In the summer of 1972, my husband, Art, and I decided to make our vacation a trip to Sioux City, Iowa. Beth, our youngest, was two-years-old, just enough to ride in a car seat. Kaycee, 10, Jim, 9, and Don, 6, would be fine in the backseat.
It took about a week to organize for the thousand-mile trip. I washed, baked, shopped, and packed. We had limited finds, so I bought supplies to pack lunches and snacks. Our first overnight stop would be on the Indiana-Illinois border, just outside Chicago. I think the kids were more excited about the motel stop with a swimming pool.
The first day out we left Pittsburgh early in the morning, stopping at a doughnut store for a dozen doughnuts. The three older kids brought their pillows, so they could nap along the way. That went well for about fifty miles, and then all heck broke loose. "Move over!" "Stay on your side!" "Mom, he's touching me!" "Stop leaning on me!" Then there were feet pushing the back of the seat. I ended up riding backward in the front seat, yelling, not to mention that I have a very touchy stomach and riding backward causes nausea, certainly not my idea of a fun vacation.
Our first stop was deep in Ohio. We got out at a rest stop, used the restrooms, and then went to the picnic area for lunch. At one of the tables near us was an older couple with a beautiful weimaraner. He was red with piercing blue eyes. When we lived in Florida, we owned one and really loved the breed. Don was very interested in the dog. I told him about the breed, that they were gentle, kind, and friendly.
It was time to hit the road. I packed up our things and grabbed the potty seat and Beth and headed for the restrooms. When Beth and I came back out, there was a crowd around our car. People were traveling back and forth between the cars. We hurried through the crowd standing by the car. There stood Don with dog bites on his stomach. Someone with a first aid kit furnished antiseptic and band aids. I think he was a doctor. Don had walked up to the dog, and the dog lunged at him. While all the fuss was going on, the dog's owners got in their car and left. One of the travelers caught their license number. The highway patrol radioed ahead to have the car stopped. They didn't have any rabies verification with them. They had left the records at home. We found out the dog had been trained as a guard dog. There was also a sign in the picnic area that said, "No dogs allowed." When they were finally stopped, they were about forty-five minutes ahead of us, and the patrol held them until we arrived. The woman berated me because I didn't have my boy controlled. I told her, "First of all, I wasn't there when the dog attacked. Secondly, there were no signs saying, 'No kids allowed.'" The patrol made them call their vet to verify that the dog had his rabies shot.
We were back on the road. By early evening we arrived in Gary, Indiana, for our motel stay. We registered, carried the overnight suitcase to our room on the upper floor. I think the kids started throwing their clothes off as we walked along the balcony walkway. I would venture a guess that they were in the pool in five minutes.
Morning dawned on a beautiful day. I packed our lunches and snacks. I filled the cooler and we were on our way. "How much farther?" started midway through Illinois. We stopped for a picnic lunch just over the border of Iowa. We estimated that we had about six hours to go. The clouds started to roll across the plains. It was warm and looked like rain. You could see lightning in the distance. Big drops started to hit the windshield rhythmically. Splat, splat. I looked out my side window at the horizon. Maybe a couple of miles away, large black clouds were forming, and you could see black, plume-like strands spilling down out of the low-hanging clouds toward the earth, cutting through what light was left. These angry clouds were expanding as they bellowed and puffed with the rising winds. They were so low they kissed the hood of the car. We were traveling parallel to the storm. Suddenly the rain turned angry and forcefully dumped what seemed like bucket after bucket of rain on us. The clouds were dropping closer and closer to the ground. The cars were speeding by like race cars on a sunny day. A huge truck passed us at high speed carrying a load of sheet metal standing upright in a rack behind the cab. Just as the truck passed, Art spotted a high embankment to our right. He pulled quickly up against the bank. As we parked, a large sheet of metal broke loose from its mooring. It whipped up into the air, leveled off like a flying carpet, and headed right at us at the level of our windshield. I really thought our time on earth was quickly coming to an end. Hust as the sheet metal reached the nose of our hood, it suddenly went straight up in a big swoop and sailed quickly over the top of our car, never touching the roof.
My silent prayers were answered. The kids were crying in back seat. I managed to get some semblance of control. The kids were saying, "Mommy, are we going to die?" How do you answer a question like that? I wished I could crawl in the backseat and hold them close. I assured them, "No one is going to die!" I said, "Kids, you just went through a good, old-fashioned Iowa storm." I might add that I said this as I watched the water come right through the windshield.
The storm stopped almost as quickly as it started. We finally could breathe easy. What a scary experience! Believe me, if truth be known, I had never been through anything like that before.
Art started the car, and we headed back on our journey. The rain was down to a sprinkle. The black clouds were spent. They broke up suddenly. We saw what seemed like the second dawn in one day.
We stopped fifty miles later and pulled into the entrance of a side road along the berm. There was a pond. The wild grass had tiny raindrops at the tips of the blades that sparkled in the bright sun. Little peepers had escaped the shelter of the pond and were all over the ground. The kids scooped up the tiny green frogs. We had a snack and a stretch. The kids rearranged their seating positions. Somebody didn't want to sit in the middle, I'm sure. We piled into the car for the final leg of our journey. It was so good to be home, sweet home!