short time later I was in complete darkness, the sun had gone down and cars were far and few. Once again the miles ticked down slowly and the feeling of exhaustion started to kick in but before it could take control a huge line of twinkling lights began to shine through the darkness and line the horizon ahead. Hello Rapid City. The stomach was growling, the head was hurting and I hadn't eaten since 6a this morning and we were now nearing 10p. My body was locking up from the lack of food and soda wasn't making the hunger go away.
Just before the hotel, I pulled into a fast food place, grabbed supper and headed over to the hotel but before the night and day were over. Wham! One last pothole as I pulled into the parking lot. Enough already! Aria and I headed in, got checked in and she was greeted by guests who, once again, said how lovely and beautiful she was and Aria took it all in with the, "I know" look she was so good at giving. A night walk, supper, and relaxation ended our first long day on the road heading West.
Driving across country can bring about some interesting situations. Broken down on a day by day basis enjoy my adventures and set backs along the way to some beautiful destinations.