Thoughts from the ammo line

The first two installments of Ammo Grrrll’s six-part travelogue can be accessed along with her previous columns by inputting “Grrrll” into our search engine. This morning Ammo Grrrll returns with VISITING MY PEOPLE Part 3: Weather ‘Tis Nobler…:

It could have been infinitely worse, of course. My mother reported just this past Tuesday that Minnesota was snowy and bitter cold. So, in mid- to late-March on the way to or from Minnesota, I could have been stranded in an epic blizzard and still be catatonic in the fetal position in a motel in Wichita. “Possibly the fetal position,” commented Mr. AG, “but never catatonic.” He’s getting Liver and Lima Bean Surprise for dinner.

I encountered no blizzards, but still it was not always easy.

First, let’s talk about the wind. From West Texas, up Tornado Alley, and into Kansas of Toto and Dorothy fame, to Iowa and northern Minnesota, I never had a day without fierce wind. The kind of gale where it’s very difficult to open your car door to fill up at a gas station, until you put your shoulder into it. My wee hands were stiff and sore from clutching the steering wheel to keep the car on the road. What it does for a hairdo shouldn’t even be mentioned. Think Margaret Hamilton in the aforementioned Wizard of Oz., only more unkempt.

I never saw the sun for eleven straight days. Then there was rain. As I left Minnesota headed for Des Moines, there was a light drizzle. When I crossed into Iowa, the rain started in earnest and the temperatures continued to drop. 36-35-34-33. I knew from wretched experience what happens to roads once rain turns to freezing rain and sleet. At 32 degrees, I gave up and left the Highway. In Ankeny, Iowa, I got the very last room in a Marriott Courtyard, which happened to be a handicapped-accessible suite priced at $189.00, plus hefty taxation without representation. I took it in gratitude and warmth and waded back out to get my things. What is more comfy than soaking wet tennis shoes? It was the only pair I had packed as I was not in a covered wagon and had not planned on fording any streams.

When leaving Minnesota, I had put my suitcase in the trunk, closed but unzipped, fixin’ to put a few souvenirs in it from inside the car. Ah, you fellow short-term-memory-challenged persons know exactly where this is going. I grabbed my suitcase and yanked it out of the trunk. It opened (doh!) and everything flew into the wet parking lot, some items at an impressive distance. This increased my resolve to get more attractive underwear. The 5-Second Rule does not work any better for clothing than it does for dropped candy. You never saw anyone shovel clothes into a suitcase any faster, but still it was severely damp. Blessed is she who can laugh at herself for she will never run out of material. Drenched and laughing hysterically, I’m sure I looked like an escaped lunatic. Not for the first time.

The next day my plan was either to end up in Wichita, if I was tired, or Guthrie, Oklahoma. Why Guthrie, you ask? I was tasked with retrieving the little Nexus with the Candy Crush game I had left in my room on the way up. It is debatable which is more embarrassing: leaving the game (more on lost objects in Part Five) or playing the game for hundreds of misspent hours to just shy of Level 500. At least, I’ve never given the malevalent geniuses at King Corporation one thin dime. I used to think Sudoku was addictive. That was just the gateway drug to Candy Crush. Which is yet more pointless, if that is possible.

Now, the way I have always gone from Arizona back to Mordor is 10 East to 20/30 East to 35W North. And, obviously, back the same way. I stick like grim death to those trusted highways, especially if I am alone. Even armed, safety trumps reckless adventure.

But I had borrowed The Paranoid Texan’s Garmin and he had spent considerable time helping me program it. OK, programming it. And even though Guthrie is a straight shot down 35, Garmin was determined for me to see Joplin, MO and Tulsa before I die. She is one bossy little GPS system. She gets wrapped around the axle when I leave the highway to get gas. (“Re-calculating. Again. Sigh.”) I don’t know if she thought I would save 3 minutes or what.

I won’t soon forget Tulsa. I hit it at rush hour in blinding rain and wind. My windshield wipers could no way keep up. Then came the 2-inch hail. The locusts were scheduled, but were crushed by the hailstones. The last 78 miles to Guthrie, Garmin put me on 33 West, something even she just called a “road”, by which she meant a two-lane road with oncoming traffic. Tornadoes were all over the area. Two of my fellow human beings decided that now would be a good time to take their pre-fab homes out for a spin on a flat-bed truck. But it was all perfectly safe what with the “Wide Load” signs on them. At one point we also stopped dead for 20 minutes for some kind of road repair which had turned the two-lane road into a one-lane trail. The poor men standing out there in the hail and the rain had to make us take turns.

And you know what? It was some of the most beautiful country I’ve ever been through. Huge rolling hills, so steep and frequent they reminded me of that old ribbon Christmas candy, all green and spring-like, with one small town after another with great names like Drumright and Cushing, and speed limits of 35 miles per hour. The ominous clouds up ahead full of “tornadic” activity were amazing. Maybe I was high from the negative ions from the storm, but it was one of the happiest afternoons of my life.

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