After 205,270 miles, it just felt like it was time for a change.
This surpasses my previous record of 201,392 miles which abruptly ended on the Pennsylvania Turnpike on the evening of December 15, 2005. Leigh and I were heading home from a holiday dinner celebration in King of Prussia when a coating of black ice suddenly covered the asphalt roadway. We were about a mile east of the Lawn rest stop, cruising along smartly in the left lane when suddenly the car was skating sideways toward the concrete Jersey barrier separating the east and west bound lanes. What seemed like an eternity, the car glanced off the continuous wall of concrete and we seemingly returned safely to the passing lane.
Letting out my breath, I said to Leigh, “I think we’re OK.”
Then, as if the cosmic forces needed to prove to me how little control I really have in life, the car went into a rapid spinning motion as we careened down the turnpike. It’s difficult to tell how many 360 degree spins we actually made, but I was disoriented and shocked by the sudden, explosive collision with the guard rail on the right hand side of the turnpike.
I don’t know at what point I realized the airbags had deployed. I remember being stunned and sensing the tinted powder and mild chemical smell.
“Are you OK?” I asked Leigh.
“I think so.”
There was no power; no lights. I found my phone on the floor, picked it up, and just blankly stared at it. I passed it to Leigh. I obviously was in no condition to push three buttons.
Leigh, apparently not quite as stunned and dazed as I was, was able to dial the digits. But she couldn’t talk, and handed the phone to me.
I can talk.
In the nearly 32 years we have been married, I don’t think there has ever been a time when the one of us could not physically, emotionally, or spiritually lift the other up – until that moment. We were powerless. We were in the dark. We were helpless at every level.
Suddenly there is someone knocking on my car window. I then realized there were lights from a vehicle shining on us. Still dazed and somewhat groggy, we were helped out of the car and huddled together on the side of the road with a blanket that had appeared.
Cosmic forces being what they are, our helper was a tow-trucker trolling the turnpike for wrecks. He was about a half mile behind us and watched us literally spin out of control and slam head-on into the guard rail. This steel barrier prevented us from flying off the 60’ drop to a farmers pasture.
Our car had come to a stop, perpendicular to the flow of traffic, with no headlights. With his emergency flashers warning traffic headed in our direction, he blocked the lane, forcing traffic to go around the both his tow truck and our dark, demolished vehicle.
We are really blest. Of the 201,392 miles I had on that vehicle, I’d have to say the last is the one I’ll never forget.
Two days later, about 8:00 am on a Saturday morning, I wandered onto the Bobby Rahal dealership to snoop around before any salesman showed up. Peering into the window of the first car that caught my eye, I was startled by one Barney Smith who excitedly pounced on me. Although I swore to myself that I was only looking that day, I agreed to a test drive. He showed me how to connect my phone to the car’s Bluetooth system. As we drove I called Leigh at the shop where she had worked on Saturdays.
“Hey! How do I sound?”
“”Fine. Where are you?”
“I’m just looking at cars and it has this ‘blue thingy’ I can connect my phone to the car’s sound system with a speaker. How’s it sound?” (Bear in mind, this is 2005 before I understood what a “bluetooth thingy” was. I am certain I was speaking much louder than I needed to).
“OK. I have a customer. I gotta go!”
When she got home at 4:30 that afternoon, I was picking up my ‘new’ used-car. I don’t spend a lot of time fretting over car choices.
I do spend a lot of windshield time covering the roads of eastern Pennsylvania. Over 170,000 miles and 7 ½ years later, the faithful “Amish Black Sedan” had treated me well. Aside from the two dimples on the hood from errant golf balls flying into the parking lot next to the 9th fairway, and the cracked rear bumper in a driveway incident, the car has served me exceptionally well. But it just feels like it’s time for a change.
So I head back to the Bobby Rahal dealership and ultimately Barney Smith who, once again, set up my Bluetooth and accompanied me on a test drive. And once again, I drive off the lot with the first ‘new’ used car that caught my eye. Same make, same model; trading up for a 2010.
Bye-bye dimples! Let’s see what kind of memories this baby will bring!