A turkey run to Turkey Run part 2: A bang-up job

Part 1 was here:  http://markrhunter.blogspot.com/2016/09/a-turkey-run-to-turkey-run-part-1-what.html

Part 2 is ... painful.

You owned a car for seven years. You named it “Brad”. You loved Brad. You two had been through everything together: three jobs, twenty trips to Missouri, a wedding, and a dog. Nothing could replace Brad.

Then you totaled him.

Okay, so I’m paraphrasing the lady from the Liberty Mutual commercial. But I really did love my car, even though I never developed the habit of naming inanimate objects. It was a 2006 Ford Focus. It was reliable, constant as the evening star.

I kind of like Logansport, too. It’s a nice little city, about 90 miles from Albion, close to a two-hour drive. We decided to stop there for pizza, on our way home from our shortened camping trip. We were driving down East Market Street in the late afternoon, with the sun to our back, which means the sun was right in the face of the young man who was trying to turn left into


They say a car’s airbag inflates instantly, but they also say time slows at moments like that. I watched it inflate. Ironically, although I had about half an instant to stand on the brake, I didn’t actually see the impact—just the airbag coming toward me. The other driver, I assume, hit the gas to clear oncoming traffic, but the sun blinded him and he accelerated straight into us.

By the way, as much as I love my car, it was paid off. His was ten years newer, and he’d only made two payments. At least he wasn’t hurt.

My first act was to check Emily. Emily’s first act was to check Bae. Her reasoning is that the dog was not belted in, while I had both belt and airbag, and I’m just glad anyone was reasoning at all at that moment. She also reasoned that the car was on fire, which she rather urgently pointed out to me.

On a related note, an airbag is deployed by a small explosive charge, which is how it comes out so fast. The speed is helped by a powdery substance that helps the material come out smoothly. Add those two together with the smashed radiator and yeah, it looked like the car was on fire. I’m glad it wasn’t, because after checking my car’s occupants I decided to check the other driver, and my door wouldn’t open.

You get a sinking feeling at moments like that. You get another sinking feeling when you realize you’re two hours from home, and your car’s going nowhere. And a ten-year-old car, smashed all the way to the passenger compartment? It’s going nowhere, ever again.

Well, except by tow truck. With a major street blocked, I had little time to grab a few things. Our suitcase, of course. It was all the way in the back of the trunk, behind all the camping gear. I had to unload the trunk, then load it again.

Then it was gone.

Blood was dripping from my hand; Emily was limping; the dog was confused. We were two hours from home. The insurance company was prepared to get us a rental car, when the rental company opened in the morning. Meanwhile, they said we could be reimbursed the cost of a taxi to the nearest hotel.

I don’t know how many taxis allow a 90-pound dog in. I have a fairly good idea how many hotels do. My oldest daughter and son-in-law dropped what they were doing, loaded the grand-twins into their van, and drove two hours to pick us up. The next day, in a rental (which made me incredibly nervous), we came back and got about two carloads of stuff out of Brad. I mean, the Focus.

It wasn’t just the camping gear—it was everything. My wonderful Focus, with the brand new tires and full tank of gas, will not be seen again outside a junk yard.

The rest is anticlimactic. The attention-grabbing blood came from a little gash on the inside of my index finger. How is a mystery, but considering the abrasions and bruise on my arm, it’s related to the airbag.

Emily’s foot, like my arm, hurt a little. Then a lot. The doctor recommended an x-ray as a precaution, which meant a trip to the ER on a Friday evening, during a full moon. Yes, we were there exactly as long as you’re thinking, but it’s probably best to know when someone has a broken foot. She got crutches, then a “boot”. The boot looks like she’s being converted into a cyborg. This is how Darth Vader started, people.

The only thing left is to give thanks; when the chips are down Hoosiers are wonderful. People rushed over with alcohol wipes and towels for my finger, which looked way worse than it was. The other driver admitted his mistake, and at no time were words or fists thrown. More than one person stopped to see if they could help, and everyone (of course) loved the dog.

I have to mention the employees of Bruno’s Carry Out Pizza. I mean, we were on our way to get pizza, right? On one side of the street was a car for sale, which I found ironic, and on the other side was Bruno’s. I don’t know what they thought when they saw us coming, dragging a suitcase and hauling bags, and looking very nervously for traffic as we crossed the street.

But it was great pizza.

There’s a bench in front of Bruno’s. We may have been their first ever eat-in customers, although we were technically outside. They got water for the dog, and when I found out my daughter’s family hadn’t eaten and went in for another order, they gave it to us for free.

I wish it hadn’t happened—I love my wife not limping, and I loved my car, and not making car payments. But all you ever hear about is bad people doing bad things. Good people outnumber bad people—sometimes it takes bad stuff to be reminded of that.

Oh, I almost forgot: This whole series of unfortunate events started when the temple of my glasses broke off. The makers of the frame had been bought out, but the optometrist office managed to find a spare part—which didn’t exactly match, but worked just fine. Another example of someone going the extra mile to help out.

If you look very closely, you can see a difference. So ... don't look closely.

