Iowa Prairie Dog Story by Rebecca Addison
Huge Exciting Addison Road Trip (HEART). .... Day 14, July 5
............... Pulling off the I-80 exit I saw the hotel immediately. A concrete block surrounded by a small parking lot with a Kum-and-Go across the street. If there was a McDonald’s on this exit then it was on the other side of the highway and I never saw it. It was late and we were tired.
I pulled up to the entrance and the desk clerk was just finishing with the guest in front of me. His connection with Choice Hotels was down so he hadn’t received the reservation that I’d put in at the rest area. However he did have a first-floor room and he offered me a cash discount. Greg Kellogg was a friendly guy and even though he was tired he made a good effort. Because he’d spent most of the day in the dentist chair at the dental school in the city he personally walked down the hall to make sure the room was clean before he handed over the room keys. . For a price that was lower than the website price we were soon in our room.
When it was time to leave he thought I’d already paid and I had to tell him that I still owed him the $75 that we’d agreed upon. He gave me an honesty discount for that and it was the least expensive hotel of our entire journey.
Since work issues were still not resolved Aaron settled into a pattern of working and napping for the duration of the trip. As we got settled into the car Abby put on headphones so her videos wouldn’t disturb Aaron’s phone calls. He settled into a nap and I set us up on I-80 with the GPS set for Pennsylvania even though I knew we wouldn’t get there in one day.
A short time later there was a face staring at me from the other side of the windshield. Yes I screamed and soon everyone saw what I saw. Something alive looking in at us. I pulled over to the side of the highway with the hazards on. It wasn’t a flat tire. It was something worse. It was alive.
Aaron got out of the car and tried to deal with the thing but it went back under the hood and hid. We popped open the hood but there was nothing he could do and in frustration he finally got back into the car. We got going again but I pulled off at the next exit that we came to.
It was a mile down the road to the Casey’s General Store, a chain which we don’t have in New England. I pulled into the parking lot off to the side and we set the car in the sun. I went inside and bought bottled water while Abby used the ladies’ room. Aaron pulled a nest out from under the hood and sprayed the water around hoping that whatever it was would decide to vacate. We gave the car some space hoping the shy creature would run away on it’s own. Eventually we piled back into the car again assuming we’d been successful.
We were wrong of course. Abby had her headphones back on and Aaron was dozing off again when once again I was greeted on the windshield. I didn’t scream this time. I just pulled into the nearest rest area which was about a mile up the road. I pulled quickly into the first spot I saw, with apologies to the driver who was trying to sleep next to me and popped the hood again. Aaron got out and tried to rattle around and scare it off but the creature remained. Finally I remembered my granola bars and decided to take a shot at things myself. The hood of the car was hot of course and under the hood must have been even hotter. The poor thing needed to relocate to somewhere cooler. I broke off some chunks of granola bar and sprinkled them over the hood and on the ground hoping to bait him/her away. The hood of the car was down again since Aaron had given up and the creature came up and took a bite and then disappeared again. Each time it came up it would go a little further up onto the hood and windshield. Finally when we were about to give up it crawled across the windshield and off the car. Aaron didn’t need to tell me twice to put it in reverse and get out of there. I had put the remainder of the granola bar in the trash can nearby and that’s where the creature headed as we peeled out of the parking lot.
It wasn’t until after the trip when I posted a photo of the creature and my dirty windshield that we found out that the creature was a prairie dog! We’d been calling it a “chipmunk” although we all knew that wasn’t right. Even though we’d seen prairie dogs in Wyoming I didn’t realize that they were native as far east as Iowa. The “prairie dog story” became an instant hit when we returned to work and Abby started summer camp. Even though the whole ordeal was short-lived it was the kind of thing that makes a trip unique and personal.
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