“It was rain that turned to slush and then turned to ice,” said Dean Ege, Mendota’s assistant fire chief.
While Mendota and Troy Grove firefighters assisted with a two-vehicle accident south of the city on Route 251 with no serious injuries, towing businesses from Mendota and surrounding areas were kept busy at multiple-vehicle accidents that occurred around 3:30 p.m. to the north on I-39.
For roughly four hours, traffic was at a near standstill as emergency personnel and tow truck drivers attempted to clear more than one accident scene between mile markers 79 and 82.
Although police were too busy Friday night to issue reports, Carol Ramer of Ramer Automotive and Towing said the backup apparently began when a semi hit a car and jackknifed, which then led to further cars and trucks stopping to avoid the crash, sliding into roadside ditches or crashing into other vehicles.
“Nobody can go anywhere, emergency personnel can’t go anywhere because people are parked all over the place,” Carol Ramer said at about 5:30 p.m.
Since temperatures weren’t cold enough to freeze the ground, conditions in the median and ditches along the interstate were a “soggy mess,” she said.
Ramer said state police had even called her looking for four-wheel drive vehicles to use to access the scene. The driver of Ramer’s semi-wrecker had to carefully back onto I-39 from the ramp at U.S. 34 because the road was so blocked.
“It was a junkyard,” said Paul Ramer of Ramer Automotive and Towing.
(Courtesy of The News Tribune-LaSalle/Peru, IL)
On Friday Annabelle and I happened to find ourselves at mile marker 81 just in time to sit on interstate 39 for at least 2 hours. This was fail number three of this week. This came after believing Annabelle had been teething all week, only to learn she in fact was not teething but had a double ear infection. Let's call that fail number one. So I mentioned to the pediatrician that we had a trip to Nana's house planned this weekend and asked if it was okay to take her. The pediatrician said "absolutely" and said a long nap in the car would do her some good (though I don't think she meant a 6 hour nap which was how long the trip actually ended up taking). Whew! We hate to cancel Nana trips. Then suddenly it seemed we were under a winter storm advisory for Friday, the day I was going to travel.
To travel or not travel? That was the big question. Bryan ultiatenmly gets to be the one who decides if we travel or not. I have never exhibited any sort good judgement or decision-making skills in ANY scenario so we let bryan make any major decisions in our house. He determined it would be safe to travel because his scar did not itch. Fail number two. I altered his decision and took the afternoon off of work believing IF any weather did occur, I would certainly beat it to Illinois.
I was wrong.
I missed the bad weather in Wisconsin for the most part but hit some horrible situation in Illinois, approximately 40 miles north of my destination. I ended up stuck on the interstate behind what turned out to be a few multiple vehicle accidents. The crappy part about accidents on the interstate in the snow? There is never just one. Once I was sitting on the southbound side, stuck...I noticed that the traffic had stopped on the northbound side as well. It seems the distraction of the accident on our side caused a few more semis to jackknife on the northbound side, shutting the northbound side as well. And then when I looked in my rear view mirror to see how far traffic was backed up, I saw that just behind me there were at least two semis that had also lost control of their trailers and now I was sandwiched between 3 accidents completely blocking any chance of getting out of it. On top of it, it was still snowing heavily therefore covering the interstate with snow. And I had Annabelle in the back, sick. Fail number...four? Or does that count as two?
I wasn't really panicking because in the car I had enough supplies to keep us alive for a few days. Clothes, blankets, baby food, diapers, formula (and natures formula), water, toys, books, phone, phone charger, and a full tank of gas. This really wasn't that big of deal. But when you sit in a car on the interstate watching both the interstate and all the vehicles parked on it get covered with snow, it starts to feel like a big deal...who doesn't remember the Donner Party? Thankfully Annabelle doesn't have any teeth yet. But being stuck in bad weather with a sick baby, it kind of and it makes you start to feel like a shitty mom.
With Annabelle sound asleep, my guilt was temporarily eased. But the other thing I did not consider was a bathroom. After being in the car for about 5 hours (so far one of which had been spent sitting in park on I-39, I wondered what to do in that situation. Do I go in the ditch? Do I open both car doors and pee between them? I think people would have suspected something was up when they saw a pair of pants on the ground between two car doors, wouldn't they? I decided the best thing to was ignore it and wait until it was an emergency. And if worse came to worse...I did have Annabelle's diapers.
I decided a good thing to do in that situation is to get out and make friends with truck drivers. They seem to have their shit together. I spoke to the driver next to me and he was able to tell me what had happened, approximately how far we were from an exit, and what mile marker we were located at. When I stopped a fireman on foot walking he told me we would be sitting there for at least two hours. I said "But i have a baby in the car." and he said "The best thing to do is watch your gas gauge. If you think you're running low, turn the car off." Do firemen receive formal training? I think I could have figured that out on my own. I wanted to call after him "Do you want me to feed her gasoline?" but I didn't because the small part of my brain that uses logic reminded me that I had 3 days worth of supplies in the car. But like I said, when all you can see is snow, and you can't move...you start to go a little buggy. Even after an hour.