A turkey run to Turkey Run, part 1: What could possibly go wrong?

I’m considering not taking vacations anymore. Too stressful.

I have to go back to work for at least a week before my stress levels fall enough for the stress of work to start getting to me again. Then I start needing a vacation, because the last vacation was too stressful. If Joseph Heller hadn’t already written it, I’d hit the best seller list with my own Catch-22.

Let’s start at the beginning, when we decided to vacation at a place called Turkey Run State Park. It was the vacation that ended up being a turkey.

A few days earlier, as I cleaned my glasses, a temple fell off. The temples are the parts that hang over your ears. Remove one, then try to wear your glasses. Yeah.

Whenever it’s time for new glasses I try to get the same frames, because the only thing worse than wearing glasses is wearing new glasses. And every time, that particular frame is no longer available. Every time. It’s like some kind of sick joke within the frame making business.

But this time, the optometrist office didn’t tell me the frames weren’t available. They told me the frame manufacturer wasn’t available. They’d been bought out. The optometrist was going to try and find some spare parts, which was fine except I was about to drive three and a half hours away.

Here comes the repeating theme of this story, which is that things kept working out even as my stress levels rose. During my last eye exam, my eyesight had hardly changed at all. I slipped the old glasses into the new case, and there they waited for a catastrophe just like this one.

It reminds me of the line from Apollo 13, which went something like, “I think we’ve had our glitch for the mission.” They didn’t stop to consider there might be more than one glitch.

We managed to fit all our camping gear, and the dog, into my beloved 2006 Ford Focus. I probably wouldn’t have used the term “beloved” before, but I really did love that car.

Guess I’m telegraphing the ending.

Wait--I have to sleep outside with you? What did I do?

Let’s go back to the dog, Bae (It’s short for Baewulf, and yes, I know it’s misspelled—don’t tell him). Bae had started his fall shed. He must have been exhausted, growing so much fur. We would open a window, and a tornado of hair would blast past us. It looked like a cloud of smoke, pouring from the car. No wonder he sleeps so much.

Meanwhile, Emily got a sore throat the same night we put a deposit down on a campsite. By the next morning she had a cold so bad I’m still not sure it wasn’t the flu. I bought a case of Kleenex and a barrel of Nyquil, and she laid on the couch and didn’t complain, because she’s not me. We were still going on vacation, she declared, because our deposit was non-refundable.

We’ll just eat the cost, I told her. Your health is more important.

She swept aside a two-foot drift of dog fur and gave me a glare that actually made me retreat into the next room. “I’ll pack the car,” I told her. She really hates wasting money.

The strange thing about this whole story is that we had a wonderful time, whenever we weren’t miserable. We’ve compromised on our camping style: She gave up the two-man pup tent and hard ground, and I gave up the giant camper with a generator and satellite TV. The important thing is the inflatable air mattress. We had a nice site, a roaring fire, and S’mores. We had some great hiking trails that traversed rivers, suspension bridges, and canyons. Yes, there are canyons in Indiana.

We had leash laws.

This was one of the less scenic areas!

See, in a state park there are rules, and one is that you keep your pets on a leash. The lady with the dog on the trail either wasn’t holding the leash tightly enough, or was letting her dog roam, and drag the leash behind it. It saw our dog, Bae. It wanted Bae.

It wanted Bae for dinner.

I found myself quite literally in the middle of a dogfight. To our dog’s credit, he went on the defensive. However, Emily was there. When there might be a danger to Emily, “defensive” becomes a snarling, clawing, biting, 90-pound whirlwind of kick-ass. There’s no reason I can think of why my attempts to drag him away didn’t result in major blood loss.

Which brings us back to our “all’s well that ends well” theme. No injuries. The lady dragged her dog away and apologized profusely, and once Emily knew Bae was unharmed she restrained herself from going after the lady.

There was also no injury half an hour later when a much friendlier dog came running after Bae, wanting only to make friends but not realizing our dog had just been traumatized.

Leashes, people. It’s a thing.

We lasted about a day and a half. Emily was still sick, the dog was stressed, and that was it. We decided we’d come back the next week and spend a few more days there, because Turkey Run State Park was really a wonderful place.

All we needed was transportation.

Next: The “Trip” Back

S'Mores, people.

Six mile trail

Emily pointed out that there was no one to replace her at work, and I couldn't argue because I've used that line myself--and because I'm often within striking range of not one, but two crutches. So she worked the office at the Pokagon Saddle Barn today, and I worked off the frustrations of the last week by hiking six miles. Now my feet hurt, too ... but not as much as hers, I'd bet. This photo was at around mile four.

Our system has crashed

You may have read my earlier Instagram post, which went like this: 

Photos like this should always begin with "no one was seriously injured". It was a very sudden end to our vacation trip, thanks to a young man who was blinded by the evening sun. Now we have a car jammed full of camping stuff at a tow company in Logansport ... We're working out the logistics. Do I need to tell you a story will follow later?

