Day three of the four day drive from New Hampshire to Colorado, and I was running into trouble. Aside from possibly spraining my peroneal retinacula (i.e. one of the ankle tendons) during a run down to a gorge in New York state, my trip had been uneventful. I had not injured my ankle so much as to not be able to walk myself out of the gorge, but I did need to stop for bags of ice along the way to help with the swelling. I stayed that night with a friend in Chicago, enjoying the breeze off Lake Michigan, and then drove like the dickens to get across hilly Iowa.
My goal the third night was a wilderness refuge just off I-80 in Nebraska that provided free camping. I stopped at one of the many gas stations/trucks stops along the highway to grab a few food items for dinner before pushing out the last couple of hours to my resting site. I went to the quick store and bought a ham sandwich as well as a jar of dilly beans (which, for anyone who lives outside New England are pickled green beans and they are delicious). I was going around the counter to grab some mustard for my sandwich when the bag I was holding split, releasing the dilly beans into the free air until they hit the floor and exploded.
Vaguely panicked, I put down all my belongings and ran over to the counter clerk, informing her of the mess in the corner. She was unconcerned, and I went back to the mustard corner to quickly retrieve my things and exit as gracefully as possible.
Two and a half hours later, I turned off the interstate onto a one lane dirt road amidst a thunderstorm. It was about nine o’clock, and I decided that I would just find a nice, flat place to park the car and wait out the storm before settling in for the night. There was an impressive amount of rain falling, and I was starting to feel nervous as I gingerly eased my little Fit down a hillside to a flat parking area near a lake. Suddenly a bolt a lightning ripped across the sky so closely that I could see the sparks of burning oxygen left in its wake. My mind froze in awe of this sight during the split second between seeing the lightning and the feeling that I had been punched in the chest by the thunder that followed. The force of the sound reverberated through my legs and arms even after it had gone, and I was shaky as I pulled the car into a spot.
There were two other mysterious trucks in the lot with me, and I was uncertain of what they were doing there. I decided to look up the weather, having been thoroughly shaken by my close run-in the with lightning. I knew I was safe in my car, but if the car was indeed struck by lightning I would be pretty much stranded. My worry was heightened by the serious flash flood warnings that went along with the weather report in my area. Piling up all these factors, I gave in and decided to move on to the next town and get a hotel room.
Instead, I ended up posting up with the retired folks and their RVs in the parking lot of the Walmart in York, NE. I was now a solid three hours west of where I had stopped for dinner the night before. I woke the next morning and moved my car to the Sapp Bros. down the street to get some gas. I parked, flipped open the case where I keep my wallet and found it empty.
Systems and organization are the two most important factors to successfully traveling in ones car. I always keep my wallet in that spot. If it was not there, I did not have it.
Falling into full panic mode, I started tearing through my things, realizing that I had no way of accessing any money with the exception of my checkbook, which would not be accepted by an out of state gas station without a license, which I also did not have. I was supposed to be getting back to Boulder that day and I was effectively stranded in the middle of rural Nebraska.
After much back and forth phone calls between parents, banks, and credit card companies, I was able to buy gasoline. I was still grieving over the loss my wallet and all that it held. I had tried to locate the truck stop where I knew I must have left it, but had no recollection of where it actually was, having been terribly distracted by the storm the night before.
I had been wandering around the Sapp Bros. for two hours and was about the go on my way, giving up hope of ever recovering my wallet when I decided to take just one more look at Google Maps. By some sort of strange little miracle, I located the stop. There was a phone number directly to the stop online. I called it. An actual human answered the phone. She had my wallet. She transferred me to Julie from accounting who took down my information, and the wallet was mailed to me just a few days later.
Dear Wings America,
I was driving across the country recently and made stop at one of your stations, I think in Avoca, IA. Being a terrible combination of distracted and bored from having driven all day, I mistakenly left my wallet in the bathroom. I was able to call your station, and the lovely people who work there were able to return my wallet to me less than a week after I had left it behind. Absolutely nothing was missing from it.
In a time when there is a lot of mutual suspicion and greed in the world, I want to thank you for being a shining example of how good people can be to each other, even in little ways. My wallet is an item that hardly holds any importance in the greater scheme of things, but the fact that someone turned it into you and you were willing to mail it to me made my life that much easier and less stressful, and restored my faith in the fact that overall, most people are good. Most people are willing to help, and most people understand each others’ struggles. I’m sure I’ll get the opportunity to pass on the kindess someday.
Hoping to never have to have my wallet mailed to me ever again, but eternally grateful that you were willing to do it, sincerely,
Photo downloaded from: https://pixabay.com/en/lightning-storm-199651/