Dangers abound out on open road

By Grant McGee: Local columnist

There’s nothing like a crack in your windshield from a rock shot from the wheel of a passing pickup to get you thinking about your fellow drivers.

The Lady of the House warned me not to drive over the freshly re-rocked County Road K on the way to my day job. I decided to not take her car and took our VW bus, affectionately known as “The Flying Potato.”

On my way home a pick-em-up-truck zipped by headed in the other direction. FWAP! I heard that teeth gritting sound of gravel on glass. I looked over the windshield and there it was, right below the wiper on my side, a half-dollar-sized star.

This spiky, new creation on my windshield got me thinking about other encounters I’ve had with people driving too fast for the road conditions.

One December night about five years ago, during my brief career as a cross-country trucker, I was crossing the Mojave Desert. It was a clear, starry night, with a north wind sending trickles of sand snaking across the pavement.

Then I noticed the drivers ahead of me were disappearing. Next thing I knew I couldn’t see my hood ornament, my headlights revealed nothing. I was in the middle of a Mojave Desert sandstorm.

I slowed the rig down to a crawl thinking if I pulled over I’d get creamed in the rear. I worried if I kept up my speed I might ram someone who was going slow.

The storm didn’t bother some truckers, they plowed by in the passing lane at full speed. The CB radio crackled to life as veteran drivers were hollering at the speeders to slow it down. “Mind your own business” is the cleanest reply I can print here.

Luckily nobody jackknifed, collided or flipped that night on the interstate. Some guys who took it too fast in a winter ice storm in western Pennsylvania weren’t so lucky.

You know it’s pretty flat around our section of the country. It’s not like that in western Pennsylvania.

Interstate 80 runs up and down mountains and river valleys like a rollercoaster. An ice storm was coating the Allegheny Mountains with a shimmering glaze. I had tucked myself into a small, slow-moving convoy eastbound to New York. There were other truckers zipping past, taunting the slow movers over the CB.

Miles down the road I passed rigs on their sides in the median or down the mountainside. Were these the guys who thundered by while I took it slow?

The cold, dark rigs were spooky lying lifeless on their sides in the moonlit winter night. It was eerie, kind of like walking through an elephant graveyard.

You’ve seen that guy who drives too fast on ice, or flies through the fog with no lights, or sloshes through the rivers on Prince Street after a rain. Who knows if he knows what he’s doing, if he just doesn’t care, or if he’s even thinking at all.

As the dust settled on The Day of the Cracked Windshield I slowly came to realize what was really bugging me about the whole thing. The Lady of the House was right, she had warned me not to drive down the freshly graveled road.

But not once did she say, “You should have listened to me.” Not once did I see her raise an eyebrow or smirk.

Maybe it was just my own conscience that was saying, “I told you so.”

Grant McGee hosts the weekday morning show on KTQM-FM in Clovis. Contact him at:
blisscreeksw@yahoo.com