Which is fine, but things change, and I did say "serious" injuries. I have the traditional airbag rash, strained forearm muscle, and a mysterious gash on my right index finger that we just can't figure out. Emily's right foot is bruised and swollen, and we're in the process of getting an x-ray, just in case.
The dog--and the other driver--seem fine.

Do You Remember?

This is my 2009 9/11 column. Sadly, nothing much had changed since then.

World Trade Center


I have this recurring nightmare. I wake up one September morning, look around the neighborhood and check the news, then realize I’m the only person who remembers what happened on September 11, 2001.

Maybe it’s not such a terribly unrealistic thing to worry about.

Where were you on that morning? I headed home from work with no particular plan other than getting some sleep, and turned on the TV for background noise while I got ready for bed.

A shell shocked newscaster was reporting that an airplane had just hit one of the
World Trade Center towers, and that the other was on fire.

“Wow,” I thought, “what a horrible coincidence.”

Then I realized it couldn’t be a coincidence. The only logical answer was that an airborne news crew had been dispatched to cover the fire, and accidentally flew into one tower while filming the other one.

It didn’t take long to realize something even more horrible was going on.

Where were you that moment? The moment the world changed forever? Do you remember?

My then-girlfriend was a 911 call taker for the New York City Fire Department. Having a similar job myself, I knew she was having a really, really bad shift. Still, although I couldn’t remember which part of the city her dispatch center was in, at least whatever was happening seemed to be limited to the Towers.

Then a newsman at the Pentagon in Washington reported hearing the building shudder, as if something huge had hit it.

The United States was at war, as surely as the moment bombs started falling on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. As I shoved a videotape into the VCR and pushed “record”, I remember thinking that September 11, 2001 would be one of those dates remembered forever, just like Pearl Harbor Day.

Will it be, though? Forever is a long time – how many school kids today can tell you the date of the Pearl Harbor attack, or the date when Kennedy was shot? Who remembers the date the Confederacy bombed Fort Sumter?

I had my scanner on, but there was an odd silence at first. Everyone was glued to the TV, if they weren’t actually on TV. I watched a reporter, standing in a Manhattan building with the burning Towers behind him, as he repeated what we knew, and what we didn’t. Suddenly, just behind him, one side of a Tower seemed to slide away. A wall is collapsing, I thought. A lot of people just died.

It wasn’t just a wall.

High rise buildings have burned before. The Empire State Building was also hit by an airplane, and survived – but it wasn’t made with truss construction. Other burning high rises didn’t suffer the immediate destruction of their fire protection systems, the explosive heat of a jet fuel fire, and an impact that blasted off critical insulation material, all at once.

Engineers and firefighters alike later realized the collapse was inevitable. Trusses are only as strong as their weakest member, and without any form of protection they fail early when attacked by extreme heat. There was never a chance to save those buildings.

I stood – apparently I’d never sat down to begin with – frozen in place as I realize what happened. A lot more people just died than I’d thought. A lot more.

Which Borough was my girlfriend’s dispatch center in?

By now the scanner was becoming active again, as word went out across the country. In an extraordinary first, every emergency service was being placed on standby. The military was mobilizing; every single airplane in the sky was being grounded. No one knew what was going to be hit next, or how many of the enemy were out there.

I hurried to the firehouse, picturing what would happen if someone flew a plane into downtown Fort Wayne, or rammed a gasoline tanker into a building, or detonated an ammonium nitrate bomb. At the very least we’d be moved up for standby; we might even end up on the scene. Rumors whirled, but one thing we did know was that anyone who could organize four hijackings could coordinate a dozen attacks, or three dozen, or a hundred. We’d been caught flat footed, and the possibilities were endless.

I wonder if anyone remembers the fear of that day, the stress of not knowing who had attacked, or what could come next. I wonder if anyone even remembers that, while we’ve killed or captured many of these extremists since, the remnants of their organization, and others, are still out there. Planning.

My department didn’t get called out that day. Like everyone, the Albion volunteers who could get away from work stayed near a TV. After awhile the repetition became too much and many of them wandered to other parts of the station, or just stood by the doors, looking outside at a brilliantly sunny world that was no longer so bright.

I made increasingly desperate attempts to reach my girlfriend. Surely, even in this, she’d get a break sooner or later? I didn’t realize how much critical communications equipment that had once stood at the top of a Trade Center Tower.

The dispatch center, it turns out, was across the river. She spent the morning talking on the phone to people who were about to die.

Oh, but that was a long time ago.

The economy has taken everyone’s attention away from the events of eight long years ago. (Fifteen, now.)  Generally, Americans are homebodies: They concern themselves first with their economy, health care, taxes. That’s why, despite years of extremist attacks and killing of Americans and American allies, it wasn’t until 9/11 that we really had it knocked into us that we were at war with another ideology. Once things settled down and the economy soured, our thoughts went elsewhere again.

But that doesn’t change a thing. Thousands of people are still dead. 343 firefighters were still murdered trying to save others. We could pull every soldier out of every country in the world and bring them home right now, and we’d still be the Great Satan that those crazed terrorists have dedicated themselves to bringing down.

For the sake of all those who died, and all those who may die in the future, please: Remember.