Our harbinger was in the form of a state trooper that blew by us when we were on the way home from Huntsville, where we'd lunched with our good friends, Wes and Deidra.
We'd struggled with the decision to go because our weekend was jam packed, but we hadn't seen our friends in a long time, and it would only take a few hours to run up, have lunch and then blow back home in time for an early afternoon practice session and cap it off with a nap. No problem.
We headed out at 10 a.m. and made the trip in about an hour and 20 minutes. The morning was a bit cooler, but the humidity was like the breath of a really big dog, breathing on my neck.
We lunched with our friends and then headed home. Jilda asked if we needed to stop for water, but all of a sudden we were on the interstate and stopping wasn't an option. We didn't fret because we'd be home in just over an hour.
As we navigated the on-ramp to I-65 south, a trooper blew by at an alarming rate of speed. Had he been two minutes earlier, we could have taken the bypass through Decatur, which would have added about 20 minutes to our trip home, but our timing was off.
The Tennessee River runs near Huntsville, and the bridge crossing the river is a few miles south of the on-ramp from Huntsville, which was the direction we were headed.
After about a mile, traffic came to a complete halt.
Normally, that would not have been an issue. We oftentimes come upon construction areas and mishaps when we travel. But today, the mercury was bumping 100.
At that temperature, a car can idle with the air conditioner running for 15 or 20 minutes, but even the best of cars will overheat if left idling very long.
We sat for about 20 minutes and I decided to cut the engine. At that point, it seemed like traffic was backed up to Indiana.
We learned from one of our fellow travelers that an 18 wheeler had lost control and jack-knifed on the bridge, blocking both southbound lanes. We had guardrails on one side of the road and a steep ditch on the other.
Jilda and I had two bottles of water, but they'd sat in the car during lunch, so by the time we headed home, the water was hot enough to brew tea.
Sitting in the car with the windows rolled down was unbearable, so after about 45 minutes, we bailed out and stood in the shade of the transfer truck in front of us.
The guy sitting beside us in the left lane kept his car running. He had no choice. His wife was wheelchair bound, and they had their tiny dog with them. I'd be willing to bet his Ford will never be the same.
Another 15 minutes and I began to get seriously concerned. Since Jilda has been taking her infusion treatments, her internal thermostat has changed, and she stays cold all the time.
When I looked at her today as we stood in the shade of the truck, her face was as red as a tomato, and she was sweating.
Just as I was about to ask the folks next to us to make room for us to go between so that I could try and cross the ditch, a state highway department truck pulled up in the oncoming lane about 50 yards ahead. He dumped a load of gravel in the ditch and then packed it down.
A few moments later, another rescue vehicle came down the median and began to block oncoming traffic from the other direction, which allowed us to escape back toward Huntsville. A four hour excursion turned into nine hours from hell.
There were a lot of take aways from today and I won't bore you with all of them, but I will tell you this — if you're traveling through the south during summer, make sure you have a boatload of water, ice, a portable air conditioner and four-wheel drive.
I'm going to have a test on this later, so make sure you write this down.