A snowy riding day

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Was I just writing the other day about the heat while on a ride? I was! And now here I am with a story from the other end of the weather spectrum – cold and snow!

A few weeks before this, we rode in Death Valley where it was almost 100° F., and then we roasted in the unseasonable heat here at home. This time I put my jacket liner and pants liner back in. The forecast said highs in the 40°s F. for Flagstaff, with a small chance of rain. Oh gosh I hope so, I thought.

Hal and I headed out of town and soon got on the Beeline Hwy. Just past Fountain Hills after our first fuel stop, we were attempting to get back on the Beeline when we saw that a big plastic cooler had fallen out of a pickup truck into the roadway. The man who had dropped it was trying to pick up the mess before traffic smashed it. All the stuff that was in the cooler fell out, too, and the guy was trying to pick that up as well. He was blocking the left lane, and his vehicle was parked on the right side shoulder. Then an SUV stopped in the left lane to keep traffic from the hitting the first man. Everyone slowed down.

Hal and I were waiting at the light to turn right. Hal started to go, but still being very “gun shy,” I thought to myself, I am not getting into that mess. Our intercom system was still not working, so I wasn’t able to tell Hal to wait. He pulled out, and just then a young woman driving a silver car came barreling through the scene, not paying any attention. I don’t know how she managed not to hit anyone. If she’d hit that SUV from behind, she could have killed the people on the roadway in front it.

As it was, she came very close to Hal as she slithered through the small space between him and the right shoulder. I don’t know how she didn’t hit him. She was completely oblivious to the whole thing until she got past the scene. Then, as realization washed over her, she slowed way down, like maybe she figured out what just almost happened and actually cared about the people she might have hit. It made me freak out again about what happened to me.

When we got to Payson, we pulled in at a Circle K so Hal could put on more clothing layers since he was already getting cool. I asked Hal if he knew how dangerously close that woman in the silver car had come to him. “Yep,” he said in a flat voice, “about four inches.” I shuddered.

We left Payson behind and climbed up on the Mogollon Rim. It was in the 50°s F., not too cool yet. We pulled over again at Clint’s Well to turn on the video cameras. I thought again about how I should always have a video camera on while in the car (if I ever drive again) or on a bike in case an accident happens. Today I could have caught that “almost accident” in Fountain Hills.

Lake Mary Rd., when we got to it, was as pleasant as it always is. It is one of my favorite roads. There were many piles of snow on the sides of the road, evidence of last week’s storm. The snow was melting, the water running merrily from the snow banks, racing along the sides of the road. Before I knew it, we had reached the east end of Mormon Lake – a beautiful sight on any day, but today especially so. I saw that it was wet and marshy, not dry like it usually is. There were clouds building to the west, over the mountains and Flagstaff. I had hoped to get into some rain, and the presence of clouds made me happy (or as happy as I get these days).

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By this time we’d ridden 170+ miles, and we stopped at the usual place to fuel up before riding into Flagstaff. I found that my F800ST got 67.7 mpg, which isn’t unusual for that bike. Then we rode into Flagstaff, to the Indian restaurant that we like. Yes, we rode all those miles just to have lunch at that particular restaurant (and enjoy our bikes, of course). As we pulled in to park, clouds blocked out the sun and it started to rain, and with the rain there were a few flurries of snow.

Hal and I had a nice leisurely lunch at the Indian buffet.

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Foods like Chicken Tikka Masala, naan bread, and then to finish it off, the coffee was excellent, too. We took our time, talking and planning future road trips. Soon the restaurant emptied, and we knew it was time to leave.

Outside, it had been sun and clouds while we ate, but now a dark squall line advanced on us from the south. We saw it as we walked out to the bikes. We’d better gear up and get out of here, I thought, even though I secretly wanted to be IN it.

Just then, a young guy got out of the pickup truck that was parked right next to us. “Hey, that’s the exact bike I’m interested in!” he exclaimed to Hal, looking at his F800GS. The two guys got into a big conversation about the GS while the rain got heavier and heavier, and soon turned to snow. The sky was getting darker by the minute. I was getting wet because I couldn’t put my helmet on. I ride with earplugs and it is difficult to hear people talking with them in, unless it is Hal on the intercom. While I was standing there, I put my rain gear on so the rest of me wouldn’t get wet. I couldn’t believe that the guy was making us stand there talking to him while we got wet. Obviously he was not a rider!

