Summer Storm on Highway 80

Driving along 75 Indiana.
A dog yawns under a big blue sky. Little farms and large agricultural dwellings sit near each other like good neighbors. The corn is golden at the roots and the top.
The American flag flaps under the lazy summer breeze. It’s a popsicle-day under the porch. A day that smells of quiet earth and time holding its breath.
Yet a cemetery, nestled between the corn plots, reminds of the unstoppable passing of time.
Signs along highway 74 West claim the benefits of owning a gun and growing corn and soy. A car with North Carolina plates hogs the left lane. “Repeal ObamaCare”, “Equal Rights for Unborn Women,” and “Be the Change” stickers adorn the bumper.
A caravan of Harley Davidson with American flags attached to the back seat open the road while a monster truck pulling a trailer passes a small auto mall that sells Fiat Fiestas.
Got lunch in Walcott at the Biggest Truck Stop in Iowa. It’s a must to get how big our country really is.
If I thought the air was holding its breath earlier in the morning, now it is weighing above us in a strange mix of steam and lead.
We are barely fifteen minutes away from the truck stop when lightning zigzags the blue-inked sky. An eerie light falls upon us. The wind picks up. A few fat drops of rain stain the windshield before they transform themselves in sheets of rain.
It is 1:05 p.m. but as dark as it was the middle of the night. Drivers have switched their lights to the warning signal. It’s a strange caravan that is now freezing on the unrecognizable Highway 80.
A glance to my husband confirms that he feels as guilty and stupid as I feel. Why did we stay on the highway when we saw the first lightning that could only foreshadow a terrible storm?
It is too late to exit, but when the wind bends the trees and flatten the cornfields as if they had been cut to the roots, we both know we have to pull over.
Rain is a dark curtain isolating the cars on the highway from the rest of the world. One by one, people pull over in the emergency lane, barely visible now. Our car is not a four-wheel-drive but heavy enough to hold the strength of the wind. I think of the Smart car I spotted on a parking lot earlier. Its bumper sticker warned people to back off since it was saving energy. I hope the driver was as smart and didn’t take the road.
My husband clenches his teeth as he tries to maneuver the car toward the emergency lane, but there is just too much rain on the ground and the car is stuck between the right and emergency lane before being able to inch its way to a full stop.  
Later he would admit that at some point he wasn’t even aware if he was or not driving.
As for myself, I think of the possibility for all the people on the highway now to be just another weather statistic on the news tonight.
I hold onto my seatbelt.  My kids in the backseats have put laptops, iPods and Ipods away. Their wide eyes and pale faces register fear and awe at the same time. I have never seen such a strong storm taking over in such a brief time. I’m sure they never have seen one either.
The rain pelts the windshield and my husband has long ago turned the useless wipers off. Truckers for the most part have also stopped. A few crazy drivers – among them an RV pulling a trailer with a golf cart and an assortment of bikes – resume a fastest pace.
But we sit there in the car, waiting for the wind and rain to give us a break. I’m sure all of us make some sort of prayer, begging nature to let us go. 
Time has stopped or so it seems. Finally the wind recedes before the rain, which eventually slows down and stops as well, giving way to a fragile sun and then a beautiful sky.
It is 1:15 p.m. 
%d bloggers like this: