On Saturday, November 21, 2020, at the Holiday Inn Express in Shamrock, TX, smack dab in the middle of the COVID pandemic, I cast-on 56 stitches for a new pair of socks. I was on a solo cross-country drive, from Illinois to California, to surprise my mom for her birthday. I hadn’t seen my parents in over a year, and spent months of planning and preparation to ensure I could make the trek while maintaining quarantine.
Three days before I left, I waited four hours to take a 10-second nasal swab. When that came back negative, I was good to go! It was a glorious Friday morning, blue skies and unseasonably warm sun. Had breakfast in the Walker Bros parking lot with Jeff, and then hit the road. I had converted my Prius into a mobile quarantine camp. I had an absolutely wonderful Therm-a-Rest MondoKing sleeping pad, all cozied up with a quilt and memory foam pillow. I had all my dinners prepped and frozen, ready to cook in my HotLogic warming tote (this thing is amazing, I still use it weekly!). I had a trusty 250-watt portable generator to power my CPAP at night. I even had bathroom facilities, and disinfectant galore to ensure I could make the trip with minimal exposure risk.
It felt so good to get on the road. Months of planning and preparation finally being put to the test. Everything went perfectly and without a hitch, until I hit Missouri. It was dusk, and I was about 30 minutes away from my first planned stop in Springfield, MO. I was looking forward to pulling into a spot, eating my dinner, and settling in with a book. Then boom. A deer bounded onto the expressway. Keep in mind, I’m in a tiny Prius going 65mph in the middle lane of an expressway, surrounded by big rigs. I remember saying, “Oh my God,” right before it leapt. Somehow I remembered my in-laws teaching me, if you ever encounter a deer, you have to keep driving. Don’t swerve, don’t stop. So I kept going and braced for impact. Then this damn deer jumped right on top of the hood of my little Prius, smashing it nose down into the road. It happened so fast. My heart was hammering, my car was making all the worst noises, but luckily, I was able to make it to the side of the road, where I sat hyperventilating.
Nowhere, in my very detailed plans, did I have a provision for hitting a deer.
I was just starting to catch my breath when I saw the beam of a flashlight make its way over to me from the grassy embankment off the road. I have never been so happy to see a police officer making his way toward me. I rolled down my window. He didn’t have a mask on. I didn’t have a mask on. At that moment, I didn’t care. I needed help, and help was there. If the wacky setup of my mobile quarantine threw him off, he didn’t show it. He simply asked what was going on. “I’m headed to California, and I just hit a deer, but I’m too afraid to get out and take a look.” This guy was wonderful. Without any judgement or criticism, and I’m sure there was a lot going on in his head, he went around to the front of my car, inspected the damage, and came back and basically told me my car was not fit to drive and that he’d call me a tow truck. He also went to look for the venison I might’ve left in my wake, only to find none. The deer had successfully made it across the entire expressway, and I was the only victim. It definitely could’ve been a lot worse.
I spent the next hour updating Jeff, calling the insurance company, and getting towed in my car on the back of a flatbed, to Marshfield, MO. As it was a Saturday, they couldn’t take my car to the mechanic, so they had to take it to a holding lot. It wouldn’t hit the shop until Monday. At the hotel, I grabbed my clothes, my CPAP, my generator, and my backpack. It was all I could carry. Insurance would cover a car, but I’d have to figure out how to get from Marshfield to Springfield in order to pick it up. And then I’d have to figure out if I’d push on, or head back home.
I had to push on. There were more reasons to keep going, than there were to quit. So I found the one and only Lyft driver in Marshfield, who happened to know who I was as he drove by my wreck the night before. He drops me off at Enterprise, where I’m in line behind another guy who hit a deer. I learned from the locals, that the deer population was booming this year, likely due to the decrease in human interference. From here, I head right to the nearest place with yarn, which was Hobby Lobby. I had to. When I’m stressed, the rhythm of the needles, and the color of the fibre, help me re-center. You do yoga, I do socks. This was the highest-risk activity I had on the entire trip. A large box store, with lots of people. I remember running in and making the fastest fiber decision I’ve ever made in my life. But I needed, I absolutely needed it to feel grounded again.
I did make it out to California and back, with very few other challenges. I saw flat, boring stretches of nothing. I drove through beautiful wooded mountains and janky truck stops. I drove out of the rain, and into the sun. And along the way, I knit.
When I finally made it back home, I had finished 1.75 socks. It took me another three months to finish that last bit, maybe because I felt back on even ground. Maybe because I felt I had to uphold the second-sock tradition, where you procrastinate making a partner for as long as possible. But yesterday evening, I knit the last stitch.
In mid-December, right before Christmas, the guys at Reliable Toyota in Springfield, MO, called and said my car was ready. They were amazing the whole way through, keeping me updated on progress as I was on the road, even arranging repairs so that I could rescue stuff out of my car on my return trip. The day before I was to pick her up, they did a complete inspection, taking her out on the road for a good 20 miles, to make sure everything was sound.
Even though my plans got flip-turned upside down, luck followed through every step of the way. My heart was so happy driving that beautiful Prius home again.