Tag Archives: car crash

Drive Time

From the very first time I drove a car, anyone should know that there would be trouble coming down the road every time I was behind the wheel.  I did not grow up on a farm, and never had a chance to drive a tractor or farm vehicle, so the first time I drove was in driver’s education class.  We had gone through all the classroom stuff and the real fun was about to begin.  I don’t remember details, like the make and model of the car, or who the driver’s ed teacher was, but I certainly remember the first time I drove.  There were two others in the car and we headed north from the school toward Oakdale.  The road was a long downhill stretch from the school, and then flattened out as it swept around Wachusett Reservoir.  Just before the river, we turned left onto River Road.  So far, so good. About ¼ of the way down the road, I was asked to make an infamous Y turn and head back to the main road.  I slowed down and turned the wheel to the left-hand side of the ride.  Once I had gone as far as I could, I stopped and put the car in reverse.  I looked behind me and in the rear-view mirror, then proceeded to back up.  CRUNCH!  We topped quickly and realized I had backed into assign post on the other side of the road.  The student driver sign on the back of the car was all banged up, and I quickly had my first lesson in what not to do!

The rest of driver’s ed was a breeze, and I didn’t hit anything else, so a passing grade was given.  Now, I needed a car.  I was working at a local restaurant, washing dishes at the time and money was scarce.  My mom had a 1965 tan Ford Fairlane that I could borrow on occasion, but I would have to earn my own money to buy a car.  Cars could be found for a few hundred dollars, but that was a lot more money back then than it I today.  I was no mechanic; I would need a car that was in good working order. That made the price a little more difficult.  One night I borrowed the car and headed to Lincoln Bowling Alley to bowl with some friends, which was a regular event.  It was a very cold winter night after a fairly warm day.  I was headed home about 8 pm, and was driving across the parking lot.  I came to a row of cars and proceeded, only to have a car come up from my right side.  I tried to out on the brakes, but slid on some ice that had formed on the pavement.  Since we were in a parking lot so neither of us were going very fast, so no one was injured.  But the grill pushed back into the radiator on my moms’ car, and it could not be driven. Fortunately, my mom was friends with a local mechanic so she had no trouble getting it towed.  The accident was deemed no fault, so my mom got a check from the insurance company for another car, and she sold me that Ford Fairlane for one dollar.  I now had my first car! I may not have fame.  This car lasted me through high school and into the beginning of college.  We had a lot of wild times in that car during the summer of 1970.

The next car I bought was a Triumph Spitfire convertible.  I had a friend who had a BMW Midget, and I was envious, so I sought out a car that was similar.  This was the epitome of a party car, and we had a lot of parties in it.  I would crowd as many people as possible into that car and we would go riding all over the countryside.  Touring New Hampshire and Vermont during foliage season is an absolute must for anyone who loves nature, and we did that every year.  We would to far north the first week and follow the peak colors down each weekend after that until they got to Connecticut.  I was not a particularly cautious drive either.  If you’ve ever driven the side roads in New England, and even some of the state highways, you know hey can be full of twists and turns that keep the speed limits down in the mid-thirties and forties.  I liked to drive like a Garand Prix driver though, and we would go whizzing around corner passing cars and having a great time.  It really is kind of amazing I am till alive.

I had two friend named Steve at this time, and one named Pete.  Pate and Pete (me) took off in my Spitfire on weekend, and Steve and Steve were in his Camaro convertible.  We were going to just go cruising up to the mountains and make a day of it, drinking and stoning along the way.  I had the lead, and Pete and I decided to pull a fast one on Steve and Steve when they got stopped at a red light.  We floored the car and took off up the road, leaving the other two far behind.  We were going to pull off, and then come up behind them once we knew it was safe to do so.  We got about three miles up the road and pulled into a culvert.  We waited, and waited and waited, watching for them to go by, and they never did.  We finally decided they must have gone passed when we were turning around, so we took off up the road to try and catch up.  It was useless.  If you have riven these roads, you know how many side roads there are that take off at all different angles.  They could be anywhere by now, and we might never find them.  We decided to double back and head toward home.  About two hours later, we were just driving along an came to a stop sign.  We looked to our left and, lo and behold, there was Steve and Steve coming up the road!  It was impossible to miss Steve’s bright orange Camaro.  Pete sat up on the back of the seat and yelled out to them, waving his arm wildly.  They looked at us and just laughed, then pulled over.  It was a time I will never forget.