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The snow was getting heavy, and piling up on the seat of my bike. It was also starting to stick to the ground, and I began to think about riding on ice. Finally, the conversation ended, I was able to get my helmet on over my now-wet hair, and we got on the bikes. I carefully negotiated the parking lot maze, but by the time we got to Lake Mary Rd. again it wasn’t snowing so much. Then it re-intensified as we rode past Lake Mary, which was very full.

The storm was hot on our heels, as they say, coming up behind us. But we had planned to stop at the overlook to take pictures, so we did. Especially since the sky, the colors, and the rain were so beautiful.

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My dashboard temperature readout was flashing, warning me that the temperature was 37° F., close to freezing. The storm was catching up, so after we finished taking photos, we got back on the bikes and rode out of the storm.

Soon we were in sun and clouds again, but the temperature stayed low. I was not cold or uncomfortable at all, surprisingly. My hands/gloves had gotten wet while the big conversation in the parking lot was going on, but I’d found a pair of old gloves in the bottom of my travel bag and put them on, replacing my wet pair. With the heated grips turned up, I was comfortable.

It was a lovely ride back through Clint’s well, then Strawberry, then Pine, then Payson, where we stopped for coffee again. My hair was still wet in back where it was pulled into a ponytail! I sipped my coffee slowly and sadly, knowing I would soon be riding back into the heat.

Me at Chevron 8266 smallI was a little tired, mostly from all the stress in my life lately.

The sun was sinking by then, we’d gotten kind of a late start on the day, but the clouds were golden at the horizon. We rode together from Payson, winding down the Beeline into the hot city, then Hal left me and we each rode home in the dark. Our total mileage was about 350+ miles, and about 80 miles more for Hal.

It was a wonderful day, and I’d enjoyed the crazy weather. Now all we have to do is figure out the intercom issue that we are having. It is so difficult riding without communication now that we’ve gotten used to it. I don’t know how Hal and I rode together all those years that we weren’t able to talk to each other whenever we felt like it!

Diary of the G35

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February 11, 2017

I’ve been inside this garage for the greater part of the last seven months. It’s weird. I used to be out on the road every single day. The last time I was out being driven was about three weeks ago, and I got caught in the rain! At least the girl wiped all the water off me when we got home. I mean, like, right away. I was surprised. I know I wasn’t the most popular vehicle in this garage for a long time. I kind of knew things were improving, though, when about a month ago she cleaned out my interior completely. It was better than a professional detailing! She even found that old piece of caramel corn that had been stuck deep in the back seat for a couple of years. It definitely felt better to be completely clean.

But things changed on Saturday. Her motorcycle riding partner came over, left his truck parked on the driveway, then Hal and the girl, Jo, took me into the city! Hal drove, because I think Jo is still hesitant to drive. I have been sensing a change, though, and maybe I will once again become a car that is a daily driver, or at least close to it.

We drove to a restaurant for a late breakfast. We went to First Watch in downtown Phoenix. I could see the two of them through the window, enjoying coffee and waffles and generally having a nice time. I was glad to see that Jo was relaxed. After that, Hal drove to the hairdresser’s shop and I had to sit in a parking garage for two hours. At least it was in the shade. It was worth it, though, because then we got to go on a real drive!

Hal drove out of the city, but when we got to Country Club Dr. and Hwy. 87, they switched places, and Jo got behind the wheel. I was on best behavior because I could feel her hesitation. But, on a positive note, I could also feel that she was ready and open to connecting with me. Two minutes later, we were bonded as car and driver.

She actually drove really well. Last summer, the last time she was behind the wheel, I wasn’t so sure. I thought, oh no, she’s not very good. But today she proved to be a much more confident driver, and even shifted well. I like that she can hear when it is time to go up through the gears, and it is very easy on me. I feel very lucky, my last owner (who was also my first!) did a pretty good job of keeping me running great, and looking clean and beautiful, and now I feel that Jo will do the same.

Our drive was great! We flew up Hwy. 87, then turned onto Hwy. 188 as it rolled through Tonto Basin, then meandered past Roosevelt Lake. The day was perfect, around 70° F. with increasing high clouds. We stopped at the Roosevelt Dam bridge to take pictures – of me! I purred the rest of the day.

