Series of unfortunate events

Trip Start Jan 06, 2011
Trip End May 24, 2011

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Flag of United States  , North Dakota
Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Dickinson, North Dakota. It would be our first exposure to the state, so we were excited to check it off our "states we've been to" list. That was about the only benefit, though. It seemed like all powers were against us in trying to make it to Dickinson.

It started when we tried to book hotels.

There were plenty of hotels in town--it was surprisingly populated. But nearly every hotel was full capacity that night. Weird. We've never encountered that. We looked on their community events page to see what was going on. Only some local charity dinner or neighborhood hoe-down or something like that. Certainly not anything to fill up the entire town's selection of hotels.

If we did get a room in Dickinson, it would be about 120. And that's for your run-of-the-mill Super 8. Weird. We tried calling motels that weren't online. Still nothing. Kelsey talked to a clerk over the phone, and he explained that the town has experienced an oil boom there in the past year. So, for about a year, every hotel has been running at an average of 98% capacity. Great.

So we changed gears and tried to call a local church. We had to play phone tag with the pastor, but through that process, we learned that their church was hosting a 50-person choir the night before, and the pastor had scratched so much for lodging for the choir, that he felt the congregation wouldn't be able to house us the next night. Lucky us. But, the pastor did do a little research and kindly reserved a room for us in a local motel. He said he wouldn't pay for it, but it was being held. We just had to call the secretary to get the details.
We only got this message after we had been in school without reception. By the time we called the secretary, she was out for the day. So we called the motel itself. Cut out the middle man. They said there wasn't a room being held under the church's name. "Okay," Kelsey said, "Do you have a room available anyway?" "Yes" "Okay we'd just like to make a reservation." "Oh, I'm sorry. The manager went out shopping. I'm just the owner, and I can't make reservations."


At this point, we threw our hands up in the air and gave up.

I called Andrew, who swept into the rescue and booked a hotel about 30 miles west of town. It would come to about $100, but at that point, we were thankful to even have a place to stay.

So we drove. And as we drove toward Dickinson from the east, a blizzard drove toward Dickinson from the southwest. The principal called us and told us that the weather was pretty bad, and he might be cancelling school for tomorrow.

"Unbelievable," we thought. If we went through all this trouble, and spent $100 on a hotel room to (a) not to even do an assembly, and (b) have to come back and do it all over again when they reschedule.... we wouldn't be happy campers.

We pressed on anyway. That's a bummer about this job. Even if the weather's bad, and they advise not to travel, and roads are closed, we still have to be places.

The weather was pretty awful. At one point, we pulled off into a rest area when we learned that the storm was going in our direction, and we could maybe wait it out. But then we realized another storm was potentially following it, and besides, our rest area was not plowed and we didn't want to get stuck there. So after a very short break, we continued on.

Praise God, we made it to our hotel without any incidents or accidents. It was actually a very nice place to stay. We sipped tea and played cards in the lobby til bedtime.

We woke up to discover that school was not cancelled. Good! It would make all the trouble somehow worth it. But then we realized that maybe it should have been. Every other school in the area was closed, and every road in the area was closed except the one stretch of interstate between us and the school. Off to school we went.

The roads were nasty. The only way I knew where I was going was to follow the few sparse tracks of other desperate travelers. We cautiously proceeded at a mere 30 mph on the 75 mph freeway.
Even at that speed, we hit a stretch of solid ice and spun out off to the side of the road. Bummer.

So we called the principal to inform him of the situation. He was chill. "No problem, just get here when you get here. I decided to keep school open today, but the buses aren't running. So I don't know how many kids will show up. If we need to, we can combine both audiences into the later one if we can't start until then. That's fine."

Well, it was nice that we weren't under any pressure. That helps. But really--the buses weren't running? That's the reason people do cancel school! Well.. ultimately, the school would have their assembly, and even if ten people showed up, we wouldn't be back there again. Of course... we were still stuck in a ditch.

That is, until a large silent man emerged from nowhere in his truck. I had been behind the van giving it some pushes to no avail. When I saw the man, I said, "Hey thanks for pulling over!"
He smirked and said nothing as he got out a chain from the back of his truck. It was like this was the fifth person he's pulled out this morning. "There's a strong section of frame right there," I pointed under the front of the van. I knew this from our earlier jaunt into a snowbank in Iowa. Again, the man said nothing as he crawled under the front of the van to attach the hook.

Kelsey put the van into neutral and steered for dear life while the silent man threw the truck into drive.

Within seconds, we were back on the road.

"Hey man thanks again for your help."

"No problem. Drive safe." He spoke!! And then he recovered his chain, hopped back into his seat, and just busted across the median to the other side of the highway. Just as quickly as he came to our rescue, he disappeared.

Cool. I think maybe he was an angel, and this was his first assignment to help humans on earth. So he wasn't as experienced as, say, Gabriel, at interacting with humans. So he figured if he didn't say much, he wouldn't give away his identity.

Anyway, we got to the school safely, about 45 minutes before the first show time. With the help of a couple kids, we got the show set up in a half hour. So we had fifteen minutes to spare! The principal was thoroughly impressed and appreciative of our efforts. That was nice. We did feel like we sacrificed and suffered a lot to get there. It was nice to see that we were appreciated. And, nearly 800 kids were at school. Amazing.

So, that was our Dickinson fiasco. We moved on from there never to see civilization again for days. Oh, the Dakotas...

got to our hotel, and woke up to find that school was not canceled. Every road was closed except the highway between us and the school. Maybe it should have been.
Spun out off the side of the road, pulled out by a guy who didn't say anything.
Got to the school 45 minutes before showtime, and set up under a half hour. The school was impressed!
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