I recently wrapped up my month off hunting in Pennsylvania and did rather well considering the weather and some other factors. I bagged a deer the last hour of the last day of my trip which resulted in a long night of me quartering it out behind the cabin by the light of an ill positioned spotlight and my headlamp. Figuring I’d have to get it done rather than take it to the processor if I was to stay on schedule and spend a nice relaxing weekend with my family before diving in to work again. A week of “rest” at work, and then it would be the Christmas visitor season.
The holiday season at work meant mandatory training through Computer Based Training. A bunch of “next… next…. next….” followed by a quiz to make sure we wouldn’t let the building burn down or something. Most of my coworkers spend all of their vacation in the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas rather than spreading it out over the year. We’re workaholics that love our jobs, so when the manager says you have to take your leave, you either do, or you lose it. I’d much rather take short stints throughout the year hunting and fishing and hiking different locales. That meant when I showed up to work on Monday it would be a ghost town.
Except I didn’t show up on time.
Driving in to work that morning it was pitch black now at 5:30 with the time change. The roads were decidedly empty as I picked my way through minimal traffic towards the Air Force base I currently work at. I signaled my turn and made a right onto an arterial road that served as a main thoroughfare to Buckley and shifted to the left hand lane where I would — like a jerk — remain there until my left hand turn some three blocks later. That road sometimes gummed up to the point where it would be impossible to make a lane change, but today in the crisp Denver air there was nearly no one else on the road.
As I turned so did a semi, it’s turn signal remained on after it’s turn into the center travel lane. It seemed to stall in front of me as I was about to pass on the left hand side, and just as I was passing it… my wheels broke loose from the pavement.
Unbeknownst to me, the semi was going to make a U-turn from the center lane of traffic on a four lane road. The truck’s fender and bumper struck my Jeep on the passenger rear door just above the center line causing it to flip onto it’s side, pinwheel, and continue traveling in the opposite side of the road. At about 40 miles per hour my truck slid to a stop some 50 feet on its side. A stream of plastic parts flew from my truck, the door handle sheared off, the side step flung and cartwheeled end over end.
My truck came to rest facing away from where I’d been going, thankfully now in the opposing turn lane. I sat in my truck sideways, belted in tightly by the seat belt, checking myself over. The “recovery kit” I carried in my truck — tools packed inside a Rubbermade ActionPacker had practically exploded. Sockets and replaceable tip screwdriver bits were everywhere. Six dollars or so in spare change had been upended into all parts of the cab of the vehicle. The side curtain airbags had deployed, as evidenced by the now deflated white sacks I’d never before seen hanging from the sides of my truck.
Unbelting myself I fell the four or so inches to the door and I struggled to get up. Like something from Jurassic Park the side was now up, and down was now the side. In case a bright orange metal flake truck on it’s side wasn’t enough I threw on the hazards before standing up. The codriver from the semi walked up to my Jeep and climbed on the side, now top as I opened the door like a tank hatch and flung it open. Somehow, I was miraculously unscathed.
I’m really not the religious type, but it seemed illogical that I could be punted like a semi into oncoming traffic and spun around like that without sustaining any injuries. Despite my truck being totaled out, and the paperwork pain of a rental and getting a new truck during the holidays everything just sort of went better than expected.
A little over a week later I had a new truck, and while I was waiting for the diesel Gladiator to come out, the circumstances had me buy a gas one. The boon there was that I got a decent deal on a truck given the year end sales and the gas truck tows more than the diesel given the weight offset. Pollard Jeep in Boulder treated me well, especially after hearing my story, and I can’t thank Monte enough for being understanding and helpful along the way. I can’t wait to build it into something that can tackle the mountains and the shore.
A turn signal is just that, a signal. It is neither a permission slip nor is it a guarantee. Some people, like those who live in Florida seem to have them perpetually signaling. Some, like those who drive Benzes tend never to indicate a turn in their natural born lives.
Losing a Friend
That day on the side of Mississippi Avenue I figured that I’d lost a friend of eight years as oil poured to the nether regions of my engine. The “Mango Tango” Jeep Unlimited I had referred to as Ginger had been with me from Maine to Maryland, Pennsylvania to Colorado on numerous moves and to a new job that took me from the shores of the Chesapeake to mountain peaks.
As I walked away from the accident with nary a scratch on me, I recognize that my friend gave her life to save mine that day. We’ve been a Jeep family for a long time, since the first of the little Cherokees, and I have a Grand Wagoneer in the garage now that I’m working on to be the Getty family truckster — but this incident solidified our family loyalty to the brand. The Jeep saved my life.