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Next, we went through Globe, and after that, flowed through the turns toward Superior, and just before we got there, we went through the Queen Creek tunnel, my second tunnel of the day! It was awesome since when we came out the other side, we were descending quickly on the steep grade into Superior.

By then it was getting toward dusk, and then in Gold Canyon, Hal and Jo changed places again. I was a little disappointed because I was used to her driving by then, and I liked it. But I understood. Hal encouraged her to keep driving, but she said she was getting a little tired by then, it was getting darker, and she wanted her driving for the day to end on a positive note.

We came back into town, and then went to Jo-Ann’s, a fabric and crafts store. “Oh, the car’s first trip to Jo-Ann’s!” Jo exclaimed. I guess she must go there a lot.

When we finally rolled into the garage, I had been out and running for nine hours or so, and I have to admit, I was glad to be back in my clean, quiet garage. It was nice to feel wanted and loved again, and I am sure I heard Jo whisper, “Thank you, pretty thing, for a wonderful healing day” to me before she went inside.

As the garage door closed down on a wonderful day, I hoped for a future of many more like this one.

**

Last summer, I bought this new (to me) car, a beautiful silver and blue 2005 Infiniti G35, to replace my destroyed Hyundai Sonata. I mourned the loss of my Sonata, and I will never get over it. But fortunately, the wounds are healing (somewhat), and I am making progress on getting behind the wheel of a car again.

 

The DR comes home

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I bought this DR650 a few years ago, and I’ve barely ridden it. I don’t know why, it’s a nice bike. Added to that, since I don’t ride it much, it has starting problems most of the time, and every time I do want to ride it, it won’t start.

I recall only one great trip on it, and that was to Bagdad, Arizona. My riding partner, Hal, and I rode a long way on paved, busy highways to get there, and when we did, we got on a rough road, known as “The Bagdad Road,” that we would ride from there to near Prescott, Arizona. I had done it before, but on my 2006 BMW F650GS. Being fairly inexperienced (at that time) in riding a “big” (to me) bike on rough roads like this, I remember feeling very apprehensive for most of that trip.

On the DR, it was an easy ride. When I got to the part that I called “the wall,” I thought I would find it was much less scary than when I was on the GS. It wasn’t, in truth, but at least I was much more comfortable.

The DR was great on all the roads that we traveled that day. From being in rough country, to highways, and then after having dinner in Prescott, the winding paved road down off Yarnell Hill. It was just before Christmas, and I remember thinking how rare it was that I would see the town of Yarnell in the dark, with Christmas lights. It was an amazing ride that day for a total of a few hundred miles.

Recently, the DR was in the shop for a couple of weeks, and now I have it back. I want to be able to ride it more often. I had such high hopes for many dual sport rides with it, and I’ve hardly gotten to enjoy it at all. I suppose it’s mainly because I’ve been riding all my other bikes, and there is only so much time available for riding.

I hope I can give the DR more chances to become the great bike I know it can be for me. I am looking forward to getting in some great rides before the heat sets in again.

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Some of the finest riding on Earth

October, 2016

On the last weekend in October, Hal and I enjoyed a ride on Hwy. 191, “some of the finest riding on Earth,” in eastern Arizona, USA.

We left home Saturday morning at 7:30 and rode east on US 60 toward Superior, Arizona. It was a pleasant ride, with temperatures in the 70s F. We had originally planned to go to Buckboard, a restaurant we visit often, for breakfast, but once we got on the bikes, we just wanted to ride! We fueled up at Goldfield Chevron, got a couple of Clif bars, and that was breakfast.

I’d been looking forward to this – a nice “juicy” riding day! I had chosen my 2008 F800ST for this trip, a bike that was surely made for the 191. Pearl hadn’t been on a real road trip for over two years, and I think she was feeling thrilled at this opportunity.

Hal and I were especially appreciating every moment of being on the road after several weeks of stress at our separate workplaces. We rode east through Superior, Globe, and then continued east on Hwy. 70. We went through Bylas, which is unchanged (I hadn’t seen it in a couple of years), and still wrenchingly poor. Next is Pima (lots of cotton!), then Thatcher (“Taylor Freeze, 2 miles ahead!”), and then Safford.

