Thursday, March 5, 2009

LOOK OUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I'm fortunate to be able to say that I've had very few instances in my life when I've been responsible for bending metal. Now that is certainly not to say that I haven't been in dozens of situations where I should have in a big way, and that it is an absolute miracle that I'm alive ( no kidding ) when I think back about these examples of stupidity and recklessness...  but, it really is just dumb luck that it has worked out the way it has. Maybe in a few instances I developed just enough sense during the last millisecond that good decision making and a touch of skill saved me from disaster, but examples of that are extremely rare believe me.

In fact, I believe I can run down all of my fender benders pretty quickly; Well, the first, and far and away the most life threatening, was in 1992 when I was driving from Indianapolis to Bedford, Indiana in a blinding snow storm at around 3:45 am, returning from a gig with my then blues band "The Kings of Rhythm". I was driving my Dad's freshly re-done 1975 Chevrolet Cheyenne half ton pick-up that was nearly show quality and had around 70,000 one old man owner miles on it. I can still feel how like new that truck felt and ran. Anyway, somewhere around 35 miles north of my parents home I fell sound asleep and managed to drive downhill for about an eigth of a mile while the truck accelerated. Amazingly, I woke up just as I was about 20 feet from the back of a salt spreader/snow plow that was traveling about 35-40 mph slower than I was. I of course slammed into the back of this thing, rolling the front half of the truck up into a ball. The impact was so severe that the roof of the cab folded in the center, bringing the headliner down to within an inch of my head. The drivers side windshield pillar post folded inward and was up against my left shoulder when I came to ( which was about 20-25 minutes after impact ). This same windshield post provided me with a huge gaping gash above my left ear that traveled about half way around the back of my head. How this didn't end me I'll never know. The frame had bent downward just below the firewall, pitching the steering column down into my lap with such force that the steering wheel was bent all the way around both of my legs and had me pinned down into the bench seat so far that my but had started to make its way out the back of the seat between the seat top and bottom. 

OK, maybe that was a little too much information. I do know that when I came to, it was dead quiet, snow was falling in my face, and every time I tried to move little cubes of safety glass would roll off of me. My face and head were all sticky ( I remember thinking this was probably anti-freeze as I could smell it around me ) as I had no idea of my injuries. I could see the snow plow off in the distance about 100 yards up the road from me and could just hear the engine idling. No one was around or on the scene yet. I was able to push down into the seat with both hands just hard enough to free my legs one at a time. At that point I crawled over to the passengers side door ( which was completely undamaged ), opened it, and walked out into the road. Being in shock, my first reaction was to start picking up all of the parts I could find in the road and in the median that belonged to my Dad's truck. We were going to need these after all to fix it! I clearly remember picking the grill up off the shoulder and finding it almost completely unharmed. It had one plastic tab broken off of it. I still can't understand that one.

The saddest part for me was looking in the back window of the bed topper and seeing my beloved 1964 Black Face Fender Super Reverb amp scattered all over the inside of the bed in a million pieces. Fortunately my guitar was in a road case and made it unscathed. 

After I'd found everything I could that went with the truck, I walked up the road to apologize to the driver of the snowplow. When I reached the cab of the truck I looked up and saw that he was sitting in his driver's seat talking on the CB. I reached up, knocked on the door, and when he looked over at me he screamed at the top of his lungs and jumped about a foot out of his seat. You see, what I didn't realize was that my head had this huge gash in it and had been bleeding down over my face for 20 minutes while I was passed out in the truck. The blood was nearly solid over my entire face and most of my shirt was soaked as well. So, not only was this quite a sight for this poor guy to look over and see, but he had gone back to my truck right after the accident, looked at me slumped over and bleeding, and called into the police that there was a fatality! 

Now hopefully that's as close as I'll ever come without going all the way into the ground. I can't imagine coming any closer. I just keep thinking about that windshield post going by my head. Crazy. The truck was totaled and I eventually healed up and grew the hair back on my head that hospital shaved off. Lots of ballcaps were worn that year. But I learned my lesson. I still get tired while driving, but with that memory always fresh in my mind, all I have to do is recall it for a second and I'm wide awake again. World's greatest caffein rush. 

The others are, fortunately, nowhere near as dramatic. Oh there was the time I was hit by a fellow student in the high-school parking lot at a walking speed. The bad thing about that one was that my older brother Rob had been kind enough to let me drive his super cool and super minty red/red with white top '67 Tempest convertible to school that day. Wouldn't you know it. Kinked the mile long rear quarter in and was a chore to repair and make as straight as it was. Then I guess there is the dear that I hit at 65mph that wiped out the front end of an '85 Chevy pickup I was driving at the time. And that's all I believe. 

I have no way of even beginning the task of laying out all of the close calls, and the shame and embarrassment might be too much for me. Lets just say I've been lucky. Running 135 for nearly 10 minutes on an open highway in my old Chevelle, only to get home and see that the front tire had split open and was showing radial chords...   that was pretty stupid. Letting a 15 year old friend take 15 year old me for a ride in his Dad's '57 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider only to get the car airborne, land in the oncoming lane, run the car down through a ditch, cross back over the road while spinning out , and end up in a field having somehow passed through a row of full grown trees!!! all with no seatbelts!...  that was pretty stupid  ( and that poor defenseless beautiful Alfa, I should be ashamed of myself just for that ). Or the time I made a complete fool of myself during a track session at Watkins Glen in my '65 Mustang fastback trying to take the same line, at the same speed, as the early '80s 911 in front of me was. Of course I spun the car ( through traffic !!! ) and ended up backwards just at the exit of the turn...   and I still had to drive the car back to Tennessee!!!!!! Brilliant! 

You see, they'll just get worse if I keep going. But I think it proves my point- dumb luck, that's all it is in so many instances. Fortunately I don't have a story like the photos above depict, and I plan to do everything I can for the rest of my time to keep it that way. I feel like having made it through my teens and early 20s helps my chances greatly, and I'm sure used up all of my "get out of jail free" cards. I'm not saying I've completely grown up, I'm hoping none of us have, because I ( like you ) intend on continuing the hard use of my high-performance machines. I just hope the days of me getting chased down by the police for street racing ( only to have the officer inform me that my plate is for a completely different car than the one I'm driving, that it isn't registered in any way, is not insured, and that he just clocked me doing 70 in a 35 while trying to beat [ yet another 911 ] that new Porsche to the next stop-light ) are over. I hope. 

   You can only talk your way out of one of those per lifetime...  

The above photos are of a Ferrari that I spotted on a car hauler in North Hollywood on a recent trip. This poor 512 bbi Boxer was either rear ended, or swapped ends and went "into the wall" backwards. What a shame. 

And of course the James Dean Porsche at its holding cell after the crash. In this form the car would soon make its way out to the midwest to be shown to highschool students as a way to promote safe driving among teenagers ( nice visual aid educators! ). Within a few months the car would be stolen out of its transporter and would never be seen again. One of the all time great mysteries in the old car world. 

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I reckon I'm not convinced the owner of that Ferrari did anything worse than own a Ferrari. I could easily imagine the fire coming first (in a Ferrari? Inconceivable!), and the damage coming as the car was shoved out of the way--or as the owner bailed from his flaming car.