I would like to tell you all about my recent unexpected trip to Rock Island, Illinois. My oldest daughter decided to call this her home and has been living there for over two years now. She called Saturday night, needing Momma. I quickly tied up a few loose ends and made arrangements to make the 800-mile, 12-hour — if you're lucky — trip. My husband inspected my car, and he even cleaned it out for me. I left about 10 p.m. Sunday night.
This was my third trip to this midwestern river town, but this time I drove mostly overnight and I have to admit, as I set out late that evening I was more anxious than I had been on past departures. Perhaps it was the idea of the current social climate in our nation; maybe it was COVID-19; but I was more apprehensive on this trip. I felt unsure of what I may encounter on the road ahead. This uneasy feeling was new to me. I like to travel; I like to see new things; I don't mind driving long distances. But this trip felt different.
I went through Birmingham just after midnight and mine was one of only a few cars on the interstate. Imagine all the lanes wide open in downtown Birmingham. Same thing through Nashville — almost no vehicles on I-65 North or South. It was eerie, to say the least.
It's a good thing I had a debit card. Without a credit or debit card, there would have been no way to buy gas or anything along the way because the only thing open to motorists after 10 p.m. are the rest areas.
I watched the sunrise in northern Kentucky and into the lower part of Illinois. My tired eyes were very happy to see the sun. I stopped for two cups of coffee, gas and was back on the road.
The southern tip of Illinois has some foothills, but once you pass them, it’s flatland. And let me say this, if Alabama is the Land of Cotton, Illinois has to be the Land of Corn, or it should be if it's not. There is corn for as far as the eye can see. It's like looking at an ocean of corn.
Rock Island is one of the Quad Cities, which consists of Davenport and Bettendorf in Iowa and Rock Island, Moline, and East Moline in Illinois, as well as surrounding suburbs in both states.
Some of you may remember the Quad City DJs.
Some of you may know the John Deere Green World Headquarters is located in this area. It tickled me and still does because after living there for a couple of years, my daughter now calls our riding lawnmower a tractor. It's not a tractor — it barely climbs the hills in our yard that used to be a pasture — but she can call it one if it pleases her.
Back to the trip.
I made it all the way to Rock Island and my little red car started having issues. I knew it had to go to a mechanic before it could be driven any farther. But the silver lining is it made it as far as I needed it to go. It could have had those issues in the middle of the night in the Kentucky hills, out of reach of cell service, but it didn't.
I didn't freak out too bad; after all, we have Geico roadside assistance. So, I called my husband and asked him to arrange for a tow and a rental so I could make my way back to Alabama as quickly as possible. Turns out, Geico will only cover a 20-mile tow. That left me with 780 miles of out-of-pocket towing costs. On my limited budget, that was not an option.
But there is another silver lining to tell you about.
By this time, my husband was off work and getting ready to make the trip to Rock Island. We decided to rent a U-Haul trailer and tow the car home ourselves. But this left me stranded until my husband arrived in roughly 12 hours.
Again, with a limited budget, I opened the IHG app on my phone to search for a nearby hotel. The app also keeps track of reservations, pasts stays and points IHG customers earn. Turns out there was a very nice Holiday Inn just a few blocks away, and I had earned enough points to cover the cost of the room. Basically, it was free. It was also nice and clean. The lobby had a business center where I was able to catch up on some work. I didn't have to leave the hotel for anything, and the staff was very helpful.
My husband made it there at about 4 a.m. I have never been so happy to see that man. I was a fish out of water up there and he came to my rescue. I am very thankful for him.
The next day, we rented the U-Haul trailer and started to make our way back to Alabama.
One more silver lining, my car is still under warranty through SilverRock. It's at Jones Tire and Auto in Montgomery as I write this. Fingers crossed all goes well.
Everyone I met along the way was very nice and when my car started having mechanical issues, several people offered help. This world is not as volatile as many would like us to believe. Yes, there are pockets of unrest in our country, but those are few and far between and, unfortunately, they are the most widely perceived.
Our country is not as divided as it is often portrayed. We are all Americans and we still have more in common than not.
If you ever get the chance, I encourage you to visit Rock Island. It is a big little city on the river. With a history that dates back to the mid-1800s, it reminds me of what Tallassee could have been and, perhaps, someday still can be.
Carmen Rodgers is bureau chief of The Tallassee Tribune. She can be reached at email@example.com.