Transit to Elkhart IN

This could be subtitled as “Worst Travel Day Ever”.

We rolled out of Higginsville IL Sunday morning for a 600 mile trip to Elkhart for bearing maintenance on the rig. We aimed for Casey IL about 330 miles east on I-70 which would leave about 260 remaining for Monday to Indianapolis then north to South Bend on US-31 and east on US-20 to Elkhart.

About 30 miles before we got to St. Louis…we ran into the back end of a 45 minute traffic delay due to an accident. That one wasn’t too bad…at least we were moving most of the time. When we finally got clear of that we continued on eastward until we were almost to Altamont IL…and then the worst travel day ever really got started.

Connie was following Neil and there was an accident about 200 or 300 yards in front of him…he was in the right hand lane and had a birds eye view…albeit from a distance…of the interaction between a semi, two pickups towing trailers, and a VW Tiguan…at least that’s what we think it was.

We had seen the VW for about the last 30 or 40 miles…the driver was alternately slowing to about 40 and then speeding up to 80 or so…speed limit was 65 or 70 on that part of the freeway. He wasn’t texting or weaving…just changing speed dramatically. At one point…the VW was somewhere in front of him and he observed a red car flipping over a couple times in the left lane and a truck towing a trailer full of horse trailers fishtailing and then heading off the right shoulder.

Here’s a shot of the aftermath…Neil was first in line and we sat there for 5 hours at 90 degrees.

IMG 4397

Neil and another fella were on the scene within about 90 seconds of the crash and did what they could for the participants. After wandering around during the delay…here’s what he thinks happened based on looking at the damage to the various vehicles…although as I said he never saw the Tiguan or semi involved.

The semi was in front followed by the black truck with the trailer in the right hand lane…the red car was on the trailer. The driver of that truck was just coming back east from Arizona where he attended his mother’s funeral…that was her car and possessions on the trailer. The Tiguan…which after the accident was about 8 feet long and 3 feet tall…it’s upside down just off the right shoulder below the white trailers in the shot; there’s a dark blue shirted cop next to it…anyway it was following behind the black truck/trailer and based on what happened it had to be one of the times when the Tiguan was at about the same speed as the truck.

The truck with the trailer full of white horse trailers…up on the shoulder in the woods in the picture…came up from behind and smacked the Tiguan square in the rear…he must have been considerably faster as the back end of the Tiguan was crushed in about 4 or 5 feet and the front of that pickup crushed about 3 feet. The Tiguan swerved to the right from the impact then tried to correct back to the left…but by that time it was next to the black trailer but on the shoulder…he went up and over the trailer knocking the red car into the left lane and flipping it a couple times. He then bounced off the front of the black truck with the trailer…the Tiguan’s front end is crushed in as is the front of the black truck…flipped, and went over into the ditch. The horse trailer trailer ended up smacking into the back of the semi and then bounced off the road into the woods to the final position it is in..

Looks pretty clear to him that the white truck with the horse trailers was not paying attention and going too fast…he had passed Neil and Connie behind him a minute or so before at a pretty good clip…they were doing 65 which is their normal cruise speed on travel days.

Unfortunately…the driver of the Tiguan didn’t make it…when Neil and the other fellow got there he was barely breathing and choking/wheezing…lots of blood but by the time EMS got there less than 10 minutes later he had passed away.

In the photo above…Big Red is about 50 feet forward of the initial impact point. After about an hour and a half or so…the accident reconstruction team got there and spent an hour moving all the stopped vehicles back, onto the shoulders, and into the left lane to clear the initial impact point. They originally wanted Neil to back 3/4 of a mile down the shoulder with the ditch on the side…he suggested that would be practically impossible…the reconstruction guys agreed and he just backed straight back a hundred feet or so once the remainder of the the vehicles behind him cleared.

And then we sat.

And sat.

And then sat some more.

It started about 1530…and about 1800 Neil called our CG for the day to see about late checkin…told the nice lady there we were stuck and where (about 50 miles from the park). She said to call her back when we cleared the accident and let her know when we would be arriving and she would come up to check us in.

We finally got moving and ended up at the park at 2120…we had some cookies and Goldfish crackers for dinner while waiting for hours…Neil put on power, slides went out and we went to bed.

Monday morning…he dumped our tanks and filled the fresh with water for our expected 4 or 5 nights with no hookups while in Elkhart…then we had a blessedly calm travel day on to Elkhart.

Tuesday morning…we were up at 0430 to be ready to pull into the service bay at 0600. By 1300 or so we were done, bearings greased and everything checked for any other service needed, and back out in the parking lot. Neil tried to get our appointment at Quadra (jack builder) moved from Thursday to Wednesday…no joy there…so we checked with Brian from MORryde and he said it would be no problem to just stay 2 more nights. So that’s what we did. Tuesday night we had leftover ribs from the BBQ Shanty in Higginsville…the ribs were only OK while the pulled pork and brisket were pretty outstanding…Wednesday we ran over to Yoder’s Meats and picked up some meat then went out to Iechyd Da brewery for dinner…a couple of very nice brews and an outstanding pizza…ham, mozzarella, roasted garlic, balsamic, and arugula on top. Coming home…we had some maple nut fudge from Yoder’s for dessert and then it was TV until bed.

We’ll be off 20odd miles to White Pigeon MI for jack service tomorrow…then off to Cincinnati OH…I’ll post again later on.

No interesting stuff from the net today…in view of the fatality accident I discussed earlier it just didna seem right.


About Gunther

The full time RV travels and experiences of Gunther the Bear and Kara the Dog…along with their human staff neil and Connie.
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2 Responses to Transit to Elkhart IN

  1. Ruth says:

    So sorry that you had to witness this, one of the worst things about travel is the tragic things we sometimes witness.

    • Neil Laubenthal says:

      Thanks Ruth…it was a bit gruesome…but as the one of the first two people on the scene the old Navy training took over and we did our best for the poor guy. It was pretty obvious to me that he was in bad shape and I didn’t think he would make it…the cops were there in 3-4 minutes and EMS within 10 and he was gone by the time EMS checked. They didn’t even try to remove the body until after we left 5 hours on…the fire folks were going to have to roll the car upright and then dismantle the dash which was crushed down on his legs to get him out.

      The only good parts about it were (a) we had the rig so bathroom and snacks were available and (b) we were at the front of the line so even though we had little info it was better than none which the folks a quarter mile back had.


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