Saturday, February 21, 2009

Be Careful Out There

Yesterday my eldest son and I were traveling home after conducting a two week technology course in Mistissini, Quebec. It is a 10 hour drive from Mistissini to Montreal through some very beautiful country. It is also unpredictable country at this time of year. It had taken us close to 12 hours to drive up. Due to some things going on at home we decided to head out at 2 pm instead of staying over to leave first thing in the morning. So we set out determined to be home by Midnight.

It wasn't long before we hit our first surprise; a waonderful mini blizzard. We ran into it on a two hour streatch of highway where there is not a single living soul. For an hour and an half I drove through some white knuckle situations while my son slept comfortably beside me. By the time we emerged it was getting dark and my son was waking up.

I am no fan of night time driving at the best of times, but here I was on a small unfamiliar roadway, 7 hours from home. I came across a couple of highway salt trucks and with some patience and help from the truck drivers was able to pass with no problem. We kept hitting snow from time to time and now the road was pretty well covered. It was really dark which gave me the opportunity to teach my son the technique of using the high beams in a polite manner. I should mention that it did take my son's suggestion to figure out how to turn the high beams on in our rented vehicle..

It was now about 7:30 pm, it was very dark, the snow was blowing and, if not for the map skills of my son, we would have been very lost. It was at this point that we came across another salt truck. I should mention, for those who are not familiar, these salt trucks are actually huge snow plows. There was no way I was getting around him and we were on a very twisty part of the highway. That's okay, I assured my son, there is no sense killing ourselves to get around the truck. I patiently drove 30 km/h waiting for my opportunity. It was in this situation that it happened.

In my rearview mirror I caught sight of an approaching vehicle. It was hard not to notice considering he had his high beams on. I pointed out to my son the effect on us and cautioned him never to do this to othr drivers. Soon buddy was on my tail and he had not flicked off his high beams. It ws obvious this driver was not as patient as me. After about five minutes the road straightened up and I took the opportunity. Signalling I pulled out but buddy behind me had pulled out half a second before me. I was already committed and did not back down so he backed off. "The nerve of this guy not waiting for his turn", I said to my son.

I quickly passed the plow and hurried down the highway with buddy still on my tail with his highbeams still blazing in the rearview mirror. I decide to lose the turkey and sped off at 120 km/h. I figured it would not take much to lose him, afterall, I was in a rented Trailblazer. If there had been a passing opportunity I would have let him go by but we were back into the twists and turns as we drove through the mountains. After a while the guy fell off for a bit and even disappeared around a corner. Five minutes later buddy was back on my tail.

I was determined I was going to get rid of him and took off into the night, creeping over the 120 km/h mark in a 90 zone. I was not sure what scared me more, the head lights blinding me, missing a turn or my son telling this story. But buddy would not back off and he would not turn off the high beams. I tried a different tactic. When we approached the truck passing lanes on the hills I pulled over and slowed down to 80 km/h but he did not pass. Once I thought he was going to pass but then we ran out of road and I had to pull back in

Finally, after feeling like I was a Nascar driver with a death wish, I slowed down to 60 km/h, forcing him to go by me. It was quite a shock to see who was following me as he passed; the provincial police. The air from the Trailblazer disappeared as my son and I gasped. This was air shucking was followed by dead silence. Dread washed over me as I realized that I was looking at a $400 to $500 ticket and perhaps the loss of my license.

To our shock the police car did not flash any lights at me; he did not slow down to pull me over. Infact, he simple drove away, leaving a father and son staring at each other it stunned disblief. But that is not where it ends.

I automaticly figured he was going ahead to lie in wait. Understand that I had been driving for a very long time and today I believe it was the hypnotic effects of the snow that caused my mind to slip into stupidity. It never crossed my mind that he had plenty of things to write me up on considering our little race over the past 75 km of highway. But still I slowed down to 80 km/h claiming God had just shown me a lot of grace, keeping an eye on any of the side roads we passed.

It was about ten minutes later that we happend upon a bar. A bar? With nothing in sight for a 100 kms we come across a bar. And who is sitting in the parking lot of the bar? None other than Mr. Police vehicle. I figured that was the end of the mystery; he had been called to the bar. Wishful thinking. Thirty seconds later there were high beams in my rearview mirror again. Was this some kind of joke the police pull when they are bored? I had no idea.

The thought entered my mind that some poor soul was going to suffer a slow driver on the highway because there was no way that I was taking the chance again. Whether this was a police car behind me or not I had just become the best, most curtious driver on the road. For the next 50 or so kms I travelled 80 km/h with the same effect; buddy always on my tail, never passing with his high beams blaring into the rearview mirror. The thought kept going through my mind, you're going to get a ticket for driving too slow, but I learned my lesson from the last time. High beams or no high beams I was not going to get caught for speeding.

Once again it took me slowing down to 60 km/h before the vehicle would pass me. And once again it was the police. I have no idea why I was so privileged that night to have a police escort for over 100 km/h or why I did not receive a ticket when I clearly deserved one but we learned some valuable lessons. I am just thankful to have lived through the experience.

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