The drive north began well. I listened to Tim Curry read A Christmas Carol as the first two hundred miles of road rolled beneath me. It was a free download from Audible that year and the first time I’d ever actually “read” the story that had spawned so many dozens and dozens of adaptations.
“Rat ruz retty good!” the dog said when the tale ended.
We were past Dallas by that point when it began to drizzle a little. Normally, I’m all for the clouds and the wet stuff. But not at 3:30 or four in the morning, behind the wheel, with Scooby Doo getting nervous. But surely it wouldn’t last.
I ran out of steam somewhere in Oklahoma around 7:30 that morning. I pulled off the road and into a McDonald’s parking lot. After giving the dog a short walk, we returned to the car for a nap. I think I slept for an hour or two and, as before, woke up doubly refreshed. There was just a quick drive ahead of me (a quick eleven-hour drive) and we’d be done.
The rain returned.
“Ron’t rorry! It’re brow over!” the dog reassured me.
It didn’t brow over. The good news was: the rain finally stopped as I neared Chicago. The bad news was, it turned to snow and ice. The worse news is that my left shoulder began to hurt maybe some five or six hours from my destination.
For all these reasons, I rolled in later than I’d hoped. It was cold, wet, dark and miserable when I finally pulled up to my mom’s house in the car I’d just rolled off the dealer’s lot only one day earlier.
“Rat ruz an ordeal!” the dog announced when asked how the drive went.
I collapsed into bed, trying to ignore the continuing pain in my shoulder.
The next day was Christmas Eve. The pain hadn’t gone away and the family generally decided I should get it checked out. Laura and I drove to a twenty-four hour clinic. They ran a few tests and decided there might be a heart issue. Something about the EKG results. You should go to the hospital.
“Okay,” I said dejectedly, pulling out my keys.
“Oh, you’re not driving like this.”
“Like what? I just drove four hundred miles ‘like this’. I think I can make the five minute drive up the road to the hospital.”
They disagreed and before I knew it I was strapped to a stretcher and being shoved into an ambulance.
“Are you kidding me?” I said to no one.
Long story short, I spent the rest of Christmas Eve in a hospital bed where they finally declared, “We don’t know what’s wrong. Here’s some Vicodin. Go home.”
And that’s when I vowed I’d never drive from Austin to Chicago again all by myself. And in case you’re wondering, Tim Curry and the dog don’t count: neither one of them offered to drive.