I enjoyed that Spitfire for a year or so, but it came to a sad demise.  We had ben bowling one day and drinking profusely.  A friend was heading back to the service the next day, and we were partying with him before he went.  This was in the middle of the day, and we decided to go cruising afterward.  We were travelling down a road I was very familiar with, so we were taking the curves a little faster than we should, especially since we were pretty drunk.  As we came around one curve, we hit a patch of sand on the road and lost control.  We went into a farmers field and came up to a drop off.  I am so glad the top was closed or we would have been thrown from the car.  The car tipped down, hit the front bumper and flipped over just once, landing on the wheels again.  I remember being crammed up under the steering wheel when we came to a top.  My friend got out and threw the pot we had into the field before coming around and getting me out.  Neither of us were hurt, and no charges were filed, but the car was shot.  I loved that car!

My next car was a Toyota Corona.  Toyota was just starting to come into the states, and this was one of the better models in those days.  It was a really nice car with all the bells and whistles of the day.  Just because we had a little more normal car did not top the crazy driving though.  With this car, we could lay the seats flat and have people sit around in a circle while driving up in the mountains, so we would take off with anywhere from seven to ten of us in the car when we went on those adventures.  But the best adventures were with less people. I had a friend named Kenny at the time and he was a crazy man.  One day we had a couple girls in the back eat of the car and decided to pull a stunt we had practiced before.  We were going down a straight backroad, travelling about 30 MPH.  Kenny was driving and I told him I wanted to drive.  Right on cue, Kenny started climbing out the drivers’ window and I started moving over to the drivers’ seat.  The girls were screaming as he made his way across the windshield and got back in through the passenger window to be seated in the seat that I had vacated.  We did not exchange a word, but the girls sure did!  They weren’t really happy with us.

This car lasted me about 2 years.  I was on my way to my brothers wedding in Southern Connecticut, having drank a bottle of Lancer’s Roe wine on the way.  I was the bet man, and was due to arrive in time for the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner.  Everything was going along fine, and I was going to be on time until, I met some stalled traffic just south of my destination.  I decided I did not want to wait, so started passing the cars on the shoulder.  Unfortunately, some one came crossing in front of the last car and I T-boned him in the passenger door.  I had my seat belt on, but hit my head on the visor and got a nice cut from it.  They took me to the hospital to make sure I did not have a concussion and I made it to the rehearsal dinner, but not the rehearsal.  I attended the wedding with a big bump on my head and a bandage across my brow.  That was the end for the Toyota!  Are you starting to see a pattern here?

My next car was a Buick Opal that I affectionately called Sophie.  I really do not know where the name came from, but it fit the car well.  It was a coupe, and got great gas mileage, which would come in handy for the three trips I made to Iowa in her.  The first trip, in 1976, was on my way to salvation and back, ending up with a broken tie rod.  The second trip was to my best friend’s wedding in 1977.  The last trip was when I met my wife in 1978, which is chronicled in another chapter of my life.  After that trip, and once I knew I would be moving to Iowa permanently, I traded her off for a station wagon to fit all my stuff in when I moved.  It was one of the most practical things I had ever done in regards to cars, but it made a lot of sense.  I did not have enough to my name to get a moving van, but had too much for the Opal.  We packed the car full and headed off for Iowa. In 1987, we added a Ford Aerostar van when we received a stock option from the company I was working for. That year we made another trip to Massachusetts with the family, but I would not return again until 1995 for my 25th high school reunion. That car lasted me through the Pamida years, from Fairfield to Chariton to Belmond.

One of the things that really struck me about Iowa was the roads.   There was a big difference between here and Massachusetts.  The roads in Mass. were lined with trees, many times right up to the side of the road in the country.  And they wound around all over due to the stone walls, hills, mountains and valleys.  I have no idea if they were the same width, but they sure did not look like it.  In Iowa, the roads seemed much wider, that all had shoulders, and beside the road there were ditches.  These ditches were sometimes very, very deep.  The reason for the ditches was for drainage in the wet springs, and for holding the snow down in the winter. I came to understand that when the ditches were full of snow, ground blizzards were more likely.  There is no doubt that if some of the farm machinery that travels the roads in Iowa during planting and harvest were to come down a country road in Mass, it would be hitting trees on both sides of the road!  Iowa also has thousands of miles of well-maintained gravel roads which are travelled every day.  It’s a very defined network of roads that were put together to ensure the farmers could get their grain to market in an efficient manner.  There is a gravel road just about every mile, from North to South and from East to West.  In 1969 these roads were named and numbered to create an excellent 911 system for the rural areas, which comprise most of the state.  Through years of driving I finally figured out how to decipher these roads.