We stopped at the edge of Safford because Hal was uncertain if his K75s, with a smaller gas tank than his R1100RS, would make it all the way to Clifton-Morenci. Fueling done, we turned north on 191 outside of Safford, and I felt the joy of anticipation for the best part soon to come.

Next were the two towns of Clifton and Morenci, so close together they blend into one. They are old mining towns, and very interesting to look at. Clifton has a railroad track running parallel to the 191 that goes literally right in front of people’s houses. Like, 20 feet away. I get that it’s because of the mine, but I don’t think even I would like a train right at my doorstep even though I love trains. We had to cross and re-cross the train tracks at weird angles as we made our way through town, and then we climbed up toward the actual mine in Morenci, and the gas station.

We always fuel up here before we get into the twisty section of 191. There is no fuel between here and Alpine, and we know better than to pass up a gas station in these circumstances. We took a break, ate a Snickers bar, then turned on our video cameras to record the amazing, sinuous, legendary Hwy. 191 formerly known as Hwy. 666.

I don’t know why I was apprehensive about the first turns out of Morenci, but I was. They are very tight, climb steeply, and can be technical. When I got there, though, I thought, these aren’t any worse than anything else I’ve ridden lately. The turns are tight, but the F800ST went smoothly through them. Up and up we went in elevation until we were “in” the actual mine, the road runs through it, and in a few miles rode through the blasting zone where we’d had to stop and wait last year. There was no one in the guardhouse this time.

Then we were free of the mine, and into the beauty of the mountains! We found the condition of Hwy. 191 to be absolutely perfect. I have often said that October is the best month to ride this road. The summer storms have washed it clean of any remaining winter debris, and the road surface is dry and fast. The golden autumn light highlights the color of the aspens along with the bronze and wheat-colored vegetation that grows on the forest floor. It is so beautiful in the season that I love.

Pearl flowed through the turns, and I re-discovered how much I love riding this bike. The F800ST was absolutely made for Hwy. 191, and I did not feel uncomfortable for one second. The riding position was great, my new helmet worked great, and above all, the bike handled perfectly. Since we were riding this part earlier in the day than we had last year, the sun was not too low and not directly in our eyes as we climbed.

We came to the part that I call “halftime,” the long grassy plain where the road is flat and straight. We let the motorcycles stretch their legs there as we flew along, but then after a few miles we brought the speed back down as we were back into more turns. It was pure fun and technical riding. We came to places where last year we had seen deer. It was too early in the day for them to be out this time, but we kept a wary eye out for them anyway. You never know!

Time passed so quickly and I was enjoying myself so thoroughly that before I knew it we were at Strayhorse work camp; we started to go up through the turns to Blue Point Vista. There were some black areas in the middle of the road, they looked like melted tar, that were a little “slippy” so as I rode, I tried to stay away from them.

It felt like home after that because we were on the part of the 191 that we know so well. It was cool, and all the vents in my jacket were still open (since Morenci), but I didn’t care. It felt so nice to be cool. We went faster on some of these parts since we are so familiar with them, and it was so different to be riding them on a quick road bike instead of a dirt bike. We loved every moment of going through the turns, enjoying the road. I think this is the best experience we’ve ever had on 191! Two and a half hours after leaving Morenci, we rolled into Alpine. It was about 94 miles since we’d left the gas station.

After we unpacked the bikes, we had time to enjoy a cup of coffee while sitting in the sun and waiting for a herd of elk that was supposed to show up later (they had the two nights before), but didn’t when we were there. We barely even heard an elk bugling, maybe once the whole night, much less see any. The hunt was on, so the elk were probably smart enough to stay away.

Around 6:00, Hal and I walked to our last dinner of the season at Foxfire, joining the locals to shut it down until next May. We sat in our favorite area near the bar, splurged a bit on wine and dinner, enjoyed the live music, and said our goodbyes (for now) to everyone there. The stars were sparkling in the sky as we walked back to the lodge, and the air was crisp and cool. What a wonderful day, the best ever, I think!

On Sunday morning, we ate corned beef hash at Alpine Grill, the best corned beef hash in the world, in my opinion, and said goodbye (temporarily) to all our friends there. Then we had to go home, but it was at least going to be another wonderful long riding day. We were still in the “non-stop” groove, so we only stopped for gas in Springerville, and then at Payson Chevron. It is our habit to have a cup of their wonderful coffee there no matter from where we are returning. We even got back to Phoenix in time to watch some of the football games on TV.

