Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Quail of a Tale

I'm back from my five-day trip to Michigan and happy to report that my travels provided lots of ideas for blog topics. I actually intend to do a few different posts about the pros and cons of driving, since I don't drive at all in Chicago but spent a lot of time behind the wheel of a rental car this past week. Today I'll start with one of the cons: RANDOM ANIMALS THAT RUN OUT IN FRONT OF YOU ON THE HIGHWAY.

There I was, driving in the far-left lane of a three-lane highway at 70 mph this past Sunday afternoon. It was the day after I'd stayed over at Nerdy P's for the Fab Faux concert I wrote about on Monday. I was on my way from Ann Arbor to Flushing, Michigan (about an hour-long drive) to visit my grandma, aunt and uncle. It had been an uneventful journey on a relatively nice day and I was having a grand ol' time jamming to some tunes... when all of a sudden the car in front of me slammed on its brakes. I could see absolutely no reason for the driver to be grinding to a halt -- there weren't any cars ahead of us, there was no accident, and I didn't see a police car lurking anywhere. But I knew that at the speeds we were going, I would need to not only pound my brakes as well, but also swerve into another lane. Thankfully, no one else was close to me, so I actually drove diagonally from the far-left lane to the far-right shoulder before coming to a COMPLETE STOP. Why? Because there were four huge bird-like creatures running slowly from the median to the wooded area off the side of the highway. ?!?!

By the time I went from 70 mph to zero, three of these things had sauntered in front of my hood and continued on to their destination like it was no big thang. The fourth at least picked up the pace a bit to avoid getting run over by a car behind me that had caught up to us. Once the birds had cleared out, there were eight cars at a dead stop across all three lanes. I truly couldn't believe that everyone had managed to avoid hitting the birds... and, of course, each other.

When I got to my grandma's house I was still shaken from the incident, and told her that "quails" had come thisclose to causing a multi-car pile-up on the highway. But later I realized that the birds definitely weren't quails. I think they were guinea hens. They were REALLY big (and apparently not too bright).

That night I drove another hour back to my parents' house -- this time in a torrential rainstorm. It was one of the most harrowing experiences I've ever had. I could barely see because of the downpour, the car constantly felt like it was hydroplaning, and then in the back of my mind I kept worrying about what animals might be planning to dart onto the highway. I knew there were lots of deer in the area, and figured that in pitch-black conditions on slippery roads, it wouldn't be as easy to avoid a disaster as it was with the not-quails on dry pavement in the daytime. But thankfully I made it back in one piece. Needless to say, now that I've returned to Chicago, I'm glad to leave the driving to cabs for the foreseeable future.

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