No faint praise

Because you have a morbid curiosity about how I wrecked my car


Well, it’s the holidays. Like many Americans, I hop in my car and drive to see relatives for Thanksgiving. Specifically, I go to see my father and his wife in Lawrence, Kan.

This mostly-annual trip is no small undertaking as it is about 1,561 miles round trip.

I set out Tuesday night for Cheyenne to stay with friends and get a running start on the 11 to 12 hour trip (that’s if you don’t stop a lot).

The weather predictions are clear for the days I had planned to travel and I have been lucky on past Thanksgiving sojourns.

The storm that manages to hit Cheyenne that night is obviously of the “stealth” type —avoiding radar and befuddling meteorologists.

I get an early start that next morning and drive out of the snow’s grip about 30 miles south of Cheyenne.

The rest of the trip is uneventful save for some gusty wind around Topeka, Kan.

I have a good visit in Kansas. I enjoy a nice Thanksgiving dinner, make it to a library book sale and see Santa Claus rescued from the top of a downtown department store by Lawrence firefighters and their ladder truck.

About that last one, I think the reindeer must ditch Santa there every year in a deer version of April Fools.

Sunday rolls around and I pack up my belongings and prepare to hit the road.

All the forecasts I see say that my way is clear. So away I go.

I stop in Wakeeny, Kan. because they have billboards that say (no kidding); Wakeeny: It’s affordable.

Okay, so I have to get gas, go to the restroom, and get something for lunch while I am at it. Still, that billboard is fairly ridiculous. Imagine if Saratoga had a billboard that said; Saratoga: It’s adequate.

The stretch to outside Denver was mostly docile, but about 80 miles from the Mile High City, I began to see snowflakes.

The singular snowflakes soon multiply and begin to stick to the side of the road.

I decide that I should take the toll road that skirts almost all of Denver’s traffic and puts you out north of the city on I-25.

It turns out to be a good decision.

As I get on the ramp for the toll road, I see flashing lights farther down the highway I have just left.

Not just a few lights either. The scene looks like a red, blue and yellow strobelight convention.

Even better, the snow abates completely after only a few miles on the pay route.

Getting back to Cheyenne to pick up the pajamas I had left there a few days earlier was easy going.

My hosts there were just starting dinner and asked me if I would like to join them.

I told them I had better press on before the weather got a chance to go wrong.

Not eating later turns out to be a mistake.

I did get a chance to look at the road forecast while I was there though. Of course things looked foreboding around our infamous and foul-weather producing stack of dirt and rock also known as Elk Mountain.

I make it to Laramie with no problem and decide to again forego food in order to make it home before snow starts to stack up.

I make it to near Arlington (the beginning of Elk Mountain’s influence) when the snow hits.

This is no light snow Sunday night.


We’re talking near whiteout conditions.

I slow way the hell down.

I have been driving for over 11 hours now and I’ll be damned if I’m going to get in a wreck within a few hours of home.

The heavy snow becomes a thick mush on the barely visible road.

I find a semi with his flashers on going extremely slow and I glue myself to him about three car lengths back.

This goes on for a minor eternity as my car never leaves third gear.

Finally, I make it to the turnoff for Saratoga.

This road is also snow covered with no markings visible.

Again, I drive very slowly and keep my eyes on the reflectors on the side of the road.

I hit the rumble strip any number of times and manage to correct all the way to town.

I am exhausted.

I am still worked up from concentrating on the road.

I am also hungry and thirsty, although my body has yet to let me know because its not through with the adrenaline it has been feeding itself.

I sit down to call all of my friends and loved ones who knew I was on the road to assure them that I have made it home in one piece.

After making the calls, I am still shaky and high strung.

I look at the clock and decide it is still early enough to get a soak in at the hot pool before bedtime.

I get my bathing suit on and head to the pool for a soak.

I make small talk with another guy there and after my usual amount of hot pool time I get out and head to the dressing room.

Immediately I notice that I am a little dizzy.

No problem.

I’ll sit down for a second and cool off.

When I determine I have waited long enough, I head down the sidewalk to the car.

I get the car started and decide to sit for another moment before driving home.

After a minute or two I put the car in gear and head for the house.

Thankfully, I decide to take side streets home instead of the highway through town.

About halfway down the street I get dizzy again and pull over in front of the Oddfellow Lodge.

After some minutes there, I think I can make it the two blocks to my house.

I stop at the stop sign on downtown’s Bridge Avenue and ...

... “Are you all right?” Some guy standing at my window asks.

Something is wrong with the world.

There’s a wall attached to the front of my car.

I groggily ask the guy “what happened?”

I think he says “You hit the building”.

I put my hand to my head and it returns with a glob of hair and lots of blood.

This does not register.

I ask the guy how bad it is and he seems to think the wall will survive.

I ask him about the car.

He’s not sure the vehicle is going anywhere.

I try to move the car.

It moves.

I think, “the wall doesn’t look bad. The car is probably okay too. I’ll try to make it home.”

You can see that my thinking is still not all the way back yet. Leaving the scene of an accident is not generally recommended.

It takes me about 20 feet to figure out that the car no longer steers where I want it to go so I try to get it to the most out-of-way and off the road spot I can. I do this by going forward a bit and backwards a bit until I get the car to a curb.

I get out of the car and into the slush still wearing my normal hot pool garb: lounge pants, houseshoes and a robe.

I begin to think a bit straighter.

I should go into the nearby bar, warm up and call the police.

On the way there, the bartender, who I know, tells me that I should just wait there and that the police were on their way.

Officer Dan Starr arrives and I relay my story (in much the way you have just read it—only shorter).

He asks me if I would submit to a breathalyzer. I do and he shows me the zeroes on the meter.

After a few minutes of watching firetrucks, power company trucks and various other vehicles survey the scene. I realize I am cold.

I ask the officer if I can go into the bar, get a drink of water and warm up for a second. He politely says that he would rather I remain nearby but that I could sit in his truck.

I accept.

About this time, the ambulance pulls up and they begin their methodical survey of any physical or mental damage I may have suffered.

Politely, efficiently and thoroughly the EMTs ask questions to determine my state of mind (Do you know what day it is? Do you know who the president is?), take my blood pressure, take my blood sugar readings and check my pupils for dilation.

By this time I am fully conscious and engaged.

I am told my head wound was superficial and would not require stitches but “do you want to go to the hospital to get checked out?”

I have been taking my own inventory during this period and decide that no, what I really want is to take a shower (cool, not hot), get this blood off my face and go to bed.

I sign some forms and officer Starr offers me a lift to my house.

So, while I have no praise for fainting (it’s scary), I do have lots of praise for the folks who are there for us when things like that happen.

They all did an excellent job of taking care of me.

I am actually really thankful the whole thing wasn’t much, much worse.

I am even pretty sure myself that there are no lasting z,rmys; rggrvyd.


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