It was really cold that Saturday night in January of 1987.
And we were eighty miles south of Chicago in my broken 1980 Ford Fairmont station wagon.
And we were sixteen and clueless.
And it was really fucking cold.
I don't know if you've ever stood on the side of I-55 in the middle of Illinois as the wind roaring across the flat corn stubble peppers your face with bits of ice…it's a pretty normal winter situation, but rest assured that on this particular night, it was significantly colder than what you're thinking of. Visibility varied from about five to about thirty feet depending on how heavy the snow and wind were at any given moment.
Being sixteen is an amazing time. It certainly has some advantages. My body could react with lightning speed. I could calculate and draw conclusions to simple problems faster than just about anyone I knew. And I only lost an erection after cumming if I wanted to. But at the same time, I thought that any problem was simple and most had to do with my erection. When my car started making that funny noise as we blazed up the interstate through a tunnel of snow, Paul got a worried look on his face. But I was cool as a cucumber…after all, how bad could it be? Then it sounded like a small explosive was detonated up front and a bowling ball was ejected from the bottom of my engine. But the car kept going and so I kept smiling.
When the temperature gauge went through the roof and some kind of smoke started pouring out of the front of my car, I decided to stop and check it out. But it was way too late. I popped the hood and looked around as if I knew what I was doing. I didn't. So I got back in the car and Paul and I tried to decide on a course of action.
He figured a state trooper would be along shortly so we should just sit tight. I knew that would never happen and if it did, he'd just hassle us anyway - cops are the bad guys. I figured we should just go to sleep and in the morning the snow would have stopped and our course of action would be easier. After a half an hour, I couldn't feel the feet that were supposed to be there encased in the combat boots that I'd spray painted silver at the end of my legs. That's when it dawned on me that we were fucked.
Paul has always been calmer than I in times of stress. I think it must have something to do with the fact that his dad was older than my grandpa. He was a step ahead of me and had been studying the road atlas. We figured from the odometer that we must be within a particular ten-mile stretch about 225 miles from my home in Webster Groves, Missouri. We both tentatively agreed that we had already passed the only exit that fell within that range, but we didn't know how far back it was, or how useful the little dot on the map that appeared to represent the town of Odell, Illinois would turn out to be.
If we have to walk to survive, do we walk north or south? We decide that it must be approximately 2 miles south to Odell and 5 north to Dwight, a much bigger town. After some clueless guessing about how far we can make it in this cold-ass blizzard, we decide to head south for the closer town -- if nothing else, there will be a pay phone we can use at the inevitable interstate gas station. So we walk. And walk and walk and walk. It must have been more than two miles. Maybe four. Maybe we should have gone north.
We do eventually get to the exit -- half frozen and barely able to move, which is when we realize that this town isn't right smack dab on the interstate. Damn, more walking. So we set off to the east and stumble along until we get to the gas station. Blessedly, it turns out to be a service station in addition to a small quickshop and we see a parked tow truck.
We've survived! Elation at our mastery of the elements turns to shit as we're stumbling across the concrete pad toward the door and the lights go off. Not all the lights actually, but it takes us a while to realize this. The lights over the gas pumps we are moving near and some of the interior lights are out. Paul and I glance at each other and make for the plate glass doors holding in all that warmth. As we burst, snow-covered, into the tropical interior of a seedy interstate gas station, the twenty year old girl cleaning up the coffee maker screams and drops the big glass pot which shatters into at least fifty trillion microscopic splinters and scares the living shit out of us. It turns out that she thought the doors were locked and she tells us to get out.
It seems that we haven't survived yet.
She's supposed to be locked in the store alone all night running things through a bullet-proof drawer. We can't be in here. Paul asks her where the nearest motel is and she guffaws. OK, is there a Waffle House or a Denny's where we can stay warm all night? "There's no motel, no all night restaurants, no nothing…here in Odell." During this conversation, I've taken off my coat (way too thin and small for blizzard hiking), tossed it over a cardboard stand displaying ice scrapers, and collapsed into one of the three faded red-orange booths which presumably serve as Odell's finest eatery. "I'm staying until the police take me away," I think as I drift to sleep, head resting on arms, knowing that Paul will work something out.
We did survive the storm. But the adventure was still young.
Since I didn't wake up with a shotgun pressed to my head, I knew that she didn't call the police, but I did figure out pretty quickly that something was wrong. There was no Paul and no station attending pock-faced Illinois cornbilly. I looked around the store, looked behind the ashtray-festooned counter, checked the back room, took a leak, and made myself a burrito in their microwave. Good thing there were no customers!
As time passed, I grew more and more spooked. About twenty minutes later, a loud crashing noise from somewhere 'in back' caused me to jump out of my skin. When I went to investigate, I found Paul and Rhonda (I found her name out a few minutes later) in the garage area attempting to get their clothes back on. Paul was in a hurry, embarrassed at having been caught. But Rhonda took her time about it, and I think she made sure I got to see all the important parts. Apparently, Rhonda managed to convince my buddy that a little nookie would help to warm him up. Neither of us had much in the way of sexual experience and I was deeply jealous that he got to do the little troll while I just slept.
When morning finally slid around the globe, Rhonda got the mechanic to go pick up my car and then went off shift. They kindly put us at the top of the priority and then told me that my water pump broke up and fell out of the car after I rammed a big ice chunk and that it wouldn't be until Monday morning before a new one could be rebuilt. That and the $300 bill were pretty depressing. It didn't help that Paul was amazingly chipper. I was saved by the fact that Amoco had foolishly decided that I should have a gas card and I foolishly agreed. It didn't have much of a credit limit, but it would cover the repair.
We had to kill sixteen hours in Odell that day and man was the day looooooonng. Odell did actually have a restaurant, but it was only open for business like sixteen hours per week. There was a little market on the corner in front of the tracks where we spent an amazing amount of time reading the ingredients of cereal and Rice-A-Roni. A few doors down from the market was a weird store that sold some over the counter drugs, hair-care products, paperback novels, a bunch of weird nick-knacks and a huge assortment of pornographic magazines. We watched the grain silo at the farmers' co-op and explored the train tracks that run through town. And we spent a huge amount of time just sitting in that gas station killing time.
Rhonda worked again that night and let us stay, but it took some fancy footwork since her dad worked the shift before her and we had to disappear at midnight to make things look right. We hung out in the bathroom for over an hour before Rhonda came and got us. It was another bizarre night in hell. I slept as much as I could in that crappy little gas station but I'm pretty sure that Rhonda did everything she reasonably could to keep me up. I was distinctly aware of Paul and Rhonda having sex three more times that night, and I think there was more. Rhonda watched me watch them screw while Paul's back was to me and never mentioned it or stopped or anything. Her only reaction was to smile at me and grind away. She smiled a lot at me too, but it was an inside-joke kind of smile, not something nice. I guess she thought my discomfort was funny.
Sixteen years later, I can think it's funny too, but I sure didn't at the time. She kind of gave me the creeps. We seriously could have died there on a lonely stretch of frozen interstate in Illinois. But we didn't. It was my first road trip and I'd been driving for only nine months. We went to Chicago many times over the next few years -- Paul and I, and other friends. When I moved out on my own at nineteen, I moved to Chicago to live with some friends who had a townhouse. But on that first trip, we never made it to Chicago, just to O'hell. And we never went back. And we never told our folks what happened. What a weird first trip that was…but I was hooked. I kept making road trips and many of them became adventures.
Part of iceowl's adventure quest.