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I70: A tale of car troubles, winter storms and UNO


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Ryan Howe is Yellow Scene’s new associate editor, having recently arrived here from Indiana. We’re grateful to have his talents at our disposal but, as it turns out, his journey to Colorado was extremely eventful and we’re grateful that he made it here at all. Here’s Ryan with the full story.R

At 11:45 a.m. (EST) on January 1, I began my 16-hour drive from Indiana to Erie, Colorado. My eyes were red with tears from the sad goodbyes, but my bones were vibrating with excitement. I was about to embark on an adventure. I was finally exiting the limbo from kid to adult, and in four short days I would be walking through the door of my first job out of college. I had no idea the type of adventure I was actually starting.

As soon as I hit Interstate 70 I turned on the sixth episode of Serial and got lost in the podcast. The first third of my trip was filled with an internal battle of trying to decide if Adnan Masud Syed killed his girlfriend Hae in 1999. Once I was finished with the remaining six episodes I didn’t know what to do. I still had 11 hours of driving left, so I turned on the new Taylor Swift album in an attempt to keep me energized. This may have been the start of my downfall.

I was about two hours away from Kansas City, where I had planned to stop and visit a friend for the night, when my cruise control kicked off, my “check engine” light illuminated my dash and the new-to-me 2013 Dodge Dart refused to accelerate. A road sign next to me read “Boonville NEXT 3 EXITS.” So I coasted. I coasted off of the exit ramp, through a left turn onto Highway 87 and into the Phillips 66 gas station.

I was screwed.

I could bore you by talking about the battle with roadside assistance and the logistics of getting me to a shop, but I won’t. I’ll just leave this part of my journey summed up by one kind hearted man whose name I don’t know. I’ll just refer to him as the nicest tow truck driver on the planet who retrieved me from Boonville, Missouri and headed back to Columbia, Missouri.

Turns out the nicest tow truck driver on the planet had just moved to Missouri from Alaska so his wife could go to the University of Missouri, commonly known as Mizzou. He showed me the overwhelmingly bright headlights he used in Alaska before dropping my car off at a Chrysler dealership and me off at the Budget Host Inn. I mostly think he felt sorry for me, and the only thing he had to offer was an impressive light show.

This is where things go from bad to worse. Apparently the Budget Host Inn has a bit of a reputation. I wasn’t even able to walk into the lobby, I had to stand outside the door and talk to the receptionist through a window.

“I hate using the window, but there have been a few robberies in the area so we do this at night now,” the receptionist said.

My room was located just across the parking lot, but in the 45 seconds it took me to walk from the receptionist’s window to room 132, I heard a woman threaten to call the cops and the sound of shattering glass.

That night involved me checking the mattress for bed bugs, a brief walk through some bushes to a Waffle House where I met a Mizzou student who offered me a ride to buy some toothpaste, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and watching the cops settle two separate domestic dispute calls.

I got a call the next day that my car was fixed and that I could be on my way. So I loaded up, and got back onto I70. I made it to the same Boonville exit when my car quit again.

So I took it back to the shop and sat in the waiting room watching game shows for five hours as they worked on my car. Finally my mechanic Rana (Ra-nay) arrived with the bad news that my car wouldn’t be done until noon the following day. I was not going back to the Budget Host Inn, so I did something that I haven’t done in a long time. I threw a fit. I was seconds away from jumping up and down screaming after flipping over a table, when Rana came back with keys to a free rental.

“You’ve had some bad luck on this trip, go see your friend in Kansas City,” she said.

So I drove two hours away to Kansas City in my rental 2013 Dodge Dart, to visit my friend Chris. That night I got a tour of the city, was treated to a delicious gyro, went to a saloon, saw a drag queen, and was harassed by a homeless man for $15. We gave him the only cash we had, which was $5.

The following day, Saturday 3, I was finally on the road in my own Dart and heading to my new home. I had no idea what Kansas had waiting for me.

About 3/4 of the way through the never ending state, I entered a winter storm. At first it was drivable, but once the sun went down I could barely see feet in front of the car. So 13 miles from the Kansas and Colorado border I was ushered off of I70 and into the small town of Goodland, Kansas, population: 4,557.

Once off the highway, it was a rat race of travelers to find the last remaining hotel rooms. I wasn’t one of the lucky ones. So I called dispatch and asked them what my options were, and they informed me that the First United Methodist Church had opened its doors to stranded travelers.

So I headed into town and parked my loaded Dart in front of the church, and hoped these people were willing to share a room with a disgruntled college grad who snored.

Once inside, the dispatcher I spoke with, Krissy, greeted me.

“Grab a cot, some blankets and pick a spot along the wall,” she said. “Just sign this here to let me know you are not a registered sex offender.”

I claimed the spot nearest the door so I could make an early escape. As I set up my cot I heard the sounds of playing children in one corner, the rapid clicks of online gaming from a teenager in the middle of the room, and the excitement from the workers playing UNO who thought having stranded travelers was the equivalent of hosting the Super Bowl in their little town. I joined the card game after my cot was set up, and enjoyed the petty gossip they threw around the table.

After a night of restless sleep, I finally got on the road and after 73 hours, 3 unusual beds and multiple sore muscles I had finally arrived at my new home.

Next time I travel, I’ll be ripping a page from the Wright Brothers playbook.

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