I was busy with family and building a career at Printing Services, Inc selling office supplies, printing and office furniture.  Through my years there, I drove the station wagon for many years, and then drove the van when my wife got another car. Since I had bought the van new, the 30,000 miles a year I was putting on did not make a lot of difference.  It was a good van, and had a long life.  The way it usually worked in our house was when my wife needed a new car because she outgrew the old, I got her car and she got a new one.  Well, not new, used, but new to her.  I was not as particular about what I drove as she was.  When the mileage on the van finally gave out, my wife decided she wanted a different car because of her back.  She was driving an Olds Alero at the time, and it caused major problems with her back.  I took that car and she got a Chevy Equinox, which is much higher off the ground.

Winters in Iowa can be brutal when it comes to driving.  I was one of those people who felt they could drive through any kind of weather, so I rarely stayed in because of bad winter weather.  I remember one year there was a bad ice storm and the roads were coated.  I called my clients and told them I was not going to make it that day, and one of them said “If you did come, I would think you were crazy.”  Several times, I got caught up in blizzards that came suddenly.  When a blizzard comes, you can’t stop or turn around because the person in back of you might run right into you.  You just have to keep going.  One time, I was in Fort Dodge, about 50 miles from home, and thought the bad snow was going to come later at night.  I had a meeting to attend which got out at 7, so I stayed.  When I got out of the meeting, it had jut started snowing a little, and I thought I was OK.  I knew the blacktop roads well, and did not anticipate the snow getting too heavy. I was wrong.  Dead wrong.  Soon, the wind was howling at 30-40 MPH and snow was coming down so hard you could hardly see the road.  I was on an east-west blacktop road I had travelled hundreds of times before, so I knew if I just kept it straight, I would be OK.  I was going along at a pretty good clip, and had the steering wheel ‘turned a little to the left to offset the strong wind coming at me. I could not really see the road.  All of a sudden, the wind cut out – there was a wind row of trees planted on the north side.  I went right into the ditch, but thought I might be able to get out if I turned the wheel and kept the accelerator down.  I started out of that ditch and just missed a mailbox.  The car swerved back on the road, and I felt great until it started to skid and went into a snow pile on the other side of the road.  I was stuck! I tried and tried to get out, but to no avail.  Then I remembered the mail box, and thought there must be a house there.  I got out of my car and made my way back to that house.  The people there were so nice!  They let me use their phone to call my wife, who was at work.  Her boss at work said he would drive her to get me, and the man living at the house said he would drive me to the main road about a mile away.

It was a long wait for them, as the weather was still howling, but they eventually got there and got me home.  I had to get the car towed home the next day.  I was much more careful after that about going out in storm.

 After a few years of driving the Alero, my back was a real problem also, so I bought a 2002 Mercury Mountaineer with all the trimmings.  That was a nice vehicle, probably the best I ever owned from a practicality standpoint.  But in 2014, I hit a deer straight on and totaled that car.  Since that time, we have had a Buick Enclave and a Chevy Sonic. and are currently driving a 2015 Chevy Trax and a 2002 Chevy Cobalt.  My wife just purchased a 1995 Chevy Camaro convertible, which is beautiful.  She always wanted a run-a-around car to have fun in, and this fits the bill perfectly.

One thing that was always missing from driveway was a truck.  We had started to do a little camping and wanted to get a larger camper, so we needed a truck to pull it.  We found a 1995 Ford F-150 long bed that was in pretty good shape, so we bought it.  That truck served us very well for many years, and we had three different campers to pull with it.  Janeen also used it to plow driveways in the winter, but the plow was more trouble than it was worth.  In 2022, we decided our camping years were over and sold our camper.  We also traded off that truck for another one, also a 1995.  Both trucks had their problems, but the trade was probably pretty fair.

As you can see, I have never had any brand loyalty when it comes to vehicles.  I drive what I can afford, and so does my wife.  Neither of us does near the amount of driving we used to do, so we don’t need newer vehicles.  My car has over 200k miles on it, my wife’s’ has about 70k and the Camaro has 96k.  I still love to drive, but my ability to drive has been hampered by Sleep apnea., which makes me tired when I drive.  We are working on that problem, but in the meantime, I am content to stay within a small radius of home.  The less I drive, the less likely I am to have an accident!  Janeen drives all the long drives now, and I am content to ride along.  Only local drive time for me now! A I look back on all the various cars I have had, and all the accidents, it is amazing I was never hurt really bad, or killed, many years ago.  I rove drunk or stoned, high as a kite, many times.  I drove crazy, mostly over the speed limit.  I hated to let anyone pass me on the Interstate, so I usually went very fast.  I was truly a maniac on the road.  I look back and see the hand of God all over those year, even though I did not know exactly who He was at the time.   He kept me from harm because He had a plan for my life, and it did not include an early demise.  For some, that is His plan, but not for me.  I am forever grateful for His protection during those early years.  I have a lovely wife, three great children and 7 grandchildren to enjoy this life with!  And I drive much more carefully