Barber Trip 2: The Deluge

The first order of business was to find a hardware store that might have some heavy-duty clear waterproof tape so I could make a “repair”. Abilene has no Home Depot or Lowes, but there is an old-school hardware store downtown. I’m trying to think of the last time I set foot in a hardware store that wasn’t part of a giant chain. The building was probably 125 or 150 years old. They had some T-Rex tape which fit the bill perfectly.

Downtown Abilene is a pile of brick buildings a couple of blocks deep on the north side of about a quarter of a mile of railroad tracks. Ike’s place is a few blocks away on the other side of the tracks.

The Eisenhower Museum is the fourth Presidential Museum I’ve been to. Turns out, you can get a National Archives passport and get it stamped at the museums. I’ve been to three of the first four. I mentioned this to the ticket taker, adding, “I’ve been to Monticello, too.”

“That’s just a residence,” she sniffed.

The museum itself is about on par with Hoover and Truman. World War II gets the most emphasis, with a pretty good general overview of the war in Europe and North Africa.

I don’t know how many of the Museums have the gravesites on the grounds. Ike and Mamie are in a little chapel next to the visitor’s center. It’s not really a chapel, though. Officially it’s the Place of Meditation. His boyhood home is there as well, but I didn’t tour it.

These days it seems each President is set on making a grander statement with his library than any of his predecessors, so the modern ones are in “statement” buildings surrounded by elaborate grounds. The buildings here are old school – utilitarian, brick, more modern than downtown Abilene, but not out of place. The grounds, too, are not great. The lawn is brown, and there’s not much more than lawn. It looks barren.

They’re working on the road in front of the grounds, and the fountain in front of the chapel is being renovated. There’s a sign to that effect, but the sign is the only sign of renovation.

Exiting the museum parking lot, I headed south on KS 19 to start my great zig-zag, south then east, south then east to Little Rock.

Most of the day was spent on back roads, but the last three hours were on the Interstate. It was the longest stretch of Interstate for the whole trip. It was harrowing. I don’t know if it was the same storm that dropped a foot and a half of snow at home, but for three hours I drove through rain. Torrents of rain. It was a Biblical storm. I ran the wipers on full-blast, with the defogger on high. Sheets of water ran across the road. A light car with big tires is a good recipe for hydroplaning. Quite often, the car would be a boat for ten or fifteen feet. I wasn’t the slowest vehicle on the road, but it was close. When the big rigs passed me, they threw up so much spray I couldn’t see the cabs of the trucks.

One particularly memorable moment came on a slight bend to the left. The whole road was banked, and water ran in sheets across it. The water wasn’t just ten or fifteen feet across. It looked endless. I added steering angle, but the car kept going straight. It seemed to take forever.

Other drivers were having difficulty, too. There was a jack-knifed big rig on the other side of the highway, then an SUV in the center median, and then three or four emergency vehicles all on the other side.

In the middle of this maelstrom, Google Maps decided I needed to concentrate on navigation instead of the weather. It directed me to get off the Interstate. It didn’t seem right to me, but I obeyed our AI overlords. In the end, it sent me on a six-mile loop back to the same spot that I got off the Interstate. Why the heck did it do this? Does Maps hallucinate now?

Oddly, this may have been a good thing. The storm was getting worse, but now I was going slower and could find a safe place to pull off the road if need be. It started to hail. My defogger could no longer keep the inside of the windshield clear. I pulled over and stopped. I had paper towels with me, so I dried the inside of the windshield. Four or five times.

The rain finally mellowed considerably, and I got back on the interstate, but it didn’t stop until I was close to the motel. It was an intense and exhausting drive.

After checking in to the motel, I wanted a beer. So I walked across a couple of parking lots to the Outback Steakhouse and had a “tall blonde” (a 22 oz. blonde ale), a petite filet with a loaded baked potato, and a house salad. The meal was nearly as much as my room for the night.

Not long after I got back to the motel, the rain started again and tornado sirens started to wail. I checked the news for information and learned that there had been a tornado a few hours earlier, near my route. Fun stuff!

When I went to the car at 9:15, the tornado sirens were wailing again. The rain really started coming down at around 10; more thunder and lightning. Probably the same band of storms I drove through, only now getting here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *