Archive for January, 2007

Best McNaught photo

19 January 2007 at 6:18 pm
by Berck

Best McNaught Photo

Just a quick note…

11 January 2007 at 8:26 pm
by Berck

How I met Your Mother is the best TV show ever. Really. It is. Thanks Syd.

It’s even better than…eek… Star Trek.

Southern Tour — Safely Home

7 January 2007 at 11:02 pm
by Jonah

Southern Tour – Last Leg Home

We had hoped to arrive home to our cozy apartment last night, but the weather had something else in mind for us. Up until then, the trip had been uneventful.

After leaving Mobile, we spent the night in Tyler, Texas with Karen, a former employee of Berck’s dad and still a good family friend. She and her new husband Bob took us out to a really nice Mexican restaurant that specialized in cuisine from all over the country then out for custard.

We drove the short trip to Dallas the next day and spent the day and night with our UD friends Kate and J.R., who had just got back the night before from spending the holidays with family. Their car was dead, so Berck and J.R. jumped it off from our car. Unfortunately, J.R. hooked up the terminals backwards. He turned the key, and the effect was spectacular. The horn immediately started blaring non-stop, the windshield wiper fluid sprayers began shooting a constant stream of cleaner, and the wipers started wiping furiously. From outside the car, Berck said that every single light on the car came on. At the same time, white smoke and the smell of burning rubber came pouring out from the somewhere in the dashboard. J.R. immediately jumped out of the car and yanked the jumper cables off the battery, but the damage had already been done. They jumped the car again, but the engine cut off right after disconnecting the two batteries. Berck used his method of replacing the cheapest part first and decided they should get a new little connection in the fuse box. He and J.R. spent the rest of the day doing that, but it didn’t work. My guess is that they’re going to need a new alternator. Berck drove Kate to pick up her mom’s car, and we all went out to dinner at a really good Thai restaurant with them and Berck’s high school friend Kajuri, her husband Vishal along with a Romanian friend of theirs and his date. We all went out for gelato afterward and had a great time.

Our trip hit a snag when we reached the New Mexico border. Snow was blowing nonstop across the road, turning to a slippery sheet of ice when the car tires ran over it. Traffic slowed to a crawl. Since we’re in the car with summer tires (no sense driving snow tires all over the Southeast), we were already at a disadvantage. But the road was relatively straight and level, so we took it nice and easy. We were stuck behind someone pulling a U-Haul along with a line of cars going about 25 miles an hour when the car started sliding.

Sliding out of control in a car is a very distinct feeling. Having done it at least three times, I can say that there’s nothing else I’ve experienced that’s quite like it. Your fate is suddenly outside of any control on your part. There’s nothing to do but pray, will yourself in another direction, and wait for impact. I imagine it’s a lot like falling off a cliff or jumping from a tall building. Each time I’ve slid, I was never in danger of getting hurt, just of hurting my car. And for some reason, it’s always MY car. And each time, my car has miraculously survived injury.

Yes, that includes this time. We were sliding off into the oncoming lane, straight for a reflector post. The reflector post was there, I think, because we were in New Mexico. (See this.) Berck managed to jerk the car into a spin, which caused us to do a 180 and send us off the road sooner, missing the post.

The entire line of cars passed by us without pausing. Then we were left with a bitter south wind blowing snow at us and making a weird noise as it passed through the power lines or barbed wire on the side of the road, like someone speaking through scratchy speakers and you can’t quite make out the words. We tried pushing the car back onto the road, but that just made it slide further off, then digging the snow out with an ice scraper, but that just turned the dirt beneath the tires to mud. I called AAA because, as it turns out, I actually do have a membership; they just transfered it from Oklahoma to Colorado, gave it another membership number, and didn’t send me a new card. They said they would send a wrecker right away.

There was nothing to do but sit in the car and wait. Cars and 18 wheelers continued to pass by going westbound without stopping, but no one was coming eastbound, in the lane next to our car. “Where’s our hero?” wondered Berck. Whenever you slide off the road in Colorado (or North Dekota or pretty much anywhere in the north and west), someone in a truck or jeep will immediately drive up and grab a chain or strap out of his trunk and pull you out–they live for that sort of thing. I told Berck I didn’t think many people in New Mexico drove trucks with chains and winches.

A guy in a truck stopped and asked if we had any rope. I don’t know why he would think our Miata, packed to the gills, would also contain rope. He was the one in the truck, after all. We thanked him for his concern and assured him we’d be fine.

A sheriff’s deputy stopped next asking if everyone were alright. He said he’d come back to help but there was a big wreck up ahead. That explained the lack of traffic eastbound. A couple of ambulances passed by.

Finally, a guy in a truck with amber lights on top stopped. He switched on the lights as soon as he spotted us, and at first I thought he was the wrecker. Then he rolled down his window and asked if we needed to be tugged out. Why, yes, we just so happened to. He made a U-turn and backed up to the Miata. Berck attached a chain he produced to one of the Miata’s front teeth (tie down hooks). Then the guy tugged us out. In the meantime, another car had slid off the road on the other side, so the guy left his amber lights on and went over to help him. I pointed out the guy’s license plate to Berck: Wyoming.

Free and clear, we continued on our way…slowly. I called AAA back to tell them we didn’t need the wrecker anymore. They called me back at the same time leaving a message saying they were very sorry but all the wreckers were busy clearing a huge wreck nearby. About that time we passed a very long line of cars heading eastbound.

We inched along at 30 miles an hour over the ice covered road, eventually passing the empty, smashed up pickup trucks on either side of the road. After 30 miles, the road finally cleared up. It was fine all the way to Raton.

We stopped at a gas station before hitting the Interstate because there was a vibration in the wheels (probably packed snow that I knocked out with the ice scraper). A middle aged guy came up to us (I pegged him as a retired Air Force officer) and asked which direction we had come from and how the road was. He was travelling the way we had just come, so we told him about the 30 miles of ice. He decided he would be okay in a 4-wheel drive truck. Then he asked which we were headed and told us that I-25 from Walsenburg to Colorado City was horrible. There was a ground blizzard, traffic was backed up dozens of miles, and cars were sliding off the road the tractor trailers were jacknifing left and right. He had pulled a woman out of the median after she came over the top of a hill at 70 and suddenly noticed the traffic backed up at a standstill. He said that traffic seemed even worse the other direction. “If there’s anyway you can spend the night here,” he said, “do it.” A young guy came up and started talking to us too. He apparently came to the same conclusion, because he checked into the hotel we did at the same time. His buddy outside said they had seen us off on the side of the road and that they had slid off too. I think they were the same car the guy who pulled us out went to help directly afterward.

After a relaxing dinner and night in the hotel, we braved the Interstate in the morning. Things were fine until a few miles south of Walsenburg. The Interstate was ice, and traffic was going 30. Cars were still flying off the road just as fast as wreckers and the police could pull them back out again. Finally, past Colorado City, things cleared up again. The road was perfectly clear until we pulled in to our driveway.

Tomorrow we start work again. Winds are forecast to be 30-40 tomorrow, so I doubt Berck will be flying. We also have to pick up and go through a month’s worth of mail.

Photos Posted

7 January 2007 at 5:16 pm
by Berck

Photos of the recent trip are posted on the gallery. Here’s a video of Wii-ing that was apparently too big for gallery to manage, and I’m too lazy to figure out how to bully Gallery into managing.


7 January 2007 at 2:02 pm
by Jonah

We’re back home and back up. I’ll be posting some more stuff soon here.