OPINION

Most 150-mile journeys don’t take this long

Staff Writer
Story City Herald

—by Bill Haglund

Like most of you, my wife and I had made plans for the long Fourth of July weekend, beginning on July 2nd with a trip to the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds in Davenport.

We just didn’t plan on our weekend beginning with a big “bang.”

Literally.

Cruising along on Interstate-80 that Friday afternoon we suddenly heard a loud “bang.” It sounded as though I’d hit something on the interstate and it had hit the bottom of the car. No sooner, however, had my wife admonished me to “be more careful,” I felt the car begin to sway gently and I knew our problems had just begun.

I hadn’t hit anything in the roadway; the loud “bang” we’d heard was a tire. Quickly decelerating and pulling onto the right shoulder we discovered that, yes, the driver’s side rear tire had blown out.

We were trapped there, just west of Iowa City, with heavy holiday traffic zooming past at perilously close proximity to the disabled auto. Our trunk was packed with boxes of books, not that it would have made any difference. My health problems precluded me from changing the tire, anyway.

We didn’t have any local phone numbers to call. Family who might have been able to help were a hundred miles, or more, away.

So, I dialed 911. I explained to the nice dispatch lady that, while this wasn’t probably an emergency in the true sense of the word, we were nonetheless stranded in a precarious position. I apologized to her for using the emergency number, but she was very nice. I asked if she knew a local tow company she could call, or give me the number, so that we could get help.

She went one better than that, though, telling me she would dispatch a Johnson County Sheriff’s Deputy to the scene and he could determine the best solution.

All the while, cars and trucks were speeding past us. I watched them approach, hunkered down in the driver’s seat, through the rear view mirror. As vehicles raced side-by-side, there were several moments when I felt sure one of them would veer off the road and slam into our disabled car.

It remained that way for several long and increasingly tense moments. Finally, I saw a sheriff’s car heading west. I knew he was our Knight in Shining Armor.

Moments later he pulled behind and turned on his emergency lights.

I asked him if he knew a tow company he could call to help us.

“No,” he said, “but I’ll be happy to change your tire for you.”

I couldn’t believe it, but, yes, we quickly unloaded several boxes of books and he took out the spare. He was soon joined by an Iowa Highway Patrolman, who parked behind the deputy’s car and began watching traffic.

Most drivers pulled to the left lane and reduced their speed when they passed. Some, however, did not. They remained in the right lane, kept right on driving as if there were no red lights. To those motorists, the highway patrolman waved menacingly at them and pointed to the other lane.

“I got hit once in a similar situation,” he told my wife.

Iowa law mandates that drivers, coming upon safety vehicles – law enforcement vehicles and other traffic emergency vehicles, including wreckers and ambulances – must pull to the other lane and, if that is not possible, to slow their vehicles dramatically.

To those drivers heading east on Interstate-80 on July 2nd who did not, I will say to them (and I have no reservations about it) that they are idiots. It’s drivers like them (including those ignorant of the law, drunks, those who are impaired because of drugs, and those texting) who make Iowa’s highways and roadways far less safe.

I know I didn’t like being in that precarious situation along a busy interstate. I’m sure any of you who have found yourselves in a similar situation would agree.

At any rate, all turned out well. We hobbled into Iowa City to a tire business and left with four new tires. By the time the work was completed, however, the races had begun in Davenport.

So, Judy and I did the next best thing. We turned around, drove about 20 minutes back toward our home, pulled off the highway and had a wonderful German Wiener Schnitzel dinner in the Amanas.

I can’t say enough good things about the deputy and patrolman who helped us.

Delayed by a week, we did go back to Davenport last Friday. I think it’s the first time I can recall that it took a full week to make a 150-mile journey.

(Bill Haglund is a retired staff writer of the Dallas County News and the Boone News-Republican. He can be reached at bhaglund13@msn.com)