Tag Archives: Road danger

Road danger: frustrating “fixes”

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On the “Day Off” yesterday, the first, it seems, in months, the hermitage got a visit. Sorry, but I had to get my target practice “fix” for the pre-2001 Federal Air Marshal TPC (93% and 96% with 7″ dessert plates out 21′ for targets, but overtime again on stage six).

Curiosity killed the cat, right? But having been told the one-lane gravel back ridge mountain road was washed out for miles, I had to take a look. The State road crew beat me to it, not that they looked like they were working on any reconstruction though. I’m guessing that they were actually looking for ways that they could do up a more permanent fix to what seems like the most wash-out-able road in North America. This little area in the mountains, I guess because of topographical formations, gets twice the rainfall as an average official rain forest. We got just under 10″ in less than 24 hours.

Analogy: basically, one can coast in neutral for miles down this gorgeous road with its waterfalls and cliffs, enjoying the natural beauty, easy if also dangerous, though not so much if one knows how to avoid the literal pitfalls… or at least thinking one can avoid the unforeseen dangers… until one is caught out. Perhaps there will be guardian angels to stop one from paying the ultimate price for imprudence and stupidity. The road to hell is also beautiful, on which one can coast in neutral… until one can’t get out. And then it’s too late. Better to change course. Jesus is the Way. In this case of the actual road, I took a detour of some 10 miles and 20 extra minutes, but, as it turns out, of course, even more beautiful, and of course, safer. And that’s the way with Jesus, by whom, with whom, in whom we get on our way to heaven.

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Road Danger: 2016 Subaru Forester vs 2019 Mustang Bullitt

A Good Samaritan is who we all strive to be, and after a long day of celebrations of the birth of the Prince of the Most Profound Peace on Christmas we are especially encouraged to be one of those the angels sang about that first Christmas night, those of good will who have the peace of God provided to them and who want to bring that to others.

But that doesn’t mean that one is to be so naive as to think that there are not those who are not in peace in this dark world. [Three negatives in one sentence! :-) ] After all, that’s why the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, radiating Light so as to illumine our darkness in which some nevertheless choose to remain. There are bad things that happen also on Christmas. My situational awareness was a bit edgy, as usual.

Christmas is, as one might imagine, super busy for a priest. After all the Christmas Masses, away I went to add some hundreds of more miles to the day. Not a particularly safe day to be on the roads, mind you. But now the long day was over and I was driving back to the rectory from some hours away. Up to this time, the entire trip had been wonderful, peaceful, everyone driving in a safe and courteous manner. And then I saw the headlights breaking through the darkness of night.

As I headed down the last super steep descent into the Nantahala Gorge on Highway 19 – 74, just where the speed limit goes from 45 to 35 after the “Gem Mine” on the right, I noted in the rear-view mirror the extraordinary velocity of a car just cresting the hill more than a half-mile up the hill behind me. I immediately pulled off into the gas station on the left to get out of the way. Well… “pulled off into…” It was more like entering the parking lot full speed and slamming on the brakes, ripping the steering wheel to the right to be pointed back in the direction of the road just in case. Yes, I actually thought of that. I pulled up near the road so that I couldn’t be blocked in by his stopping in front of me. If he did that it would have escalated things right quickly.

I’m guessing the Speeder guy was doing well over 100 mph on the straightaway down the hill and no sooner had I stopped than he – how to say it – violently pulled up next to me – driver door to driver door, meaning that he was pointed away from the road. He was just far enough away to be able to open his door. It was night, and it seemed that his windows were darkly tinted. But my windows are clear as clear can be, and he could see me by way of the bright lights of the gas station. I didn’t wait for him to stop but chased back out on to the road heading steeply down into the gorge on the curvy two-lane road once again, going the speed limit (only) as I tend to do.

Here’s the deal: when someone is in trouble and needs help, they are full of adrenaline and do stupid things, inappropriate things. They are not thinking correctly. I know that. However, such people in need of help are going to be erring on the side of getting help. Thus, in this situation, such a distressed person would have the window rolled down and have an arm out (with no gun) beckoning for help. Other helpful things would be emergency blinkers, or flashing one’s headlights, or honking. But none of this was happening. This guy knew how to drive and seemed to be fully in control.

Not that I know anything whatsoever about cars, but it looked to be a 2019 Mustang Bullitt, pricey, powerful, and you gotta really, really know how to drive to handle this kind of a car.

