So there I was at a complete standstill like a sitting duck on I-45 northbound towards Dallas. Everyone on the Texas Gulf Coast had decided to get the hell out of dodge and avoid Hurricane Ike's rage. After three hours of stop and go traffic, I had decided to get out of dodge myself- that is, get off the interstate and get some food at a Whataburger. I pulled over, got on the off-ramp and looked for the Whataburger I saw advertised a few miles back. It was no where to be found so I turned around. When I got back to the highway, Texas state trooper had closed to interstate to any more hurricane evacuation traffic. But I wasn't evacuating- I was moving home. Hurricane Ike was a mere coincidence. Either way I would have lost my sanity sitting in that traffic- even with a full stomach. There was only one thing left to do:
Trek it cross country.
I whipped out my map and charted a course that would take me to Ft. Worth, TX where I would stay with a college friend for the night. After a series of state highways and farm roads, I made my way to Highway 6 just south of College Station where I witnessed wide open roads. The speed limit may have been only 55 mph, but I was making progress and putting miles between my and Houston (Hurricane Ike, too). Highway 6 would take me all the way to I-35 which would cruise into Ft. Worth like a warm, summer breeze. Driving through the heartland of America and Smalltown, USA is one of the most enjoyable experiences any traveler can have. People only hear about what happens in the big cities, but everyone dies famous in a small town.
I finally made it to I-35 and I was making good time. After about an hour I was in the Dallas-Ft. Worth metro area, when I felt the trailer I was pulling tug and pull more than normal. I quickly glanced in my rear view mirror and my trailer was flying left to right, back and forth. I thought I hit a pot hole and it would stop. But it keep moving uncontrollably. My adrenaline kicked in. I thought for sure this would end badly for me and the cars around me. I hit my emergency flashers and made my way to the inside should of the road. Sparks flew everywhere. I thought the trailer and everything in it would be totaled. When I examined the scene I discovered the bolt which holds the ball onto the hitch had come loose and ultimately fell off. Nothing held the trailer onto the hitch. One small part was completely crucial and vital to the whole operation. Go figure. I called U-Haul's roadside assistance- one hour for a mechanic plus $200+ for the service. Thankfully I was close enough to my friend's place.
That's when you find out who your friends are.
I sat there in my truck with my face buried in my hands. I lost my grandfather- my job- I had no money and over a thousand miles from home I was stranded on the highway with a banged up U-Haul trailer. I had hit an all time low. I lost all hope, but then my phone rang. It was my college friend asking me where I was because she was worried. I told her what happened and she asked if I was hurt or anything. She told her boyfriend what happened and he said he had a 2-inch ball hitch on his truck and that he drive out and help me. I can't say I know too many people who go help out a complete stranger on the highway.
When I finally arrived at my friend's apartment, she had a grilled cheese, popcorn and a beer waiting for me. She gave me a big hug just thrilled to know I was alive and well after everything that had happened that day. We talked, share stories and reflected on some fond memories of our college days at IU. I hadn't such a meaningful conversation like that in a long time. I felt that my friendship was needed and appreciated again. I was so overjoyed I could have broke down into tears right there in her living room if her boyfriend hadn't been right there.
I awoke the next morning to the ringing of my cell phone. I didn't recognize the number, but I answered anyway. One of my fraternity brothers called to see if was okay with all the hurricane stuff happening and if I had evacuating. Awkwardly, I told that yes I had evacuated Houston, but that it was a permanent evacuation because I lost my job. He was sympathetic to my job situation but took great comfort knowing I was out of harm's way. My friend heard my conversation and seeing I was awake before she had to leave for work, she insisted she buy me breakfast before I hit the road to Oklahoma City. I could have stayed in Ft. Worth for a week because it felt so great to be with such a great friend.
So if you're going through hell, keep on moving- don't slow down-face that fire, because you might be out before the Devil even knows you're there.