I don’t think I have enjoyed a trip or a ride so much as I have this one, for a long time. I loved the ride, loved being on my F800ST, loved riding the 191 in autumn, loved being in Alpine, loved the last night of the season at Foxfire on a magical pre-Halloween Saturday, and I even loved the nice long relaxing nearly non-stop ride on the way home.

It was the best riding day/weekend ride ever.

Struggling to keep up

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Above: Alpine on a late summer evening

So, it’s been a while since I have posted. I never finished the Taos story from this year, but I am sure you gathered I got home okay. It was another wonderful ride through New Mexico. I am going to tell you the highlights in a minute. Lately, I’ve been struggling through the first anniversary of the car crash last year, and I’m still not driving a car. I know at least one person that I thought was a “friend” who will make some nasty remark, like “big deal,” and tell me to “get over it,” but most people will understand that a person doesn’t just “get over” what to them is a traumatic event. That said, it’s onward and upward as they say. I’m working on it. The struggle is real, but at some point I will “sort of” get back to normal. After all that, though, I still will get on the motorbikes without hesitation, even the street bikes, which is weird, I know, but things can be weird after something happens.

Lately, I have been enjoying the absence of heat where I live, finally, and recently had an especially wonderful weekend ride on highway 191. I will post that story soon. It was probably my best ride … ever.

With that, here is the end of the Taos rally ride:

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Hal and I left Taos later than I wanted to. We rode along the Rio Grande until we reached Velarde. NM. We crept through the small town, then abruptly the scenery changed to more business-like, inhabited town, growing busier the closer we got to Santa Fe. Albuquerque was also busy, for a mid-day Sunday, and then before we knew it, we were through hot Socorro, climbing in elevation to cooler temperatures and cloudy skies.

We started heading north/northwest, and the sky was dark. Up ahead, we saw a patch of road that was silvery from falling rain. But just for a mile! It was so strange. During that mile, we were pelted with big drops of rain for a few minutes, and then suddenly we were out of it. What just happened? I thought, then laughed. I didn’t have any rain gear on yet, but I also hadn’t had much of a chance to get wet.

Farther west on the 60, though, as we headed toward Pie Town, we saw more dark clouds gathering, and I asked to stop to put on rain gear. It was a good decision, because we rode right into a very active thunderstorm. First there was a bright bolt of lightning to the north, then another to the south! Hal said, “this is scaring me!” It was me, too, but I said “we’ve only got about three miles to Pie Town.” We kept going. It turned out that I was right about the three miles, and with relief we turned into the parking lot of the pie restaurant at the west end of town.

The thunderstorm was calm for the moment, but more was coming. We shed our wet gear when we got inside, and sat down. We ordered pie and coffee, and as we started eating, a thick bolt of lightning hit within a mile of the pie store, followed immediately by a shattering BOOM! Hal and I looked at each other, each with a forkful of pie halfway to our mouths. Wow, that was close.

A couple traveling in a car came in, sat down next to us, and we ended up talking to them for quite a while as we waited out the storm. They had, coincidentally, been to the Taos rally last year, and asked us if we were returning from this year’s. That’s how the conversation started, and it went from there. The restaurant was supposed to close at 4 p.m. New Mexico time, but the owners allowed us all to sit and talk as they cleaned up. The storm was slowly calming down, and we finally left.

Hal and I rode the glistening roads to Quemado for our next fuel stop, then got on highway 32. We made good time, and it was beautiful to look at the amazing clouds and spectacular scenery. We’d been on this road before, but it’s always a treat. Along the way, I saw an amazing geological formation with vertical columns of rock right on top of horizontal strata. One could “wax poetic” on such story-telling abilities of the earth.

At last we made it to Reserve, NM. It was still damp, but got warmer as we descended. Once we got on hwy 180 for the last section toward Alpine, it cooled down again, but here, oddly, the road was dry – for a change! I couldn’t remember the last time we’d come through here and found dry pavement. It was fun to ride the turns, and soon we were seeing the familiar outline of the mountains surrounding Alpine. As we parked and unpacked the bikes, I looked up just in time to see an amazing rainbow stretching across the dark blue sky on the eastern horizon behind Alpine.

