Mysterious Ways: The Miraculous Billboard

Two women, traveling by car through a blizzard, search desperately for shelter for the night.

By Ruth Schenck, Frankfort, Indiana

As appeared in

Twelve hundred miles to go, I thought, pulling onto the highway here in Indiana, my 75-year-old mother-in-law in the passenger seat. My oldest daughter was getting married in San Antonio, Texas, in a few days, and we were anxious to get down there.

It was a beautiful, sunny March day, light jacket weather, and barely any traffic. We’d get to Texas in no time at all, I figured.

Wrong. The lamblike weather quickly turned into a lion. Flurries began to fall before we even hit the Illinois state line. By the time we got to Joplin, Missouri, we were in a blinding snowstorm. I couldn’t see past the hood of the car.

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I glanced at my mother-in-law. Mom had heart problems and high blood pressure, one reason we’d driven instead of flown. To avoid the stress, supposedly. Pulling over and waiting it out wasn’t an option. We could get stuck. I couldn’t risk that with Mom in the car.

I kept going, slowly and carefully. Mom kept her eye on the shoulder of the road, making sure we were headed straight.

“We’ve got to stop somewhere,” I finally said. It was too dangerous to keep driving.

“Where?” Mom asked.

Up ahead, amidst the swirling snow, I could just make out a shadowy shape. A billboard: “Holiday Inn, Next Right.”

We exited onto a narrow country lane, skidding slightly at the turn, and then drove through thick woods for almost a mile. We’re lost, I thought. Our situation was getting desperate.

Then I saw it: a one-story building that looked like a motel, with a parking lot. No sign, but it had to be the place the billboard had advertised. We parked next to a cement mixer and walked to the front. A decal was plastered on the door: “Holiday Inn.”

The woman at the front desk looked surprised to see us. “Can I help you?” she asked.

“We’d like a room for the night,” I said.

“I’m sorry, we’re not open yet. We’re actually still under construction...” Then she looked at Mom and glanced outside at the weather. “But we do have a few rooms ready with beds. You are more than welcome to one.”

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By noon the next day, the sky and the roads were clear. I went to the front desk to return the key. “You’re lucky you weren’t stranded on the highway last night,” the woman said.

“I saw your billboard, thank God.”

The woman looked confused. “We don’t have a billboard,” she said. “We haven’t even put up our sign here yet. Only the decal on the door...”

 

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