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I-55 --- Alive
I-55 — Alive!
They departed Eureka Springs on Friday, April 22, 2008, to the Gulf Coast — after having driven 11 hours with but few pit stops — the VW Rialta Camper reached its destination in Covington, LA. Al Hooks continued to his nearby mother’s home in Covington while Dan Ellis spent the night in a Holiday Inn to await a car rental for the following Saturday Morning to continue his way to Pensacola, FL.
Each having completed their personal visits on the Gulf Coast, Al and Dan departed Covington at 6:45 a.m. the following Monday intending to get back to Eureka Springs before dusk. However, soon out of Covington a long procession of cars proceeded ever so slowly off the highway on a detour that lasted the better part of an hour. Al’s remark was, “What a way to start a trip!”
Dan, replied, “Well, the worst is over.”
Without breakfast and just a cup of coffee, a couple of hours later, they were moving at 70 mph on Interstate-55. The two Type “A” Leo’s had easily delved into myriads of short conversation items.
One entailed Al’s intention to sell his other, larger Camper — to which, Dan offered to make a few calls to find a Trailer/Camper Sales office near Eureka.
While mulling the thought, Dan, who doesn’t normally have premonitions — had a vision of a “blow-out.”
Out went the right-rear tire of the Camper as Al calmly instructed, “Hold-On!”
Time seemed eternal as the Camper careened downhill at 70 mph, swerving wildly from side to side within the two-lane corridor that sliced through the wooded terrain with ravines along each side. Al was performing a herculean task in maintaining control until the Camper fish-tailed and engorged a part of the left grassy shoulder causing the top-heavy camper to lean toward the deepening ravine. Both, realized the severity if the Camper would begin to flip-flop top over bottom towards the impending line of trees. Fortunately, Al was able to right the flying missile back upon the cement highway, but, only to have the Camper make a complete U-Turn — ending in the direction of encroaching traffic. Then, the other tire blew out causing the Camper to turn once more thrusting downward into the ravine facing a wall of foliage and hidden trees.
Al rode the bucking vehicle down the grade with all of his weight applied to the brake as Dan grabbed one of Al’s dogs that came hurtling to the front seats.
Without thought, Dan calmly chanted,”Okay, God. Okay, God. Okay, God.” Three times before the wild foliage was stripped from the trees and it was promptly realized by both, that they had safely cut between two huge pine trees that were in kissing distance. The vehicle continued downward as an inevitable and unavoidable tree loomed directly in front.
Halted! Without a sound and without a whimper – after cautiously staring at the tree in front of them that was holding back the Camper from further distress – they looked at each other. Both saying to the other, “You Okay?”
Each in their turn examined their limbs as voices began to arrive from fellow travelers that had viewed the blow-out and had sought to render aid. One voice said, “They must be dead!” At that point one arrived on Al’s side and asked, “Are you hurt?!”
Al replied, “No, We’re fine!”
Dan got out from his seat after settling the dog back in the rear. The other Labrador seemed fine. A big Black fellow came up to Dan as he descended the Camper and Dan looked at him, and exclaimed, “You don’t look like God to me — We’re not in Heaven!”
After asking if we were injured, Dan replied, “No” — and Al sided up to exclaim, “I broke my finger-nail,” as he lifted his left hand held by his right one as if inspecting a manicure.
The three white men who had stopped to check on our condition exclaimed how well Al had maneuvered the Camper. They had not expected the vehicular missile to hold the road as well as it had. In the mean time, they had reported the accident while distant sirens began sounding the approach of two medical emergency trucks. They prepared a Report to which Al and Dan signed in refusing to be taken to a hospital. Looking at the Camper, the Medics exclaimed, “You’re both lucky to be alive!”
Soon after, a sheriff’s car and two state patrol cars arrived. One State Policeman began interrogating about the accident, while asking Dan about his condition, Dan stated, “I wish I had a Martini!” The State Police signaled a menacing look. A copy of their Accident Report indicated that they had received the call at 9:27 a.m. and had arrived at 9:44 a.m.
As they walked the path the vehicle had taken, they stated that they had never seen one that entered a ravine in such a perpendicular entry and to miss the tree line. They called for towing service which took another 15 minutes as it became known to us that the accident occurred 8 miles out of Brookhaven, Mississippi.
Towing out the Camper was not made easy in that it had to be freed from the two large pine trees that embraced each side. It took a half dozen attempts to thread the vehicle backward between the trees that were so narrowly missed.
It was no surprise for Al to receive the insurance adjuster’s report, “The Camper was TOTALED!”