We walked to dinner, then Hal, whose back had been hurting for most of the trip, went right to bed, hoping he could get up and feel well enough in the morning to make it home. I worried that he wouldn’t be able to, that’s how bad it was.

Maybe because we were in Alpine, Hal’s back was much better the next day, and we made it home. Back to work after that, with our minds already on the next trip soon to come.

Hannagan get-together

Another get-together for our local motorcycle riding club has come and gone. It was held at Hannagan Meadow Lodge in the White Mountains of Arizona. This year we are missing a very vibrant, strong member of our club, a dear friend who passed away in December. It was a different sort of gathering without him, but we still managed to make the most of the riding. He would have wanted that.

Here are a few of the highlights from Hal’s and my experience.

Saturday morning, riding the part of a forest road that had been closed for about three years because of the wildfires of 2011. We had despaired of ever seeing it, until a year and a half ago when it re-opened. It was worth the wait. So beautiful, as always, and quiet:

Hal riding another forest road toward Springerville. We were on the way to check on the progress of seedlings that had been planted to help recover from the Wallow fire:

Seedlings were planted inside cones:

Some said it was a “failed experiment,” but we found more surviving seedlings than dead ones:

There were several that were this tall, and had a small cone on top! Worth the effort to replant and nurture, in my opinion.

Blue Point Vista in the afternoon, where we went to get cell service (sketchy) so I could “phone home:”

Later that evening, we had dinner with fellow riders. It was nice to sit and chat, relaxing, instead of standing around in full riding gear, ready to race off to the next destination.

On Sunday morning, we rode another forest road and saw a herd of deer. There were about 20 total that we saw that morning:

We got back to the lodge around 11 o’clock, stood around talking with part of the HML “family,” and loading the trailer until around noon, then began the (sad) journey home. I never want to leave the White Mountains, and our time there is always too short. It was quite a contrast to return to the heat and glare of the incessant sun. Overnight in the White Mountains, it had been in the low 50s F., and deep in the night, sleeping with the windows open, I heard the scream of a big cat from the darkness of the forest.

The White Mountains are a beautiful, unique place, away from the constant “noise” of everyday life, and always a welcome relief for me.

Car crash diary, part 2

No photo, just blackness.

**

The immediate aftermath:

I do remember actually seeing the airbag receding, the smoke from the gunpowder twisting in the air as it dissipated. I closed my eyes. My upper lip was numb, and my upper teeth hurt. There was darkness, and I went somewhere inside my mind into a sort of semi-conscious state. My first thought was how could you DO this to me?? directed at no one in particular, just the universe. I was aware at once of all the implications. I was not breathing. Breathe, I told myself. I had that shock-y feeling when little light tracers twirled inside my eyelids. Breathe. I never thought I was hurt, but I was aware that the shock of the impact was having some kind of effect.

The next thing I was aware of was the sound of Desmond screaming. I didn’t know if he was in shock, or if he was hurt. I reached down into the center console, in front of the transmission shift lever, to get my phone. I slowly dialed 9-1-1. I must have lost consciousness for a few seconds because I knew that some time passed, but when I looked down again the phone was still in my hand. I was going to hit the “send” button, but I already heard the wailing of sirens. I have always hated when I’ve had some kind of problem, like crashing on the mountain bike, or falling off a swing when I was a kid, and would always get up and carry on as if nothing had happened. I think if no one sees it, it didn’t happen. This time, there was no avoiding it, other people were going to have to help me. Oddly, for me, I didn’t mind this time. I needed help.

I am not sure in what order things happened next, but I know my husband seemed to be okay, to my relief. That was another thing I thought of, how with his neck that hurts to begin with, he did not need this collision on top of everything else. Desmond got out of the car at some point, and tried to open my door. It was jammed. I didn’t mind, I wanted to sit there and not move for a while longer. I needed to get myself together. I heard him telling the EMTs that I should get looked at, that he thought I had lost consciousness.

I heard someone come up to the door and ask “Is she okay?” I don’t remember if I responded or not. The door was going to have to be pried open. I looked through the cracked windshield and I saw the hood was folded up and I could not see past the windshield. All around me were broken pieces of plastic; I was sitting in wreckage. My beautiful little car. Desmond opened the passenger door and tried to pull the key out of the ignition because the “door open” bell kept dinging. He couldn’t get the key out to stop it. I told him I was okay.