Was this a car-jacking, the ol’ switch the gem of a sports car for a tin-box of a car trick? Could be. When you’re on the run after committing a horrific crime, you just don’t care. You just want to escape. It’s hard to go unnoticed in a super flashy sports car. But, that wasn’t it. The back of my car is rather unique, not generic at all. Immediately recognizable even from great distance. This is not the car you would switch to if you were trying to remain low-key. There was another, easier because still unsuspecting car right after this that he did not chase after, and then another, and then another hundred cars and a dozen businesses just some hundreds of yards away.

Anyway, he forthwith got on my back bumper going down the curvy road to the “river’s end” of the gorge. He decided to drive alongside me – not speeding so as to pass me – on a double yellow coming up to a rock-wall-on-both-sides-blind-curve-section of the road, you know, with a car coming in the opposite direction, a situation that was going to make for a head-on collision with him. So, whatever he intended to do while driving next to me, now he was wanting to run me off the road to save himself. I oblige. There was a pull-off right then at a house to the right side. I ripped over and only then slammed on the brakes, going to the end of that pull-off, so that there was no room for him to do the same. He didn’t need to, since he was now in “my” lane on the road and could and did successfully avoid the head-on collision. But you could see the frustration. He had a thing about doing something with me, and that was again his concern, but now with two failures in a row racked up, the second potentially deadly, he knew he had been had.

At this point, whether he was a good guy looking for help in a stupid manner, or a bad guy looking to do harm, it would clearly speak to nefariousness to try something for a third time when he could go to any other car or any business. The weak little 2016 Subaru Forester had beat out the ultra-powerful Mustang Bullitt. He then took off, not heading back up the hill to some emergency or other.

It’s surprising how much situational awareness will serve you. It’s saved my life countless times. Never let your guard down. Never.

Mind you, I had 911 up on the phone, ready to call, but didn’t need to do that. And anyway, it could have taken hours for anyone to get there when seconds count. But had he tried the third time I would have let the call go through and let the scenario that was surely to follow be recorded at dispatch, you know, because a guy driving a zillion dollar sports car surely doesn’t have money for a phone.

Meanwhile, I think my guardian angel is sporting a wry smile, knowing that he saved the day more times than I know. I guess this was his Christmas present to me.

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Road danger “fix” with… cloth?

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The ravine to the left goes down about 90 feet. This part of the one lane road is continuously washing out, caving in. The foot of the cliff is a rushing creek. The fix is, I guess, new technology: cloth with cement. But it looks like the supporting dirt is already washing out from the bottom edge of the cloth, leaving a vacuous cavern – to be redundant – under the road itself, until it caves in under the weight of a vehicle. Guessing this will take about a year or two until catastrophe. A court ruling going back a good century forbids the road from being upgraded. If people are scared to drive the road they will be scared to move in. That’s the point.

Our fallen human nature! Being jealous of what we have, envious of what others have. There have to be rules, laws, of course, call it boarder security. Sure. But in the midst of trying to tamp down our fears for lack of security in this world, even to the point of making our lives more insecure (as with the road “fix” above), we might remember that our home is not here upon this earth, but in heaven, and that the redemption and salvation our Lord so graciously grants to us has nothing to do with security in this world but only in the life to come, in heaven. Please God we make it there.

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Road danger: That’s not the danger

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The road is only as wide as a car is wide, and the foundation is only mud, and there’s been an inordinate amount of rain for a long time, so any washout could easily bring the rest of the road with it as a vehicle rumbles over. It’s difficult to get perspective, but if the road were to give way you would find yourself about 70 feet down and then precipitously down a gorge. This has already been fixed last year with hundreds of huge boulders, of which you can only see a few down on the far side of the river. That’s a fright.

But that’s not the road danger. Instead, yesterday, there was some maniac terrorizing drivers for about ten miles of a thirty mile cell-phone dead zone, you know, the whole bumper hugging thing on what I’m sure vies for the most curviest mountain road in the Great Smoky Mountains, which is saying a lot. The front car (me) might just have to slow down for a curve or unexpected obstacle. My defense? Ignore him. Pray for him. Drive like the automatically recorded digital video (I recommend Thinkware 770) will be played in court the next day. ;-) After ten miles of this, he gave up. Baiting doesn’t work with me. That’s a good skill for everyone to have.

