It's Good to be Alive

Last night I headed up to Brookings early to attend a Dakota Rural Action Farm Beginnings Steering Committee meeting.  After that, we discussed the Local Foods Brochure, and then I headed over to meet my ex and pick up my son, then headed back to Vermillion.

Along about the Viborg exit, we hit a patch of black ice.  It was one of those “what the heck just happened” moments–I hadn’t hit the brakes, I wasn’t speeding up or slowing down–just cruising at 65 mph and suddenly the back end of the truck was parallel with the front.

I’m thankful I’ve been driving on ice and snow all my life.  I went into auto-pilot–controlling the skid as much as I could to keep us from doing 180s or 360s.  The back end came around three or four times while I turned the wheel in the opposite direction of the skid–like I said it was automatic pilot, and I never really even had a chance to get scared.  It was just like surfing (I’d imagine–never having surfed)–riding the skid.

We were riding that skid for so long, my son had time to ask what was happening, and I had time to tell him we were going to be alright even before we came to a stop.

We ended up in the ditch about twenty feet in front of the “Viborg Exit 53” sign, which was pretty handy for calling for help.  Nothing like knowing exactly where you are on a dark, cold, and windy night.  There was no way we were getting out of that ditch ourselves with that two wheel (rear wheel) drive light pickup even with four sandbags in back.

A very friendly highway patrol officer came to check on us and called a tow service from Lennox.  Because we’d already seen a number of people slip on that ice while we were sitting in the ditch–including one who did a 180 but was able to stop, wait for traffic, turn around, and continue on their way–we got in the patrol car and waited there in the warmth on the overpass for the tow truck.  She was very nice to M, who kept calling her a “cop.”  Umm, oops.

In the end, though the alignment on the truck is all out of whack, no one got hurt, and we were able to slowly limp home with snow filling the wheel wells and a distinct shimmy.  I’m very thankful for all those wide-farm-able ditches and for the three people who stopped to check on us before the police officer got there (though that scared me as well–I was afraid someone would slide into them and they in turn would slide into us).

I’m also thankful there weren’t any other vehicles around us at the time, and that we were going significantly slower than the posted speed.  Had we been doing seventy-five, we might’ve hit the sign, or we could’ve hit the overpass itself.  Had there been other vehicles, we most definitely would have hit them.

The truck is out of commission for the most part until Tuesday, when I can get the alignment fixed.  I might also look very closely at getting a set of snow tires for that truck.  It won’t help with the weight, but it’ll certainly help with the traction.

Yes, it’s good to be alive.


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