I am a leaf on the wind. Watch how I soar.

As all good Albertans know, Highway #2 -- a straight connection between Edmonton and Calgary -- is not as simple as its cartography would imply. One problem, of course, is that the number, velocity, and sheer tonnage of its drivers make it the vehicular equivalent of a meteor shower. The other problem is that it goes through Red Deer: a city with a weather system which seems to be aware of the existence of happiness elsewhere in the province, and then seeks to correct that imbalance.

The drive back from Edmonton, then, was a test of willpower: to keep concentration on the packed snow covering the highway, and the faint traces of dirt and asphalt marking the route home, while gusts of snow kept even the horizon, and even the other side of the highway invisible. And this was during daylight hours, no less.

It was slow going -- sometimes even 50 km/h seemed reckless, but I kept going at those speeds, not wanting the truck in front of me to pull ahead and vanish into the storm, leaving me without a beacon. And so I followed, learning to contend with the constant eddies of his tailwind. But then, the winds died down, and a beautiful dry stretch of road opened up. Glad to see my patience rewarded, I moved into the passing lane. And that's when I hit the Drift.

I'm sure almost everybody knows that feeling when they lose control of their car: it seems like you can see things a split second before they happen. The front tires stopped listening to the steering wheel, the snow pushed up against the undercarriage, and the vehicle inexorably moved into the dividing ditch. We plowed through the deep white banks like a breaching whale, rapidly losing speed. Not so rapidly, though, that the signpost immediately ahead of us wasn't a threat.

I managed to pull Atanarjuat back up onto the shoulder, but only the right-hand side. At that point, the rear kept on swinging out onto the highway, and in the corner of my eye, I saw three cars behind me slam on their brakes. I tapped the gas, and went back into the ditch again, this time at a much straighter angle, and we went right through, riding the ditch like a half-pipe, swinging out on the shoulder of the adjacent highway, riding the ditch like a half-pipe. We swung up onto the other shoulder, all wheels back on semi-solid ground. True, we were facing a highway of oncoming traffic, but as luck would have it, we were just a few metres away from a connecting berm, usually only used by road crews and police. I moved to that safe midpoint, and brought Atanarjuat to a stop.

My two passengers and I finally exhaled. One of them (who had recently been in a car accident with a semi) stayed frozen in place, her hand still inside the A&W bag, holding on to the Teen Burger she'd been reaching for when I first lost control. She ended up throwing the entire burger away, still wrapped in foil. The other one immediately gave me a high five.

After that, it was an extra-extra-careful drive the rest of the way to Calgary, whereupon I treated myself to the most rewarding dessert the Husky Diner had to offer.

And was it worth all that, just for an apple crumble? Well, no, of course not. But -- it was definitely worth it for the Elvis lessons I received that weekend.

I learned a few new moves, and a few new songs. And most importantly, I learned that what you sing from your heart, people listen with theirs.

Maybe a corollary to that, one of many, is that when you drive with your heart, it's your car that listens. And if that's the case, then maybe we all have an Inner Elvis -- we just need to find our audience.


Joe said...

Oh my goodness, that sounds rather terrifying. I am glad you made it back in one piece! And I am sad I missed the lessons.

Anonymous said...

My Dad heartily approves of this blogpost. It was great to see you this weekend!

TilJ said...

Wow! Glad to hear you're ok. Those Accents are damn near indestructible, judging from your experiences. You ought to be paid spokesman or something ;-)

Cara said...

OMG don't use the quote "I am a leaf on the wind. Watch how I soar" when discussing near danger.

The last time that quotation was uttered by Wash, he was promptly skewered with a big metal doohickey and POOF: DEAD

So yeah, drive safe without that quote. Sheesh, had me worried for a moment there...

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Canadian explorer. Chemist by training, biologist by nature. Long-time supporter and participant in National Novel Writing Month. Known as "Aquadeo" in most Internet circles. Also known as "that guy with the pants" to people who have seen me in certain pants.