We made it home without falling into a pothole and starving to death. It got close in Arkansas, where we ended up on that lonely stretch of 40 where there are few truck stops and fewer parking spaces after dark. George was betting on a little spot Bob had told him about – apparently at one time it was a small fuel stop, but now it’s a Mexican restaurant with an insanely bad parking lot. There was parking, though, and he shut it down with just a few minutes to spare on the clock.
I woke up approximately 97 times and checked the locks, as I often do when we’re in places I don’t feel so secure in. It became painfully evident at 4 a.m. that I might have to walk across the street to the “Motel 6.5” (it’s a real place, with a hand-painted sign, swear it) to use their facilities. I didn’t want to wake George at 4 – he had driven hard the day before and I knew he was tired. There was no way in hell I was walking to the “Motel 6.5” by myself, so I laid there and suffered. And by suffering, I mean I laid there for a few minutes and quit thinking about having to go and fell back to sleep.
When we woke up, the parking lot was completely full. There were trucks jammed everywhere. The owner of the restaurant came out and started banging on doors, and I made a beeline for his bathroom, stopping only to drop a $10 bill on the counter and thank them profusely for the use of their toilet. By the time I exited, the parking lot was as functional as a crater can be, and I had a cup of coffee and sweet bun waiting beside the change for my $10. I asked the lady at the counter if their property used to be a truck stop, and she said it had been, but it was more than five years since they had been in the location. They let the trucks park at night after they close, and ran everybody off in the mornings. She said the truckers were usually good customers, and always got coffee in the mornings before leaving.
George was doing his pre-trip when the law showed up. They were blocking the road for a young guy in a big truck to pull in beside the parking lot we were at. The front end of his truck was mostly gone and there was mud up to the bottom of the door on the driver’s side. There was no doubt this ol’ boy had been through a wild ride. His fairings were all busted up, lights hanging off. He had done a number. He parked and got out to speak to the Sheriff who had escorted him in. He looked like he was about twelve.
Since we were getting ready to leave, George walked over and asked the Sheriff if the roads were clear. He told him it was all fine, that miraculously this had been a one vehicle incident. He went on to tell him that the kid had gone through the wire fence, down into the median, managed not to jackknife and somehow had gotten it back on the wrong side of the highway, where he continued driving for approximately four miles. He had been escorted up the on ramp at the exit we were getting ready to go the correct way down.
I am so glad I had to poop. Really. If I hadn’t held us up those few minutes, we may have very well been in the path of this guy. It’s hard to tell if someone is acting weird because they’re in shock or they’re acting weird because they’re terrified, but this kid was acting weird. He kept grabbing his head and telling the cop, “Something just jerked the wheel and I lost it!”
I don’t know what happened to the kid. I’m not going to pass judgment, because I wasn’t in the cab of the truck. I do know we witnessed the end of his driving career, and I think that might have been OK. I am so thankful no one was injured or killed, especially us. Please be safe out there, and remember, sometimes the delays are lifesavers.