My Mom got a call that he was in the ICU at the hospital in Rockford IL and his beloved dog, Pepper, was in the local shelter. We were so grateful to know they were both alive after the early morning accident.
We quickly packed necessities and were headed East on I-44 within a couple of hours. We imagined the motorhome had enough damage that he couldn't drive it home but we knew he would want to fix it up. He'd always been very handy with cars and body work. Kevin was driving a truck at the time so we decided we'd get a flatbed coming out of Chicago and bring his motorhome back to Ozark. We'd drop it in the local park and get a tow truck to take it the rest of the way home if we couldn't just tow it home from there.
We arrived in the Rockford area in the late afternoon, just a little too late to pick up Pepper, so he spent the night at their wonderful shelter. We quickly found the hospital and headed up to see Papa. He was doing well! He'd spent the day making a list of the important items he wanted me to get out of the motorhome. We visited with him, assured him we'd get everything and then left to get some dinner and check into a motel.
Early the next day, we went to the junkyard. We were not at all prepared for what we would find!
Sweet Pepper was sitting in the passenger seat! He was lucky to escape with no injuries!
We were so thankful both Papa and Pepper survived this accident! Reports showed that he sideswiped the bridge and then pinballed between the concrete walls! Once I realized the condition of the motorhome, I had no doubt there would likely be many items I'd never find. Topping his list was a pistol and cash. Thankfully, they were easily found. The interior of the motorhome looked as if someone had violently shaken it. Nothing was in it's proper place except the fixed items and the mattress hiding the cash and gun. The refrigerator had fallen over into the path. I quickly realized the best way to get through would be to disconnect the "freon line" that was holding it. I found a tool and started pounding on that line. It wouldn't budge. I now know that God was watching over us all that week as the line is actually propane in a motorhome refrigerator. I finally gave up and just crawled over it all. I tried to find everything on his list, which included good comb, silverware and his home phone book with all the important phone numbers you recorded in the back of a phonebook back then.
We traveled to the scene of the accident. We knew we'd arrived at the right location when we saw apples and tools scattered along the roadway. He'd carefully filled 5 gallon buckets with locally picked apples to share with his Wisconsin friends. It was a little comical yet also heartbreaking to see those apples laying all over the roadway, knowing all the work he'd put into getting them gathered up.
Papa was disappointed I wasn't able to get all his belongings out of the motorhome. Upon dismissal from the hospital, we went to the junkyard and he wasn't expecting the site we'd found. Again, I pulled out what I could and packed my suburban so tight I'm not sure another piece of paper would have fit into it.
With nothing left to do in Northern Illinois, we traveled back to Springfield, thankful for the God's blessing of protection over us all that week.