This is not my video, but you can get an idea what it was like!
As you all may know, Sarah Minshall and I were sharing a booth at Renegade Chicago this past weekend. Please read the culmination of events which classified our weekend as, “Murphy’s Weekend”.
Besides the weather report, Saturday morning was a sign of more bad things to come. I lost power in the middle of the night, so my alarm clock did not go off at 4am when I needed to get up. Instead I woke up to my apartment phone ringing (Sarah) at 6:00am when we were supposed to be on the road. So we ended up leaving an hour late. Driving went fine all through Michigan, and we had some great conversations and shared a few laughs.
Once we reached Indiana, traffic was at a stand still. We were sitting at mile marker 61 and found a radio station talking about traffic. The lady stated, ” West bound 1-94 around mile marker 61, the right 2 lanes are closed due to standing water.” So, instead of re-routing traffic, 4 lanes merged into one. We were behind a large semi truck (with a giant tomato on it) and we started moving again. All of a sudden water started rushing around the truck tires and started getting deeper and deeper. I watched the water slosh against the cement barrier and I could do NOTHING but drive though the 3 feet of water in my BRAND NEW vibe. I was freaking out, praying to God, water would not come rushing into my car as we drove through it. We eventually made it through and kept on driving.
Our load in time at Renegade was from 9am to 9:30. Which meant we had a half hour to park our car on Division Street and unload. Currently driving on the Indiana Toll Road, it was 9:45am. The rain continued to pour down. We finally arrived downtown at around 10:30am. We ended up parking on a side street and pushing a cart of our stuff 3 blocks to where out spot was. We set up the canopy first so we could have some relief from the rain. I managed to fit my car inside the gated off street to unload the rest. We unloaded everything around 11:00am. We began to try and set up with very little room to prevent things from getting wet. I had to move the car at noon, when the fair started. I had to park about 5 blocks away and walk back.
Sarah and I were both soaking wet. We were both hesitant to put anything out for fear of it getting damaged by the rain. I think we finally managed to get set up around 1pm. The rain was what seemed like a monsoon at this point. Our stuff was getting wet and our canopy was leaking. We had no side walls, and 1 tarp. We had a couple of ladies stop into our booth that were local and told us about a K-Mart that was not too far away. I decided to go to K-Mart to get some extra tarps and at least an umbrella for Sarah.
We had no breakfast or was able to stop for any bathroom breaks getting to and during the fair. So, my first thought upon entering K-mart was to find a bathroom. Of course, I get there and it says, “Closed for remodeling”. There was not another one in the store. So, I thought, okay, I’ll get the provisions we need and go to a bathroom some place else. I quickly came to the realization that the K-Mart I was at was worthless! They didn’t have umbrellas or ponchos, I was lucky (for once) to find some tarps. I got a shower curtain, some dry towels for us, and a hideous pair of pink croc shoes to wear, as my shoes and socks were completely soaked. I asked the cashier if she knew of anyplace that might sell umbrellas and ponchos as they didnt have any. She looked surprised, and said you could try Jewel-Osco which was right next door, and there was a Wal-Greens down the street. I walked next door to Jewel, and quickly found a bathroom. They didnt have ponchos either, but I did manage to buy Sarah a lovely, wild, leopard print umbrella for 15 bucks! (groan).
I found the Wal-Greens and they had some rain coats. I had everything we needed to survive the rest of the day, except for maybe some sunshine. I could find no parking on the side streets surrounding the fair. I kept driving around and found a small parking lot outside of a pawn shop. The sign said 1 hour parking, however, the pawn shop was closed and I saw no reason why I couldnt park there, as other cars were. So I walked back 5 blocks to our booth with our provisions.
Once I returned to our booth, we quickly put the tarps up and instantly it was warmer and provided some relief from the rain. We both became quickly attached to our dry towels! It down-poured a couple more times, but strangely it let up for about an hour. We had some sales and managed to make our booth fee back. We both had many items that were either wet or water damaged. It started getting dark around 6pm, so we got out our paper and fabric lanterns to light up our booth. It looked like a party tent when we were finished- we just needed some beer!
