It isn’t often that we learn just how far we’ll go to attend a writer’s meeting, but that’s exactly what happened last Saturday when my husband and I set out to attend the quarterly meeting of Ozark Writers League held at the School of the Ozarks in Hollister, Missouri. We never know for sure if the weather will allow us to attend the February meeting, but all looked safe. We would spend Friday night in a motel to be there bright and early at 8:30 a.m.
Such plans have never gone awry in the 20 plus years I’ve attended the all-day meeting of this super group of writers. At least not in such a way as they did Friday afternoon. Bright sunlight and crisp temperatures made the drive enjoyable. While most of the highway linking Northwest Arkansas to Branson, Missouri has been four-laned, there are sections in the most remote spots that are still two lanes. The traffic isn’t too heavy in the winter, and so we made good time until we had almost reached the Missouri border.
We topped a hill, rounded a curve and there, to our amazement, was a long line stopped dead. No traffic at all in the opposite lane. Since there wasn’t any road work we knew it had to be an accident, rare around there. So we stopped, turned off the ignition and hubby got out to walk around. Folks were soon strolling in all directions as traffic lined up behind us. Soon, we’d move on, we were sure, so we were determined to enjoy the lovely scenery and the beautiful weather. An hour and a half later, we weren’t quite so happy. What was going on, anyway?
Still no traffic flowing from the opposite direction. Must be bad. Hubby talked to the driver in front of us, a young woman on her way to meet her husband, a singer whose tour bus was in Branson. She was a bit upset because she’d broken her elbow during the ice storm and wasn’t supposed to be driving, but since she usually accompanied her husband on his tours and hadn’t seem him in several weeks, she was eager to be on her way. She had managed to get the only local radio station on the radio and heard that a semi had jack-knifed, the load completely blocking the highway.
In the Ozarks there often aren’t any other roads to go around trouble spots. And if there are, they don’t look very inviting and seldom go where we want them to. My husband knew of a road some 15 miles behind us that would eventually take us back to our route, but should we turn around now? It would be a very long drive and surely the accident would be cleared shortly. We were right. It wasn’t long until we saw a long line of traffic approaching. A lane had been cleared. We’d be next.
And we were. In a few minutes, we were waved through by a lone highway patrolman handling the entire scene. A wrecker had managed to move the truck off the highway into the ditch. Music playing, we moved along. Everything was okay again, and we were only two hours late. I’d called the motel to alert them that we would be late. Good thing, too.
We hadn’t gone a quarter of a mile before we saw to our dismay that traffic had come to a dead halt again. Surely not another accident on a road where they were rare. So there we sat. Perhaps traffic had just backed up past the upcoming intersection and we’d have to wait our turn. No such luck. Half an hour went by, again people strolled around discussing possibilities with one another. Then, while hubby and our driver friend up front stood outside talking, a lady came running down the shoulder in hysterics. They stopped her so she wouldn’t fall or get hurt and managed to calm her enough to get information out of her that a car had hit the school bus at the bottom of the hill and overturned. Her son was on the bus and had called her to say he wasn’t hurt. She was caught behind us in the traffic and trying to get to him. At this point we decided the only thing we could do was take the alternate long route. I wasn’t about to give up attending the meeting where I could visit with writers I hadn’t seen in six months.
Our friend decided to follow us and we turned around and off we went, driving past the wrecked truck. We took the long route and were treated to some beautiful scenery. The narrow but paved road wormed its way around and up the rim of a mountain. At the top we gazed down over the ruined and devastate trees (courtesy of the earlier ice storm) into a patchwork quilt valley, scattered with farms and wrapped in curling streams that sparkled in the bright sunlight.
About forty-five minutes later we drove past the road on which we’d been held up for so long. There was still no traffic moving on it. After a long search for our motel in Branson, we arrived exhausted but relieved to finally be there. I told everyone the story was too long to tell, but to watch my blog for all the details. So I’ve kept my promise.