In the rearview, there’s a giant pothole

In the rearview, there’s a giant pothole.

Well, actually a sinkhole.

Every Wednesday, in the early afternoon, I meet with my colleague, Anne Blankenship, who is the Daily-Freeman Journal’s managing editor. At those meetings we sit at a conference table, make plans and share schedules.

This week, we climbed into the Naomimobile and careened down county highways. Our destination was the Great Sinkhole of 2018, which, if you don’t know, is on U.S. Highway 69 north of Jewell a mile or so.

It’s lucky that thing didn’t swallow a compact auto.

At roughly 10 feet by 12 feet by 10 feet deep, it hinted that it had summered in Iowa to escape the extreme heat of Florida and simply forgotten to go south before the Great Fall Deluge of 2018 descended and turned every stream and drainage ditch into a River to Nowhere.

OK, maybe that’s overstating it.

But you get the idea.

The assumption is that an old drainage tile had collapsed and taken the road with it.

So we hopped into the car and drove.

Here was our strategy. I am using that word because it sounds like we had a plan.

1. Take the ancient Oldsmobile that I sold to an elderly friend — and by that I mean someone even older than me — after my dear mother, Naomi, passed away in 2004 and that I reinherited last year.

2. Head to Jewell, past Briggs Woods south of Webster City and by way of Kamrar, where Pickles Pub was probably still serving the lunch crowd.

3. Get a photo of the infamous sinkhole.

Disclosure: We already had a pretty good picture of the hole, thanks to Hamilton County Sheriff Doug Timmons who, I imagine, didn’t want anyone driving up to the Gateway to China.

We went anyway.

The hot fall day was a rarity this season because the 2018 Deluge has brought with it its partner, the Early Freezin’ Your Keester Off Fall of 2018.

We passed Arnold Seed.

“Is that an ear of corn?” Anne asked.

She had courageously climbed into the passenger seat and buckled up, her cell phone in hand.

“I need a photo of that.”

I suggested she tell me where to stop, hoping it would be with enough warning to not land us in the ditch.

“Right between those poles!” she suddenly shouted.

Fortunately, I keep the Naomimobile in decent shape. I pulled over and opened Anne’s window, hoping like anything that it could close again because: A. It was windy as all get out, and, B. A few weeks ago it got stuck in the down position.

There was a time when we would have gotten out of the car to get multiple angles for just the right picture.

We are past those days.

But, then, it was a silo painted to resemble a cob.

As she grabbed a few frames I was reminded of the night high winds blew down trees in Webster City. That evening found the two of us winding our way through Graceland Cemetery on the south edge of town attempting to portray the damage there.

Anne posted a photo of that drive to social media.

Almost immediately, someone commented, “Who drives through a cemetery at night in a storm?”

I don’t think I have to answer that.

Now, Anne posted of photo of the two of us in the car.

“What are Thelma and Louise doing in a British car?” a friend cleverly observed.

“Dang, I reversed the image,” Anne said.

We laughed.

With the wind howling and us finally at the entrance to the Great Maw of the Underworld, we were confronted by that which causes journalists to think twice: barricades.

I got out and moved one.

The gusts were whipping up the dust along the old highway and it was hot. I kind of dragged the thing far enough to the left to get my car through.

“Are you sure we should do this?” Anne asked.

“Why not?” I responded, by now sort of giddy with the ridiculousness of the moment. “If we fall in, at least this car isn’t worth much.”

The context of the comment was no doubt painful for Anne. Her brand new car had just returned from the shop — for the second time.

Then it hit me. I had waited until what my mother would call “the last minute” to renew the registration on the Naomimobile.

The tags hadn’t come.

Anne took a shot of the barricades through the windshield.

The Great Roadtrip to the Entrance of the Underworld was over.

Jane Curtis is editor of The Messenger.


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