One summer in college, my friend Julia and I had plans to go backpacking in Europe. We worked super hard for the first half of the summer, each taking two or three jobs waiting on tables, trying to save up enough money for a month in Europe.
The day was finally here, and due to the (good) advice of Julia’s mom, we decided to leave Ames at 5am to catch our 5pm flight from Chicago to Paris. Let me remind you that we were two blondes heading off in a yellow bug.
After a few hours of driving on I-80 (the interstate that crosses the state of Iowa east-west), I was starting to wonder why I hadn’t seen the Coral Ridge Mall near Iowa City. I knew that it was supposed to be on the right side of the road. Well, we hadn’t seen it and had been driving for a few hours, so I started to panic and wondered what was wrong.
We had just passed Council Bluffs, and Julia reassured me that Council Bluffs was “one of the Quad Cities.” At the time, I didn’t really even know what the Quad Cities were. We stopped for gas after passing a sign that read Welcome to Nebraska. A little worried and confused, we went into the gas station and asked the lady if this was the right way to Chicago.
“Yes, just keep taking I-80,” she replied.
“Phew!” We were so relieved!
On our way out, she added, “By the way, where are you girls coming from?”
“Ames,” we replied.
“Oh no… You girls went the wrong direction!!!”
“What?!?!” We ran to the car and Julia decided to take a turn driving. We were completely panicking and shaking. Less than 10 minutes after being back on the road (now headed east at 94 miles per hour), we saw some flashing lights in the rearview mirror.
The officer came to the passenger side window where I was sitting. He recognized our car (yellow bug) and thought something seemed suspicious since we had been going one direction then turned around and sped in another direction. As soon as we rolled down the window to talk to the officer, we instantly started bawling and ranting at the same time, explaining that we might miss our flight to Paris that we had worked so hard for! Isn’t that a good excuse for speeding? We couldn’t waste precious time getting a speeding ticket!
“Whoa,” he said. “Calm down. Do you know how fast you were going?”
He asked Julia to come sit in the front seat of his car with him. There he (slowly) got out his map, and (slowly) showed her where Iowa, Nebraska, and Illinois are located.
Needless to say, the officer didn’t think our excuse was quite good enough, and we left with a $100 speeding ticket. We drove back across Iowa, east this time, through Ames again and to Chicago. As we got finally to the airport, they were literally closing the doors of the plane. We ran as fast as we possibly could with our huge backpacks on our backs and shouted, “Wait for us!”
Can you believe we made our flight?
At least this flight was going to Paris. You see, what I failed to mention at the beginning of this story is that when we were originally planning our trip, we found this steal of a deal ticket price to London. We quickly bought two tickets before the ticket price increased! They were just too good to be true; less than half the price of the cost of tickets to Paris! We had found incredibly cheap tickets to London.
London, Canada, that is. Definitely too good to be true. We realized this a few days later due to Julia’s mom’s friend who was a travel agent, and told us we should probably double-check that our tickets weren't going to Canada. It turns out that we actually got a refund for our purchase. If we didn't talk to this lady, we may have wondered why they were speaking French…in London!
Can you believe that we made it – to Europe and back – alive?!? I mean, how blonde can you get?Well okay, you can get a little more blonde than that. One last kick...on our trip, one of the places we visited was Rome and the Vatican City. We even went to the Sistine Chapel. We took tons of pictures of the beautiful ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. About six months after we returned from our trip, I was showing my roommate Lindsay our pictures, particularly the one of the Sistine Chapel.
"That's not the Sistine Chapel," Lindsay told me. She was right. It was the dome of St. Peter's Basilica. And all this time, we thought we had seen the Sistine Chapel and we had missed it!