Yesterday, I went to Whitecourt, a 45 minute drive along a 4 lane divided highway. No reason to go, I just wanted to 'get out of Dodge' for an afternoon. It was a sunny warm winter day, when I pulled out onto Hwy. #43 and headed south.
My trips to Whitecourt are measured by the hills I drive up and down along the way. Heading down the steep, dangerous and accident-prone slope of Iosegun Hill, I was settling in for a relaxing drive, Andrea Bocelli's latest CD blasting from the luscious Bose sound system in my Denali.
As I reached the bottom of Iosegun and began the steep, curving ascent up the far side of the hill, I noticed a line of semis in front of me on the divided 4-lane...braking, slowing, stacking up one behind the next. Reaching the crest of the hill, I could see around the bend of the highway ahead of me. Cars, trucks, semis with full loads, backed up and stopped, as far as I could see.
I pulled in behind a semi hauling a flat deck and snuggled beside a semi that was pulling a full load and a pup. Wondering what the cause of the traffic lineup was, I looked ahead. Just more trucks, cars, semis and their loads.
Truckers were leaving their rigs and walking along the shoulder of the highway toward the front of the line of waiting vehicles, like some flood of lemmings heading for the cliff. Not wanting to join them and freeze my ca-hoonies off in the crisp winter wind sweeping along the ditches and the deep dark forest beside the road, I turned on my heated seat in my SUV and settled back to wait.
Luckily for me, I'd stopped at the library before I left, so I had my weekly stash of magazines that I like well enough to read, but not well enough to buy. Pulling Oprah from my bag, I cuddled down deeply into my heated seat and began to browse. After learning as much as I could about the fastest way to lose 45 pounds and the easiest way to look 20 years younger, I looked up from my reading and saw a group of truckers walking back along the highway. Rolling down my window, I asked, "What's going on up there?"
One of the men stopped to tell me what they'd seen.
"Looks like some crazy was tryin' to outrun the cops," he drawled. "That ol' spiked belt sure put a stop to his plans."
"Spiked belt? They had to use that?" I replied.
"Yeppers, and the cop told me it worked perfectly, until the guy hit it with his SUV, blew all 4 tires and sideswiped a semi," the trucker explained.
"Sheeesh! Is anyone hurt?" I asked.
"That crazy in the SUV...they're waiting for STARS air ambulance to airlift him out. He's in critical condition and we're gonna have to sit here until they take him out of the vehicle and clean up the mess he's left on road up there," he said, tears forming in his eyes, his hands shaking as he tried to light a filter-tip cigarette.
He left, shaking his head and wiping the tears from his cheeks as he walked unsteadily to the shelter of the cab of his truck. I settled back into my warm seat, turned the music up a little and thought about what might have caused this guy to try to outrun the cops. Not a good idea, especially with spiked belts, juiced-up cop cars and a radio link from one detachment to another along this highway. If the RCMP don't catch him along this stretch of highway, their members at the next town will. Not the smartest decision this guy's made today.
Finally, the line of traffic started to inch ahead. As I passed the accident site, I saw a dark blue SUV sitting in the center of the right hand lane, windshield shattered, both front doors blown off the vehicle and the engine resting in the driver's side of the front seat. That would have hurt some, I think, shaken by the devastation on the road. The semi sat in the ditch, jack-knifed in half, and the driver seemed unhurt, as he stood by his cab talking to the RCMP officers.
Driving much more slowly and carefully than I'd been before, I thought about what makes someone take that kind of chance while driving. Likely anything from fear to false bravado.
Arriving in town, I parked in front of the theatre, locked my car and went into Theodore's Comfort Zone for a pot of tea and a bowl of soup, grateful for my life and my safety this cold wintery Saturday afternoon.
"Time is a companion that goes with us on a journey. It reminds us to cherish each moment, because it will never come again. What we leave behind is not as important as how we have lived." ~ Captain Luc Picard, Star Trek: Generations