Saturday, March 28, 2015

Terror On Alt 95

Terror On Alt 95

At the crossroads of Silver Spring, I pulled into a gas station to get my daughter, Shannon, a soda.  She had been demanding a coke for over fifteen minutes.  She was only three years old, but knew what she wanted. The afternoon was warm and we had no air conditioning in our car back in the early 70’s.  I was thirsty too.  We were going to visit my mother in Yerington about thirty-three miles away. Silver Springs was a true crossroad. East was Fallon, West led to Carson City, North was Fernley from which we had just passed through from Reno where we lived, and South lead to our destination, Yerington and then to Las Vegas. For thirty miles, give or take, in any direction from Silver Springs was mainly desert with no services.  To this respect Silver Springs was a little oasis for travelers.

I was in no hurry this day.  I took Shannon to the restroom and got her a Coke and her favorite “potato chips with windows” - pretzels.  She was delighted.  In those days we did not have car seats for children or seat belts. I stood her in the passenger seat - her favorite way to ride, so she could see everything.  I had to wait for two other cars to pass before I pulled from the gas station.

I was reminded of a time a few years back, when at this very crossroads, I picked up a skinny bare-chested, bare-footed hippie in work overalls, who had only a large family-size Bible clutched to his chest. “Where are you headed?” I yelled at him through the open passenger window.  “Las Vegas.” he replied. “Well come on, I can take you as far as Yerington.” I motioned to him.  We visited and talked about the Lord and when we arrived in Yerington, I offered to buy him something to eat, but he refused as he was anxious to get to Las Vegas. I figured he was fasting and on a mission from God. I dropped him on the corner of Main & Goldfield.  I always wondered how he made out.

Even though Silver Springs had very few buildings and businesses, it had a 25 mile per hour speed limit that went for miles.  It alway irritated the hell out of me.  Nevadans were use to driving fast as there were no speed limits outside of city limits. “Why does Silver Springs have such a large city limit?” I would cursedly question every time I went through it.  Most the time the further from the crossroads, the faster I would go.  However, this afternoon I was behind a California tourist in a black Buick, who was following the speed limit exactly.  Every time I tried to pass, oncoming traffic prevented me.

I impatiently tapped my fingers on the steering wheel, whistled in the air and cursed under my breath, “son of a bitch!”.  I was looking ahead for the speed limit to change, so I could pass this “jerk”.  The road from here to Yerington was only a two-lane highway, one lane for each direction.  Everyone in Nevada knew the rules and politeness of driving these kind of roads. Don’t keep your brights on at night for oncoming traffic, always keep a watch out for deer and cattle in the open range, slow down when someone tries to pass in both directions, leave plenty of space to pass and don’t pass on a double line. Additionally, be careful not to hit the soft shoulders as you could get into a car roll with nothing to stop you.  People have been known to roll up to twenty times over the flat sagebrush-covered desert before coming to a stop.

Finally, we reached the end of the speed limit and began to accelerate.  Still there were a few oncoming cars.  When they passed I looked ahead and saw a large oncoming semi-truck very far ahead.  I had plenty of room and time to pass. I put on my blinker and increased my speed to overtake the Buick.  To my surprise, the Buick accelerated to match my speed.  I accelerate more and so did he.  I stepped on it to 90 miles per hour.  He matched me.  “What the hell is he trying to do?”  I yelled into the air.  “Kill us?”  I was eyeing the semi getting closer and so decided to back off and pull back in behind him.  As I slowed, so did he.  “He is trying to kill us!” I exclaimed.

I looked at the driver in the Buick.  He was a 30ish man with black hair and an evil smirk. His girlfriend was beside him and she was laughing.  This was great fun for them. I looked across at the man and hand signaled him to let me in.  His eyebrows lifted into a murderous arch. Now I was getting really scared.  My mind was racing.  What to do? In split-second thinking, I viewed my three options.  I could have a head-on with the truck, I could turn into the Buick on the right, or I could veer to the left and try and hold the car upright across the desert. All options were disastrous.

As the truck drew nearer, I knew I must make a move.  I yelled, “You may kill us, but this is what I think of you!” and violently flipped him the bird.  At this point, he slammed on his brakes to let me in.  I slide to the right in front of him just seconds before an inedible head-on collision could have occurred.  I was still shaking when we reached my mothers house.  It began to sink in how close we had come to dying that day.  The personification of evil for delight has puzzled me since that event.  I cannot conceive it.  I did learn one thing. When all our options are explored, there may still be one more option - a miracle.

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