604 miles today! Not by choice. We had originally planned to do about 366 miles today but, at the last minute, we made a decision to push on. We actually went to Jubilee College State Park and checked it out. Not very appealing. Not to mention the fact that I was checking the weather forecast and there was a 70% chance of thunderstorms with potentially heavy rain at times. Not fun in a tent. We decided to push on to Des Moines and stay in a motel.
The last 200 miles or so of our drive was one of the more challenging drives I've ever had in my life. I have driven in some pretty serious weather conditions in my years but I really think that this one ranks near the top. Even growing up in the Pacific Northwest and dealing with the rain up there didn't really come close to this. So I'm driving west on I74 and I am heading into a black hole. Really, really black. So black that my headlights came on. The rain drops started as great, big, huge, single drops that hit the windshield so hard that they startled Dylan as he was playing his computer game. I'm driving 75 and the rain increased it's intensity. Off in the distance I see a couple lightning strikes but nothing was too out of control....yet. I'm in the left lane following about 8 car lengths behind the car in front of me and, all of a sudden, the clouds just completely opened up and the car in front of me disappeared...I could barely see the grassy center median and there was absolutely no discerning the road from the rain. It was a wall of water. True fear gripped me for really about the first time I can remember while driving in the rain. I sat forward in the seat, grabbed the wheel with both hands and was on a pure adrenalin rush. I was down to about 35 MPH and was fully expecting to run into some serious problems. I couldn't see another car on the freeway so I knew they couldn't see me. Not good. We all went from about 75 to 35 in an instant so anything could have happened. Thank goodness, it didn't and the rain let up just enough to see tail lights in front of me. When I say that it let up a bit, I mean that rather than 10 fire hoses focused on my windshield, there were 9. This went on for about half an hour to 45 min. or so. During all of this, there were almost non-stop lightning strikes. More than I had ever seen in such a short time in my life. Literally one every minute or less. Unfreakingbelievable! Luckily, there were no real accidents - though we did see a semi truck on it's side off the freeway.
The rain eventually did let up and my headlights turned themselves off as we actually got a few rays of sunshine. Our destination for the night was a Motel 6 right off the freeway in Altoona, IA which is just a few miles from Des Moines. We arrived and checked in and searched out someplace to have dinner. We had a choice of fast food or Grandma Max's All-you-can-eat buffet at the truck stop next door. We chose the buffet. Surprisingly, the food was palatable. Not much more than that but far better than McD's - which I'm getting sick of. Our waitress (I use that term loosely) had a huge beer belly covered by a stained green polo shirt tucked into her black sweatpants. She was sporting 2, count them 2 front teeth which she gladly showed to us as she smiled. We said, "thank you" and she flipped her greasy, bleached blond hair as she walked away. Definitely a truck stop buffet!!
Tonite, I will revel in the dry comfort of my air-conditioned Motel 6 room. I want to go home. Tomorrow, the forecast is dry for central South Dakota so, hopefully, we'll be back to camping. I'm so torn between camping and cheap motels. Yes, motels are dry and air-conditioned but they just aren't as homey feeling as eating your own home-cooked camp-food at your own picnic table, swatting your own bugs, walking to your own restroom, sleeping in your own tent and brushing your own teeth at the water faucet next to the sewer drain. Life is all about balance.