Tracy K. Lorenz ...

Ditch Parties

Okay, it’s five degrees below zero and the driving is a little dicey. But that’s nothing new ...

I used to work in Grand Rapids and made the drive from Grand Haven every day.  I don’t remember ever staying home because of the weather, blizzards made life all that more exciting. I remember driving home one night and I got to Coopersville and it was an absolute whiteout, the road was completely covered in snow, there was a car in front of me, I was in his wake, and all I could do was follow his taillights because I had no clue where the road was.

So I’m driving on instruments that I didn’t have, following in this guy's tracks, completely at his mercy.  If he went in the ditch I was going in right behind him. And then he started to slow. He slowed and slowed and slowed until he came to a complete stop, opened his door, kicked at the ground until he saw concrete, gave me the thumbs up and continued on.  I backed off a little bit after that.

Then there was the time I was driving north of Whitehall and I noticed a bunch of activity up ahead. I thought, “Hmmm, must be black ice.”  And as my brain hit the second “m” in “Hmmm” I started to spin, a lot. I left the road and there was this big POOF! as I hit the snowbank. Then my brain thought, “Hmmm, there should be some trees coming up,” but I couldn’t tell because I couldn’t see a thing because of the poof.  When the snow settled my car was perfectly parked between two trees, perfectly, like six inches on each side.  I was in a Saab 900 and had to climb out the back hatch because I couldn’t open the doors. I got pulled out and drove away without a scratch on me or the car.

But the worst was when I was driving from Grand Haven to Muskegon and hit that area near the Sherman overpass, a spot notorious for black ice.

I had a company car at the time but that morning I had taken it in to get serviced and they gave me a loaner which, in hindsight, wasn’t a good move on their part. 

I had the car for maybe fifteen minutes when the first lady tapped me. I started spinning and I was off on Mister Toad’s Wild Ride. I don’t know how many times I got hit but it was a lot, but, this may sound odd to say, it was basically like luging. I saw the hits coming and just sort of rolled with them. I hit cars, I hit guardrails, but the whole time I was thinking. “I passed a Herman Miller truck about a mile ago so I know he’s back there somewhere and he’s heading my way.”

When it all shook out there were eighty cars involved, one person died, and I was lucky enough to roll out of there in a car that was still drivable but every inch of the body was wrecked, all four sides were smashed and the read bumper was torn off.  I drove it back to the car dealership, went inside and told the guy I scratched his car, he came out and saw a vehicle that looked like a dog chewed it. He said, “Whelp, I guess I better get you a truck.”

He tossed me the keys and that was it, I was back on my way. I had insurance, they had insurance, so there wasn’t a lot he could say, but his manager kinda gave me the ... black eyes.




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