I took the kids on a fun play date about 45 minutes from my house on Thursday. My friend invited us for a visit and lunch. Everyone had a good time and I actually relaxed for the first time in awhile. It was nice to be away from my house and my housework for a change.
The weather was gorgeous. I think my favorite part of the day was sitting in a cooshy rocking chair on her back porch with Jaxon on my lap and the laughter of the older kids in the background feeling the breeze float in across my neck and lifting up strands of my hair. Now that last sentence could land me a book deal, wouldn’t you agree? Anyway…
We got there shortly after noon and planned to leave promptly at 4:30 in order to avoid rush hour traffic on I-95 and the Turnpike in Vero Beach, Ft. Pierce, and Port St. Lucie. We’d be home before 5:30, just in time for dinner and the evening chaos at my house.
I was very low on gas. I had about an 8th of a tank in a minivan with full blast air conditioner to keep the kids in carseats from overheating. Hot kids in carseats are a bad, bad, very bad combination. I wanted to jump on 95, head south to the Vero exit (just a few miles away), hop off, get gas, then get milkshakes from the Steak & Shake there in front of the outlet mall. I could already taste the strawberry heaven that had yet to touch my palate. I passed 2 gas stations on the way to the freeway… and a Dairy Queen and a McDonalds which both have milkshakes (but not a Steak & Shake milkshake which is sooooo much better).
Cruising. We get going and then about 5 miles from the exit a traffic jam. No way. Must be an accident because it’s only 4:45. No way. I sat there for a minute. “Shit” is all that came to my mind. The word shit. No joke. Shit shit shit. This is probably only funny to me since I have tried to control my foul mouth thoughts for several years now and can’t remember the last time I even thought to say “shit”. Damn, yes. Hell, yes. Dammit even. Ass occasionally. Not the “s” word. Anyway. I have an 8th of a tank of gas. I’m about 5 miles from my exit. I needed to turn off the AC first of all. Ok that’s fine. Roll down windows. “What’s wrong Mommy?” from the backseat. “I don’t know, baby, must be an accident.” “Mom, why are all the cars stopped?” “I don’t know, sweetie, just a big cluster of metal, but we’ll be fine.”
I looked down at my cell phone several times. People started to get out of their cars to walk in the median to see if they could see what they wanted to see which would only cure their curiosity, not make the daggone jam move. What do I do? I started to watch the traffic heading north on 95. “If I drive through the grassy median I could make it.” One thing Ohio driving taught me is how to drive in snow. Driving in snow will teach you how to get out of a mud puddle or up a hill without 4 wheel drive. “I can make it.”
It had rained balls the day before in my neck of the woods. Several inches. I looked in the middle where the median dipped rather sharply and wondered how much mud or standing water was there. Crap!
Call Rich. He couldn’t decide what to do either, but I was running out of gas and the dinger was telling me “hey, idiot, you’re about to run out of gas”. While on the phone with him, I was still watching the opposite traffic for a break in flow. There was no room on the side once I got up the hill to park and wait out the fast lane. If I decided to go for it I would have to merge almost immediately after climbing the hill in order to get on the freeway. Two cops drove by. Guaranteed ticket, but I suppose I could show him my three children, my gas guage, and my boobs and get by with a warning. Kidding about the boobs part… sort of.
The other kicker is that my cell phone was also 1 bar away from no battery. I got off the phone with Rich and told him to check FDLE’s website for information on the many miles long parking lot forming on 95.
A pick-up truck. A utility van. I watched their back tires to see if they kicked up mud in the middle. No mud. Not even grass flew from their tires as they ascended the opposing hill. Yeah!!! I said a quick prayer and went for it. Three hot kids, one an infant inching ever closer to needing another meal, in a minivan not equipped for what I was about to do and a driver with a will to not be stuck on a freeway with an empty gas tank or three screaming kids. That’s motivation, my friends. I freaking made it. I let out a “whoop whoop” and gunned ‘er. YAAAHOOOO! I felt like an Ohio girl all over again and I knew my Daddy would have been proud of me right at that moment. His girl rocked it like a hurricane! Merge and we’re on our way.
I made it to the exit I had left 5 miles back and got gas. I could almost hear my tank gulping it up. The kids all fell asleep while I was gassing up. Heaven.
Now to the next problem. Cell phone with 1 bar left and no idea how to get home. I called Rich back and told him to hurry up and tell me how to get home. As he was talking my cell phone beeped it’s reminder “hey, idiot, you’re about to run out of cell phone battery”. Crap!! I called my friend to verify the directions Rich just gave me since she lives there and wouldn’t you know it she told me a different way. Crap!! Called Rich back again and he said “she’s wrong, Heidi, it’s faster if you go this way, you’ll shave 7 miles off your drive”. I trusted in my husband, wrote the directions on my hand, and made my way to Vero. I was so happy to see I-95 again on all the signs. Rich had taken me in a big circle of sorts to get me back on the freeway so I could avoid the traffic jam I had just been in. We were skipping the part of the freeway between Sebastian and Vero (where the jam was).
The kids woke up hungry. McDonalds it is… again. Whatever. We all know you eat junk on road trips. Right? Fine. Guess they’ll have McD’s for lunch and dinner and it won’t kill them no matter how against the grain it is to me.
Ha!! I get to 95, head south, and BAM another freaking traffic jam! Or is this the same one? Regardless, I was now about 10 minutes from feeding time for Jack and I could hear him sucking on his hands behind me. Crap!!
Ever breastfeed a baby on the freeway? Well, I have.
Ever bribe kids with a milkshake and a trip to Target for a toy if they behave? Well, I have.
We left Sebastian at 4:35. It takes about 45 minutes to get home on a normal trip. We pulled into the driveway at 7:45.
It was an accident. A fatal one from what I could tell. All I could think as I rounded the corner to our house was “thank you, Lord, that we are safe”. Even a huge delay and 3 tired and cranky kids didn’t numb me to gratefulness. We threw the kids in the tub and then put them to bed.
Thank you, Lord, that we are safe.