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Monday, June 24, 2013

That Time I Almost Died on I-94

One of the most difficult and stressful things about my life right now is that I don’t have a car. I know, I know, it could be a lot worse than it is…but still, not having a car, especially in my current stage of life where I am also trying to find a job, is really frustrating.

my cute little car
Isn't this a cute car??
I used to have a car – an adorable, Imperial Blue Chevrolet Cruze named Chloe, who I absolutely adored. She was a lease, though, and at the end of my lease option, I was not in a position to be able to purchase it, so I had to return her to the dealership. My dad had an old Jeep he was going to give me once I moved to Minnesota though, so it seemed like I was still going to be just fine.

Before I moved to Minnesota, I spent a few weeks with my brother Caleb and his wife Jackie in Chicago, and I picked up the Jeep during that time. I used it to drive around in Chicago a little bit, and then planned to just pack it up with all my stuff and move on up to Minnesota with it. It still needed a little bit of work on it, though, so I left a few days early to stop by my dad’s place in Wisconsin and take it to his mechanic.

So that is the background on how I came to be driving along I94 in Wisconsin, on that fateful Friday in May.

Very shortly after I started my journey, I heard a new sound coming from the front of the car. I knew that there were some issues with the gear and the front axle, so I figured that was the problem. I resolved to not drive like my usual self a bat out of hell, so I set my cruise at the speed limit, and turned the music down so I could keep an ear on the noise.

About 20 miles east of Madison, the noise had gotten to the point where I was really concerned. I called my dad, and asked if he thought I should just pull over and wait until he could come and get me. We discussed the issue, and figured that if the gears on the front axle went out completely, I’d have plenty of time to pull over to the side of the road before the car stopped entirely, so I should just keep going, which is exactly what I did.

Literally five minutes later, I heard a huge bang, and my car started shaking like a leaf in a storm. I immediately got to the shoulder and made it off the road at the next exit, and called my dad again. He had been working on the other side of the state, and still needed to stop at home to pick up a friend’s trailer to come and get me, so I had about a four hour wait ahead of me. At that point, I was pulled over on a country highway in the middle of nowhere, five miles from the closest restaurant or gas station, and I really had to pee. I called Boyfriend to vent, and he stayed on the phone with me while I tried to turn the car around and gimp to the gas station. In the middle of my U-turn, I knew the car wouldn’t make it. I barely made it across the highway and out of the lane again before the car just stopped completely.
This is where I was stranded - right in the middle of nowhere. 
Obviously, I was a bit distraught at this point, since I still really needed to pee, had no place to do so, and was looking at a four hour wait by the side of the road, alone. Boyfriend was doing a great job of calming me down when a truck pulled up behind me. It had lights on the top, so I assumed maybe it was a tow truck or something.. the guy, a man I later learned was named Steve, got out, came up to my window, and very matter-of-factly told me that my front wheel was about to fall off.

missing lug nuts
My poor wheel, just struggling to stay attached
*Cue jaw drop*

Sure enough, when I got out and looked, not only was my wheel crooked, but I was missing three lug nuts, and two of the studs had snapped off completely. I’m assuming that was the bang I heard. The other two lug nuts, the only things holding my wheel to my car, were really loose. No wonder everything was a mess!

Steve graciously offered to give me a ride to a hardware store or to some garages in the nearby town to see if they would be able to fix it, thus saving my sweet father the trouble of coming to get me. I was a bit nervous to get in a car with him, but I called my dad again, and Steve talked to him and gave him his number, and his full name, and gave me a business card and everything, so I felt a little bit better. Just to be safe, I took a picture of his card and sent it to Boyfriend and Dad. A girl can never be too careful, you know.

snapped tire studs
Clearly, not quite the way this is supposed to look...
Anyway, long story slightly shorter, since it was 2pm on a Friday, there were no mechanics in the area who were going to be able to fix it that day, so Dad was back on duty. Steve dropped me off at a local café, where I spent the next three and a half hours praying that my Kindle battery would last, and begging the waitress to let me charge my phone somewhere. She finally did, thank goodness, so I wasn’t without a phone while my dad was trying to find me.

One other really fun part about this whole thing is that because of some weird electrical issues the Jeep has, the keyless entry doesn’t always work, nor can the doors be unlocked with a key. Usually I just left one door unlocked, but since I wasn’t about to leave all of my stuff in an unlocked vehicle on the side of the road, all the doors were locked. My incredible Boy Scout of a father had planned for such a contingency, however, after he had locked himself out of the car a bunch of times for the same reason, so he had a little wooden block and a hanger tied to the luggage rack on top. (I forgot to take pictures of that awesomeness, sorry.).

Of course nothing ever works right, so it took about 30 minutes for us to get the doors open so we could push the car up onto the trailer. Ahhh, never a dull moment in my life.. Finally we got everything strapped down and we were on our way, about six hours after the incident.
broken wheel
My dad is the best ever. 

I am so lucky that I was able to get off the road in time, and that my wheel didn’t fall off completely while I was going 65 mph on an interstate. I’m also quite lucky that Steve was there, and was so nice and willing to help me. And of course, this post wouldn’t be complete without a shout out to my amazing father for always rescuing me when I need it, to his friend Joe who supplied the truck and trailer we used to haul the Jeep home, and to Boyfriend, who was completely available to help me calm down, and also entertained me beautifully while I was waiting. 

Have you ever had a near-accident like this, or been in a similar situation? I want to hear about it!

1 comment:

  1. Indeed there is never a dull moment with you...


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