This past Monday, I drove my mom up to her cabin in Mansfield, Indiana. As we were passing through Huntsville, Alabama, I saw a billboard advertising a Star Wars exhibit at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center and immediately started making plans to stop by for a visit on my way home. (Left, the poster that saved my life!)
On Tuesday, we went into the "big city" of Brazil, Indiana, and while mom was shopping, I got my internet fix using the free WiFi at McDonald's (thanks, Ronald!). I looked up the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, and to my extreme disappointment, the exhibit had ended eight days earlier. Eight days. ::sigh::
THE FORCE IS WITH ME
On Wednesday, I was driving home, south on Interstate 65, and I saw a sign for a rest stop up ahead. "Next Rest Area 81 Miles" it said. Hmmm. Better stop for a potty break. Then I saw one of those electronic signs typically used around construction zones, and it said "REST AREA CLOSED." Great. Then the words changed to say "TO TRUCKS." Okay, then, I'm in a passenger vehicle. I can still stop. Wonderful.
When I pulled into the parking lot, I could see why the truck area was closed. It was filled with law enforcement vehicles, primarily trucks hauling trailers and those large "mobile command center" vehicles. I could see the top of a boat behind one of the trailers. A law enforcement helicopter was swooping by overhead.
Oh, dear. It's not going into a heavy drive period like a holiday weekend, so it's probably not one of those demos for the TV news where they kick off a safety initiative. Hmmm.
While I was inside, I spotted a poster for the now closed-and-moved-on Star Wars exhibit, so I stopped by the desk and asked the staff member if - since the exhibit is definitely over - could I have the poster. While the very nice Mr. G. Knox hunted for tools to detach the frame from the wall, I wandered about the small area looking at the posted map (222 miles to Pensacola), and I overheard someone say that the LEO were out in force because of some kind of chase. One traveler mentioned that he'd heard something about it on the CB, but they were headed south, implying - or at least I inferred - that the chase was happening in the northbound lanes.
When Mr. Knox handed me the poster. I thanked him and walked out the door.
AVOIDING AN ACCIDENT
And that's when the law enforcement vehicles took off. Woosh, woosh, woosh, one after the other. I hung out by my car, tried my cell phone and realized that it didn't actually charge while it was plugged in overnight (probably because it was pre-occupied with trying to find a non-existent signal in Mansfield), considered taking out my camera to take action shots of the chopper swooping low over the now-backed-up lanes of traffic. The last LEO vehicles pulled out and the stopped traffic started moving, so I figured I'd just go on.
Traffic was moving along well, and then it stopped. All those LEO were lined up along one lane of traffic, while traffic crept by. News trucks from Montgomery channels 8 & 12 were set-up on the side of the road by what appeared to be an accident. Here's the CBS 8 report on what happened:
And a report on the accident from WSFA 12:
Once past that scene, traffic opened back up. I noticed more people pulled over for the next hour or so, so I guess as long as all the law enforcement was in the area, they were racking up a few tickets. I also noticed streams of LEO heading north again, including that boat plus an airboat. All for a guy wanted on domestic violence charges?! Doesn't make sense.
Then I found another report at Channel 12 WSFA:
The proliferation of LEO vehicles was not related to the chase, although I suppose everyone was ready to help if needed.
WHY DID THIS HAPPEN?
The thing that gets me is, if I hadn't pulled off in the rest area and waited that extra few minutes for the poster, I might have been in the middle of this chase. They couldn't use that electronic sign to warn drivers to clear the road? An innocent civilian now has damage to her car and thankfully she's okay, but whatever she was supposed to do Wednesday afternoon was blown, and she'll be dealing with the aftermath of this accident for weeks, explaining to her insurance and having to get repairs done. None of it had to happen, if drivers could have been warned.