Friday, April 19, 2024

Getting around crashes

 YOU WOULD THINK being a courier for a big hospital would mean having a sense of direction and not getting lost. You would think.

For a short time when I was a Whig guy we did a series of stories about really small towns in Illinois and Missouri. We visited some fascinating places and learned a lot about the history of our area. I have a vague memory of me and the late Whig photographer Mike Kipley taking a wrong turn near Spalding, Mo., and being very, very afraid. 

Getting turned around and lost is hereditary. My mother, Virginia Hart, was very good at getting lost. All the time. We'd dread trips in the massive station wagon when she drove. One time when we lived in Montreal we nearly ended up in Toronto coming home from somewhere.

Times change. You say, "Just use your map app on your phone." The only apps I really know about are the ones you get before dinner - they aren't very big and usually are very expensive. But they get you ready.

Yesterday I was running late in the afternoon and drove through a pouring rain across the bridge in Quincy. I had stuff for our Palmyra clinic and had to pick up Blessing Health Hannibal labs. It was about 3:45 and I was a few miles north of Doyle Manufacturing on U.S. 61 when I noticed a sign that said, "Incident Ahead."

The only thing that makes my stomach drop as much is a roller coaster. Sure enough, just past Doyle, where the road dips down and then goes back up, there was a line of traffic. Stopped. As in, not moving. In both lanes.

I was in a bind. I had no idea where the crash was, how long we'd be stuck, or how to take a shortcut. I really couldn't turn around on a divided highway.

Just ahead was a dirt road going off to the right. A few cars were taking the road. Maybe they knew something. So I made an executive decision, knowing full well my penchant for getting lost - I turned off the highway, onto a dirt road called Marion County Road 320.

The vehicles in front of me kept going, but there was a road going south called 361. It started as gravel and turned into pavement (sort of). The terrain was rolling and quite lovely, with a few farmhouses here and there. I could see the highway to my left with vehicles still not moving. A couple of miles later, the road came out past the UPS facility and back to U.S. 61, about 100 yards short of the crash site.

Workers were removing pieces of a huge semi that had crashed and was blocking the right lane. The road had just opened back up and traffic was starting to move, and I eased my way onto the highway in front of a lumbering truck. Boom. I was through. And I probably saved myself at least 45 minutes to an hour, because on the way back the truck was still there and workers were trying to free up the right lane.

It looked horrific and I hope everybody involved was OK. I only saw the semi and don't know if anybody else was involved.

Who knew that just shy of turning 60, my sense of direction is getting better? Or maybe I was just lucky. 

Next month I'm visiting Emily in Rochester, N.Y. I'm flying and renting a car. Dear Lord, please help me to not get lost and end up in Toronto.

Maybe I'll order one of those appetizer things for my phone.


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