The road home for Thanksgiving was a long one when we lived in Harding County.
550 miles from Camp Crook, South Dakota to Le Mars, Iowa.
Speed limit 55, even on the interstate.
School dismissed an hour early on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and we were on our way by at 2:45. It was a 12 1/2 hour drive with 1 time change to slow us down. That meant we would arrive at my parents’ home around 4 in the morning if nothing went wrong.
Something always went wrong.
Not during the few remaining daylight hours spent on desolate stretches of highway.
Not when we drove through Rapid City where there was a gas station and motel at every exit.
Not before midnight when we were part of the steady stream of home goers on Interstate 90.
Our troubles lurked in the darkness, waiting for the wee hours of the morning until we neared the bridge over the Missouri River. Year after year, like clockwork, as we drove past Chamberlain and our car tires hit the bridge, snow began to fall. The snowfall grew heavier as the car climbed the hill on the east side of the bridge. When we crested the hill and hit the open prairie, the wind blew. By the time we reached Mitchell, sixty miles further on, we were driving through blizzard conditions. More than once–in fact I think every single year we drove the road home for Thanksgiving–we ended up in a cheap motel room somewhere between Chamberlain and Sioux Falls. We called my parents (remember, no cell phones) to update them, woke up the next morning, and hung around until the weather came on the television (again, no cell phones). Then we got in the car and drove the remaining 2-3 hours home.
Sometimes on drifted roads.
Sometimes through ice storms.
Sometimes in frigid temperatures.
Every time, we made it home in time for Thanksgiving dinner with our extended family.
Our experiences on the road home for Thanksgiving made their way into the first chapter of See Jane Dance!–with a few notable changes.
Jane’s parents live in Sioux City, so her trip home is a little shorter than ours was.
She is single so she makes the trip by herself.
She encounters bad weather on the way home from Thanksgiving.
She spends the night in her car instead of a motel.
She’s going to stay right there until the fall of 2022 when the publisher releases See Jane Dance! It’s a long time to be stuck in a car, but don’t worry. Jane’s mother, just like mine, loaded her down with Thanksgiving leftovers, so she won’t starve between now and then.
With Thanksgiving only a day away, neither will I!