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Kissing Guard Rails

Thank you everyone for the notes and emails after the recent accident with the van. Your good wishes and kind thoughts are encouraging and reassuring. I am fine. No injuries. Not even a bruise. I was startled and upset a bit and it took me about 15 minutes for my hands to quit shaking. I needed three tries to dial Jerry on my cell phone and it’s the top of my list. I’ve never experienced that uncontrollable shaking before – weird! I expected to be sore or something this morning but I have no aftereffects at all except for the empty slot in the driveway and an empty feeling that I may have driven my beloved van for the last time. Just to clarify, let me state clearly – no other vehicle but my van was involved. No other person but me was in it and no dogs were with me. No one was hurt but the van. The accident occurred coming up the ramp that leads from the north end of the Sawgrass Expressway onto the Northbound side of the Turnpike. It had been on and off rain all day and there was a light mist working in the air. The winds were gusty. I am known to make “good time” on the highways but I am careful about weather conditions and I am aware of the limitations of the old truck. I was not speeding, not on the phone, and traffic was well spaced out.

As I made the end of the loop on the on ramp, a gust of wind caught me on my front driver’s quarter and I felt a skid start. It was a horrible feeling. The ramp rises quite high to let the turnpike pass over the Sawgrass. I was facing “uphill” on the ramp and driving into the gust. Somehow I remembered what they say about turning into the skid but I was in a relatively narrow roadway with deep drops on both sides. I turned into it as best I felt I could. Everything after that kind of runs together. I know the skids got worse. It seemed that every time I tried to turn into the skid it felt like it threw me skidding in the other direction and I had to correct the skid to the other side. I spun into traffic and I think I did a 360 but if not, it was a 180 fishtale with an overcorrection. I could feel the wind throwing the balance of the truck and the tires sliding. I hit the guard rail at least two times and I think it might have been three. They were hard smacks with the corners of the truck and a bounce back into traffic. It’s a feeling I won’t soon forget. I was trying to stay over by the side of the road so I didn’t involve anyone else. Eventually I was stopped on the side. I pulled up a bit to straighten the truck out and saw steam coming up from the radiator. All I could think was “Thank you, God”, because there were no dogs in the truck. That is why we put dogs in kennels when we transport them. The added safety of those “ugly, confining” travel kennels is a valuable asset.

A gentleman pulled up behind me to see if I was alright. He had me pull further up the shoulder so he could bring his car fully onto the shoulder that starts once you are up on the turnpike. Once were were both out of traffic, he waited with me for Jerry and FHP to arrive. If anyone knows Henry Young who is a Keyes realtor from Wellington, please tell him thanks, again, for being there for FoG’s poor truck (and it’s driver!). It was his anniversary dinner and I made him late for it. I tried to send him on but he would not leave me out there on the road alone. He’s a very nice man. He was behind me and saw the skid. After I settled down a bit, and we were chatting, he told me he was on the phone and he saw me starting to skid. He told the guy on the phone “Man, this guy is a good driver. He’s really got skills!” He was shocked when I got out of the truck! So I guess I didn’t do so badly on the control issue. But Henry said when I hit broadside to the rail and started to tip, he thought I was going over. He didn’t want to see that! But the truck set back down and he breathed again. It’s a very ugly, straight down hillside off that ramp. I didn’t remember that part of the ride and I’m glad I don’t. When he told me that, it shook me to my roots.

So in time we did all the reports and forms and dealt with my nerves and thank yous to Henry and forms from FHP. Triple A picked up the truck and we followed it to Arrigo Dodge and got it tucked in for the night. I left the house about 6 and got home at 9:30ish. Shaken but in one piece.

Friends, I think we are facing a serious crisis. The truck is a 2003 Dodge Sprinter 2500 and has 220,325 miles on it now. (Yes – 220 THOUSAND) It is INVALUABLE to our moving of dogs. We originally purchased it in 2003. I gave my Hyundai in as trade in for it and Jerry & I personally stood for the loan. The damage is not horrible on the outside but the smell from the engine says things are twisted against hot metal that shouldn’t be. The radiator and fan are in shreds. Both bumpers are in pieces and I think 3 corners are damaged. One is maybe fixable with new light cluster but the others are really smooshed. There may be a twisted frame, I’m told. I don’t know how this stuff works but I believe that if the damage is more to repair than the value of the vehicle, the insurance company may show it as a total loss. With our mileage, that may well mean we need a new truck.

When I lost my job five years ago our household took a big income cut. Jerry’s son, wife and two kids ran into hard times and have been living with us for a couple years. (no, they don’t contribute to the household). I don’t need to mention the economy. I probably don’t’ need to tell you that we tend to carry a big chunk of FoG’s expenses. Put it all together and our credit is all over extended and under paid and we couldn’t finance a rowboat right now.

The van is in the shop and the verdict is not yet rendered. But it is old and I could really use a new one. One like that, new, is about $45,000 now. Jerry’s car (144,000 miles on it!) Is our only transportation. If anyone would like to donate a van, call me please! If we can’t get another Sprinter, we may have to lower our sites. Or we might want to do some major fundraising. One suggestion was a car raffle – $100 a ticket – sell 1,000 tickets . The winner gets a real nice car (have to work that out with a dealership first ) worth about $50K and FoG gets the rest for a van! It’s not easy to sell $100 tickets but it’s certainly something to consider!

So that’s the story. I’m without a vehicle at the moment. I’ll look into some kind of rental on Monday. But no one was injured and no dogs were even with me. All the rest is “stuff” we have to deal with. My mom had a favorite saying, “Time should be measured by intensity and not duration.” Yesterday was a long, long day. Thank you all for your support and good wishes. All the dogs send their love. They asked me to tell you to come visit them at the kennel!

Love, Peace & Greyhounds! Michelle


  1. Deann Johnson says:

    Hi Michelle
    When we get back from our cruise we will donate our crate from Declair and Riley…


  2. Norma Talarico says:

    Maybe we can plead with dodge to donate a used van for the dogs.