A Near Catastrophe On A Country Road

You know how they say curiosity killed the cat? How about those parents who always tell us we must learn from our mistakes?

Well, I’m kind of thinking both rang a little true in my life this afternoon.

It all started with a simple drive out to the middle of Nobles County – to the aptly named Midway Park – to take a picture to accompany a story in Wednesday’s edition of the Daily Globe. The route was easy enough to follow: Drive to Reading, turn left on County Road 14 and go west to just beyond Durfee Avenue. No problem!

I made it there just fine. I pulled off to the side of the road, snapped my photos, and then drove up a little ways to the entrance of the park. It was a bit muddy at the entrance, but I was able to get by – I wanted to see what this park had to offer.

Now, I consider myself a life-long resident of Nobles County, but this was all new territory for me. I can direct most people anywhere south of Worthington, but not so much on the north side of town. So, for obvious reasons, I spent more time looking at the surroundings than I did watching the pavement in front of me.

That wasn’t the problem … and neither was the visit to the park. Despite an uneven surface for a driveway, the park was easy enough to maneuver my car through. I drove back a good distance before I started to get that creepy feeling … the one a single woman gets when she’s out in the middle of a strange, abandoned area with nothing but tall grass, trees and solitude. Yeah, that tends to freak me out a bit.

So, I turned my car around and headed back toward the main road.

Then, looking at the county map strewn across my passenger seat, something caught my eye – a designated Bluebird Prairie not too far away. Certainly, a visit could be justified as “on the way back to the office.”

I turned south on County Road 13, then took a left onto 220th Street, drove up a hill and down a hill and … oh, would you look at that! There’s water on both sides of the road – and ducks, pretty mallards, in fact.

I was so busy enjoying the scenery (and looking for some sign declaring a bluebird prairie) that I wasn’t aware of the quickly changing road conditions before me. By the time I hit the sloppy gravel it was too late – there was no turning back.

Little did I know it would get worse … much worse!

The road suddenly seemed to turn into one of those minimum maintenance varieties – rutted by some adventurous truck driver, no doubt – and I began to panic.

My palms began to sweat, my heart began to pound and the voice inside my head wouldn’t shut up: “Boy, you’re stupid … Please, please don’t get stuck … At least you have a cell phone … How are you going to explain this to the boss? … What’s Dad going to say … and, finally … how the heck is anyone going to find me out here in the middle of nowhere!”

Believe me, the quest for the bluebird prairie was the furthest from my mind at this point. (Although I did discover Pheasant Run 13 and … drum roll please … the Nobles County landfill.)

Of course, by the time I’d reached the landfill, I was ready to get out of the car and kiss the ground – it was a nice gravel surface there. A quarter-of-a-mile before that, however, I was gripping the steering wheel and praying I wouldn’t bottom out, slide into the ditch or just plain get stuck.

When my car finally hit payment, oh how the mud was flying – probably enough to fill a five-gallon bucket, I’m guessing.

By the time I pulled up in front of the Daily Globe, my hands were still a bit shaky, but my heart had stopped its pounding.

Then I stepped out of my car to survey the damage. All I could do was laugh – and make a mental note to go through the car wash after work. (I wouldn’t have needed to make the mental note – it was fairly obvious when I returned to my once pretty Pontiac a few hours later that, yes, I’d experienced quite the afternoon adventure!)

I was still smiling proudly when I stepped into the newsroom – catching the attention of several of my coworkers. I gave them all a word of advice: Yeah, so those country roads out there, they’re not in very good condition … just take my word for it!