We decided to tear down early around 8:30 as there were others doing the same and not many shoppers. So we packed up our things as much as we could and I went to go get the car probably close to 9pm. First, I walked 3 blocks the wrong way and then remembered I parked the opposite way. So I walked back to the tent and started over. I finally found the street I parked down. I got to the parking lot where I parked and MY CAR WAS GONE along with my purse and our dry clothing. I was freaking out and had a minor panic attack. I called Sarah and didn’t know what to do- I didn’t know if it had been towed or stolen. I found a sign for a towing company and a phone number. I called the number and they had my car. They told me their location and that it would be $170.00 to get my car out. I called Sarah back and her husband got me directions to the towing company. Unfortunately, this meant I had to walk 3 miles to get my car, while Sarah stayed with our stuff so it didn’t get stolen. I was told I would walk under the highway and over a river twice before I got to the towing place. By this time, I had blisters on my feet from my crocs. I passed by many drunk men, homeless people, and sketchy places. I finally reached the highway and just kept telling myself, “keep going”. I got to the first bridge and crossed over the river. The bridge looked like something out of Huck Finn, where holes were patched over, and there was two-by-fours to walk over weak spots. I walked faster…
I reached the second bridge and passed by a clinic. I could see a major intersection ahead, which had to be where the tow company was. I passed by a large gated lot with razor wire around the top and I spotted my car. I reached the window and some lady was sitting at a desk with her feet up playing a PSP. I tried tapping on the window with my cell phone, but the bars on the window prevented me from doing so. She must have lost a level playing her game or something and finally looked up and saw me standing there. She said, “I need your license.” I said pointing, “its in the car.” She said, “Jimmy will let you in the big gate.” I went and got my purse and came back to a line of 10 people. I paid for my car and got the hell out of there.
I got back to our booth around 10:30. We started packed up and decided we weren’t going back on Sunday. We got everything packed up around 11:30. We started driving to our hotel, which was in Hazel Crest. Our directions were not very good and we ended up driving 45 minutes in the wrong directions. We stopped at a gas station and asked how to get where we were going. Two guys saw our Michigan plate and asked if we were from the Red Cross. We said no, and they gave us great directions and more bad news we had about 1.5 hour drive ahead of us. We got to the hotel around 2am. We got up to our room and our electricity didnt work- by this point, it wasn’t surprising we were still having problems. We waited for the manager to come up with us. He said to us that we must have had reservations because they have been sold out for weeks. He came into our room and said, “Oh the electrician didnt put the outlets back into the wall and half of the bulbs are gone.” He managed to get some lamps working. Even if he didnt fix the power, they didnt have another room to give us! He said, “Good night my little darlings” and was on his way.
We decided on not staying another night in the hotel either, so we packed up and went to breakfast at Cracker Barrel.
Our drive back wasnt much better. We spent 2 hours in backed up traffic. We found another good radio station where people were calling in about flooding, road closures, and alternate routes. i-94/80/90 East was completely closed due to flooding, where the water had gone over the cement barrier in the middle. We ended up having to go way south into Indiana in order to go east. There were reports on the radio that the National Guard was called in to help the stranded motorists that have been stuck for hours on the road we were supposed to take home. Another said that the river would crest at 18ft on Monday morning, and that the clinic I had walked by getting my car was now being evacuated due to flooding. The rainfall total in Chicago was the highest it has been in two decades.
We ended up driving across Indiana on a small back road. We drove through many small towns where people’s yards, driveways, garages and houses were completely surrounded by water. One town had a river running next to it that was over flowing into businesses and people were frantically trying to fill sandbags. IT WAS CRAZY!
After driving for 9 hours, we screamed for joy seeing the Welcome to Michigan sign. Murphy’s Law was no longer a part of our equation to get home.
Next time Sarah and I do a show together, you will see us indoors!