Parting Shots

Home Safe

Even though I was lit up by a Flathead County deputy two lousy miles from home, I still felt darn lucky pulling into the driveway at last

By Dave Skinner

As part of getting myself legally ready for my proximate departure to the underworld, I spent the back half of January rolling 3,000 miles to and from fabulous Mesa, Arizona, part of the Phoenix metro area. There I have a really nifty little condo I had in mothballs for my formerly hoped-for dotage, with low taxes, low fees and great neighbors.

My plan, which pretty much blew up right from the start, was to tidy things up, scout some hospitals for some upcoming chemical and/or radioactive “fun,” and straighten out some paperwork. All of those would be worth a column, but for now, I just want to discuss the road trip itself … and how blankety-blank happy I was to get home.

I decided to take U.S. 93 for the most part, going through Twin Falls instead of Salt Lake on the Interstate. Almost every time I’ve driven through Salt Lake, maybe six times, I’ve actually watched wrecks happen in front of me (twice), or barely avoided same.

So, 93 it would be. Lost Trail, pretty good fog from Arco to Jackpot, but nothing remarkable. Nevada was fun, I got to swing by and see Wheeler Peak (Nevada’s tallest) because I made a wrong turn at the copper-mining town of Ely.

Then I hit I-15 at the Vegas landfill. Holy smokes, there were fluttering strips of spilled plastic stuck to every rock, bush, fencepost, and every other possible snag. Instant Third World – and the Interstate traffic was Third World, too. There I am, screaming into the lowering sun, 85 in a 65, boxed in all around, and it’s 5:30 p.m. Oh, my, rush hour, and I’m going in, not out! Great timing, Skinner!

Sure enough, I get down to the biggest, baddest interchange, it’s under reconstruction, and nobody’s slowing down. I lucked out, in the correct lane by chance. But some idiot in a white sedan was not. This creature cut off a work truck dragging a box trailer, and the work truck needed my spot – right at the biggest choke point in the entire Las Vegas freeway morass. Why you didn’t read about me and a flaming apocalypse in the paper a couple of weeks ago, I don’t know.

When I stepped down in a relative’s Vegas driveway, I was still shaky, because the town traffic was nuts, too. I decided to leave before sunup, smart move. But like a dummy, I decided to play around a little on Route 66. I had so much fun, I hit the first Phoenix beltway at, you guessed it, rush hour. Despite knowing where to go, I still got trapped and had to claw to an exit and turn back, finally getting to the right exit in Mesa, 30 miles in two hours.

But could I relax yet? Are you freaking kidding me? Motoring down good old Power, I’m going 60 in a 45 and getting my headlights sucked out. I finally matched the pack at 68! In TOWN! Just before home plate, I got cut off by some blue-haired lady who stuffed her shiny Escalade in front (no signal) then braked hard for, yep, a hair salon. Plates? Indiana, home of the 500. No lie.

So, over the next two weeks, as I ran many, many errands, I re-learned that in cities like Phoenix, the best defense is a good ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK. Every light is a drag start. Period. Every turn, signaled of course, requires a “pre-zoom” to leave space against being rear-ended, or having the squid next to you slither and squirt into the driveway or turn lane you’re wanting. Period. Gosh, did I waste fuel. And brake pads. And beautiful Michelin rubber better utilized elsewhere.

But the two weeks gathered no tickets or wrecks. Going home, I specifically left Phoenix after evening rush hour and was clear of Vegas a little after midnight. Phew.

So, even though I was righteously lit up by a Flathead County deputy two lousy miles from home, I still felt darn lucky pulling into the driveway at last, home safe, here.  

Mike (Uncommon Ground) Jopek and Dave (Parting Shots) Skinner often fall on opposite sides of the fence when it comes to political and outdoor issues. Their columns alternate each week in the Flathead Beacon.

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