If you have ever driven on I-35, you've probably wished for an alternative route. At any given time of day, it is in desperate need of more lanes as it cannot handle the number of vehicles that attempt to make their way from the northern part of the state to the southern part of the state.
I usually avoid it altogether by taking the train. But the train hasn't been operating southbound this summer, and so I resorted to riding Megabus down I-35 to Austin last week for a conference. And "riding" took on a whole new meaning.
After departing the Grand Prairie station at 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday and then making our scheduled stop in Dallas, we made an unscheduled stop between Georgetown and Round Rock at 4:20 p.m. As all three lanes of the highway plus an exit lane began to fill up with red tail lights, Twitter revealed that there had been an accident two hours earlier in the northbound lanes. As the news story was updated, we learned that an eighteen-wheeler had a blowout, hit the median, and dropped his load of one-ton steel beams in the southbound lanes; by the grace of God, no one was killed, but multiple people were injured. And in order to bring in equipment to removed the beams that were dropped, the highway was shut down.
At 4:20 p.m., we knew that we would not make our 4:55 p.m. scheduled arrival in Austin, but passengers began predicting arrival times of 5:30 or 6. When those times passed without moving more than a mile, we held out hope that surely we would start moving soon. "Soon" did not come for more than five hours. At one point, I texted a co-worker who was attending the same conference and asked if he would come and pick me up; he replied that there was no way for him to get to my bus. I knew that, but I needed to hatch an escape plan because I was feeling trapped and claustrophobic, which I didn't know was possible on a bus with huge windows. Other passengers devised plans of possibly walking to a restaurant to pick up food because we were surrounded by restaurants but had no way to drive to them. An older lady, who reminded me of Betty White, kept talking about how many babies she thought had been born while we were stopped.
During the time we were stopped, I was so thankful that we had a bathroom on board, that I had packed food and water, and that I didn't have to be anywhere by a certain time (though I had hoped to eat dinner at a nice restaurant and get in bed early). And I was so grateful that this had not occurred the previous week when Erin and I were in Austin.
When we finally crept our way to the exit where everyone was supposed to exit, the highway patrol removed the barriers and opened up the southbound lanes; we were among the first vehicles to get to travel down the highway in five hours. We sped to Austin, arriving around 10 p.m.
In the aftermath, I gave thanks that none of the vehicles around us had run out of gas, that no one on the bus had lost his or her mind during the time we were trapped, and that God had sustained our bus driver who had been up since 3:30 a.m. and had to keep his foot on the accelerator and brake for way too long.
I was reminded during this trip that it is hard to deal with being stuck because it is often the result of circumstances that are beyond our control. But I was able to see the Lord's hand even in the midst of this; He never left us.
And on the return trip, He even showed off a little, reminding me that He keeps His promises.