So my next conversation occurred with the driver of the truck behind me. He too thought we would be there a while. I also told him I had a baby in the car, as if one of these people would say "A baby? Well here, take this secret underground tunnel out of here." This driver seemed to sense that I was starting to lose my grip and kindly offered me several Slim Jims. He also said that plenty of milk in his truck for my baby (I didn't want to hurt his feelings and explain babies cannot have cows milk) which I thought was very nice. I felt I could identify and trust this man so I blurted out "I have to pee really bad." and he said I could pee in front of his truck, between his truck and my car and no one would see, and then he handed me a wad of paper towels. How kind! As I reluctantly made my way to the front of his rig and contemplated peeing in the middle of the interstate amongst dozens of other vehicles I saw a fireman approaching vehicles and directing them to move. I think that would have probably been near the top of embarrassing moments, peeing on an interstate in front of a semi having a fireman approach me and tell me to move my vehicle. Bullet-dodged.
I got back in my vehicle, moved per the fireman's instruction, only to sit and wait again. When all was said and done I spent 2 hours sitting on the interstate wondering if I was going to have to eat a fellow traveler to survive. When we were finally moving again I couldn't help but notice how many semis and vehicles were in the median just before and after this accident. It was as if no one was able to stop suddenly. I have never seen anything like it. There were cars and trucks all over the place.
And while I got my vehicle back up to speed and reassured Annabelle she wasn't going to perish in the blizzard, I wondered what the acceptable amount of time to be stranded is before one can freely urinate on the interstate. I normally do not turn into Gloria Steinem, but I do think public urination is an area where men have it made. I think if a man would have peed along the interstate while we are all parked there, no one would have had an issue with it. But had I done it? Well, people would have been disgusted on thought I was a savage. Oh well, I simply had to make it 40 more miles without peeing my pants and I would consider that a success.
I also pondered my mom fails of this week. 100.3 fever and fussy? Must be teething. Or perhaps a raging ear infection I ignored. Storm advisory and potential blizzard? Perfect time to tkae a road trip! But after doing a little investigating I learned I wasn't the only one to make these types of bad mom decisions.
My mom told me that when she was four and a half she told her mom (my Grammie) that she had a tummy ache. Grammie told her that she probably had her underpants on backwards. When it turned out my mom had her underpants on correctly, Grammie insisted that she just didn't want to eat Chop Suey. That evening my mom's appendix ruptured.
My Grandma DeSalvo used to put my dad in the baby buggy on the porch in the winter and put some blankets over him so the snow wouldn't pile up on him.
And because I am equal opportunity whistle-blower, I will also mention that Bryan's mom said that when Bryan's brother was five he kept complaining that his tooth hurt and she just assumed it was because he didn't want to go to preschool. Weeks later when he finally went to the dentist, he needed a root canal.
My mom told me about the time Uncle Wally (my great uncle) and her dad were attempting to shoot the air-rifle and didn't think it was working, So my Uncle Wally put his finger over the barrel of the gun, and as it turns out, it was in fact working. At the hospital the nurse asked Wally how old he was and he said "Old enough to know better." As a result of that injury Uncle Wally's fingernail fell off which he put glitter on and made into a necklace and gave it to my mother for Christmas.
And when my sister was little they used to yell at her for sitting too close to the tv all the time. Turns our she was legally blind.
And when I was little I used to get in trouble for not listening. Turns out after a hearing test, I really couldn't hear and needed tubes in my ears.
And of course when I was home one evening under my father's care I came up from my bedroom to complain that I was hot, so my dad cut the feet off of my footie pajamas (I'm told this type of garment alteration occurred in Bryan's house as well).
Bryan's dad told me a story that Matt and Bryan were outside and Bryan came in the house and got a knife. It turns out Matt was outside playing in the tree with a rope and ended up getting the rope caught around his leg and hanging upside down from the tree and Bryan had to cut him down. Bryan corroborated the story but said that Matt had climbed the tree and tied the rope to himself as a safety precaution, and Bryan had come in to get the knife to cut him down. So Bryan alleges this was not in fact a parental fail as Matt clearly had a safety plan in place.
So I suppose I can rest well knowing that for Annabelle, being in a car for 6 hours wasn't much different than being asleep in her swing or laying on the blanket eating dog hair for the afternoon. I suppose worse things will happen to Annabelle on my watch.
The good news is that Annabelle finally got to eat her Avocado. And I believe Nana has started her own Annabelle's Avocado plant as well.