North Platte, Neb. – It's official - HoosierNation.com's magical stupidity tour from Bloomington to Salt Lake City and back has been grounded.
While Indiana's 2006 season ran into a J.P. Batista-sized brick wall at the Huntsman Center, HoosierNation.com's return trip to Bloomington ran head first into 18 inches of snow in the Midlands. After winding our way through Utah Sunday morning and eluding any inclement weather in Wyoming and the Rockies Sunday afternoon, the flatlands stopped us in our Enterprise-Rent-A-Car tracks.
That's why I find myself sitting at the Holiday Inn Express in North Platte, Neb., drinking a coffee, watching the Weather Channel, and relaying our tumultuous travel tale.
If you haven't figured it out by now, we drove to Salt Lake City.
Before you jump over to Yahoo! to see just how far that is, I'll save you the trouble. It's 1,610 miles, a trip that's slated to take just under 25 hours. I'm proud to say we made it in a shade under 23.
As for what psychologytoday.com says about how crazy we were for doing this, well, I'd rather not reveal its diagnosis.
The trip west was as uneventful as an all-day drive can be. Other than eluding the tumbleweed in western Nebraska (something I'd never seen before), and some terribly foul smells in western Iowa, the roads and skies were clear and we rolled into Salt Lake City Tuesday night a little weary, but not that much worse for the wear.
The trip back, though, has been a different story.
After Indiana was bounced from the NCAA tourney by Gonzaga Saturday night, we awoke Sunday in Salt Lake City and loaded up the Toyota Camry at 9 a.m. to begin the six-state journey home. But while we were headed east, the weather decided to go south…and in a hurry.
By the time we were eight hours into the journey along Interstate-80, the conditions had gone from sunny to sordid. The speedometer dropped from 80 to 60 and finally to 40. By the time we entered Nebraska, our visibility extended about an 1/8 of a mile – or just far enough to see a handful of cars flipped upside down off to the side of the road.
After stopping at a rest area to remove the ice from the windshield wipers and the snow from the wheel wells, we looked for anyone or anything that would suggest it was safe enough to continue on.
No such luck. Everyone else seemed to be off the roads – either voluntarily by opting to stay at home, or involuntarily by winding up in a ditch.
That left us with a decision to make – venture on for another 15 miles and stop in North Platte for the evening, or brave the elements Vegas-style and let it ride.
Now mind you, this wasn't a decision that we'd have a second chance to make. For those who are unfamiliar with Nebraska, you don't go from town to town. You go from truck stop to weigh station. If you pass North Platte and its featured attraction – the Fort Cody Trading Post - your next chance at civilization is Kearney, Neb., a town another 90 miles away. After that, it's nothing but corn, cows and pheasants until you get to Omaha and the Nebraska/Iowa border.
In an effort to not make a bad situation worse, we begrudgingly pulled off the interstate and checked in to the North Platte Holiday Inn. Our intentions were to give the roadways another shot this morning, but we're here for at least one more day, as the first day of spring calls for nothing but snow, wind and ice in all of Nebraski!
It's been quite a trip back, I'll tell you, a journey that was labeled by one of my passengers as the "Trail of Tears." Of course, that was before our 24-hour trip turned into a three-day ordeal.
So while everyone else is back home in Indiana, speculating about the next Hoosier basketball coach or discussing the outlook for the start of spring football Tuesday, I'm still 950 miles away the comforts of home.
As much as I hate to admit it, I'm stuck in North Platte, Nebraska.
And all you got was this lousy story.
What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been...
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