Finally, the firemen pried the door open. It seemed to me that it didn’t take much to open it, I thought the door was just stuck a little bit. When the door was opened, the EMT asked me if I was okay and I said “yes, I just need a moment.” I think he said something like “all you have to worry about now is what color your new car is going to be.” I didn’t know why he was saying that, of course I would get my Sonata fixed. It’s a nice car, I thought, and I like it. A little front end damage, but it will be fine.

I sat there for a while with the door open, and then a police officer came over. He asked me politely for my driver’s license, and I said, “it’s in the backpack, behind my seat.” He took the backpack out and I told him to unzip the main section and get the wallet out. “It’s black with pink flamingoes on it,” I told him. I am sure he had already run my plates and knew that I had a clean record that goes back to 1980 when I was first licensed in this state. The officer was very polite during the whole thing. He was even apologetic that he had to ask if I was impaired. He said, “I can see that you are not, but I have to ask.” I also directed him to where the insurance card was in the glove box. That was almost all the interaction I had with the police during the entire ordeal. The policeman left, and an EMT took his place next to me at the open car door.

“Have you tried to get out and walk yet?” asked the EMT.

“No,” I answered.

“Well, let’s try now,” he said. My seat belt was still buckled, but the strap was hanging loosely now. The EMT reached across me to help unbuckle the belt. I seemed to be moving in slow motion. Once he released the seatbelt, I twisted slowly in the seat, then he gave me his hand to help me out. I really had no doubt that I was okay, but I was a little shaky, kind of shock-y as well. I stood up slowly and took a tentative step. I thought I saw people clap in the gathered crowd at the edge of the road but I could have imagined it. As if this were some kind of show for their entertainment.

My right foot hurt a little, but I probably had so much adrenaline coursing through my body that I didn’t feel like anything else was wrong. I had the presence of mind to reach into the backseat floor area and grab my backpack and an envelope that I had needed to mail but didn’t because the mail store (our first stop that day) had just closed. While in the backseat, I saw the center console armrest had fallen open, and that my glasses, which I had been wearing, were back there. They had probably flown off when the air bag deployed. I retrieved them.

The EMT led me around the back of the car, and in the dark, I did not see the damage to my car. We were walking toward the ambulance so I could ride in the front seat. Desmond wanted to get checked out in the ER, but he did not want to leave me at the accident scene. I was so thankful for him watching out for me. I am afraid of doctors and hospitals, so I wasn’t going to get checked out. I keep myself to myself, I thought.

When I finally made it to the front seat of the ambulance, I climbed in. The officer came running up and handed my license and insurance card back to me. How had this happened, anyway? I asked myself again, something I would ask myself over and over in the coming weeks.

As the ambulance moved away from the accident scene, I looked over at the other car. It was wrecked. I asked the EMT if the person was hurt and he said, “No, she’s fine, just got jostled around more than you did.” I was relieved that the person wasn’t hurt.

I thought the cops would probably come and talk to me at the hospital later if they needed to. After all, they knew where I was and that I wasn’t going anywhere else for a while. But no officer ever talked to me again that evening, and the next conversation I had with PD was the next week, and that was because I called them myself.

It was full-on dark now, and I was quiet during the ride to the hospital. I walked with Desmond to the ER they put us in. I was worried about everything. Later, we would compare notes and find that we saw – or didn’t see – the same thing. That other car had come out of nowhere, its headlights had suddenly appeared directly in front of my car, when there was no time to react and prevent the accident. How was that possible? We’d both looked at the road, I know I looked twice, and there were NO cars coming. What had happened??? The question rang in my head, reverberating forever after.

Meanwhile, in the ER, I stood next to Des while he was treated for a burn to his arm from the airbag deploying. He was x-rayed, and had a CT scan. My brother-in-law turned up after a while to give us a ride home, and hours after the accident, we finally got home. As Pat parked his truck and we crawled painfully out, it hit me that my car might never come home again.

The Christmas lights that we’d hung so happily that morning were lit, an ironic, and painful, reminder that I would not be able to enjoy anything for a very long time.