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Road danger: sideswipe brake-check

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I was following these guys for miles, nicely, a long way’s back. Meanwhile, they were always within a few yards of each other, going way below the speed limit. They sped up in the picture above to 11 miles below the speed limit. O.K. But’s a long passing zone, straight up a really steep mountain, but plenty of room to pass. I thought it would be within acceptable politeness rules of the road to pass them up and leave them to their bumper hugging. But then a warning side-swipe followed immediately by a brake-check:

road danger slow goes it brake check

With no one coming I just slammed on the brakes and let them go their merry way, still hugging each others bumpers, neither of them passing one another, both still going way below the speed limit. Strange. Ah well! An occasion to say a prayer for them, or two. And that’s what I did. I was in no rush. It’s always better to just have a pleasant day, and to put an emphasis on how to deescalate whatever unknown situation one might come across. After all. This was my day-off.

I feel sorry for cops who gotta actually pull over these kind of drivers and walk up to their windows. You don’t know what drinking they’ve done, what drugs they are on, what rage against themselves and the world they are going through, what kind of stories with which they are burdened, wanting to dump that all on someone else, anyone else. Cars make people feel they are powerful. For those on the receiving end, like the police, this is the most dangerous thing in the world.

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Road Danger: Chatting about death

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This week, well, Mon-Thur, I’ve been on vacation, well, besides hospitals and stuff. Yesterday I visited the hermitage. On the way, at the corner of 107 / 281, I followed this guy into a parking lot just before making the left-hand turn. Compare the boulders in the back of his Mack Truck with the oversize pickup trucks in front of the convenience store.

A few miles before (all double yellows), he had passed and cut me off and then slammed on his brakes right in front of me, making the boulders and his truck hop multiple times, almost ramming the stopped at a stop light vehicle in front of him just to shave literally only three seconds off his total trip. I was then behind him for all these miles, but I stayed like 250 yards back. I stopped to have a chat with him, not because of road rage (that would be stupid), but out of sadness with a quiet wish for the present driver to be safe. I’ve never talked with a bad driver before. Perhaps doing that would always be a stupid thing to do, but there are ways to go about things.

I started by quietly saying, “Sir, do you remember the […’s] boy?” As I thought, that got his interest, as he was taken that anyone would remember. I then recalled for this guy the story from quite a number of years ago about that kid, who had a single huge boulder in the back of his own Mack Truck. That boy had slammed on the brakes as well, but with the result that that boulder went right through the bed of the truck, right through the cab, crushing him to death.

I mentioned this sad case, using just the last name of the boy, and, to my surprise, the old geezer driving the truck pictured above immediately went into quiet reminiscence mode and, using the boy’s full name, he gave me all the details of the death, saying that the boy’s father had welded two gates together and was using that as protection of the cab from any boulders that might be placed in the back of the truck. The welded gates failed, of course. That father must have been totally devastated.

I wished this guy a “Be safe out there” as he did to me. All very cordial. But I’m thinking this encounter might calm his driving down a bit. There are ways to go about things. You never know when a quiet word might save someone’s life.

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Road Danger: Flags and idiots

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This guy’s wearing his engine into the ground by such a huge flag which creates huge drag and generally makes everything difficult. It’s been done before, both the huge flag thing and grinding the engine down. But you gotta know that there’s gotta be a story there. I respect that, a lot. What if it was his brother who just got the Congressional Medal of Honor, but didn’t survive, you know, dying while he was saving your own life?

Meanwhile, the huge SUV to the right got right behind the biker and almost rammed him as we got closer to Andrews coming from Murphy. In the picture below, that’s the flag of the bike that looks like it’s coming out of the window of the SUV, so close are they.

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The biker continued and the SUV turned in front of the white van, cutting him off to turn right into Andrews, breaking every traffic law he could, one after the next. Just. Wow.

As it is, a police presence is finally back in town. I hope these violent clowns have their vehicles taken away from them. If they are willing to commit homicide – running someone down – just because they hate this country so much – well then, maybe they should just leave and never ever come back.

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Road Danger: Natural disasters

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This is one of the many hair-pin turns on the one-lane no-fault gravel road winding its way high atop the back ridges near the hermitage. On this particular turn – imagine this – we had a tractor trailer (an extended flatbed with forklift at the back) who, having made the turn, had the cab in far ditch on the one side and the 75 foot trailer spanning the ravine and being held up by its back set of tires on the other side, totally blocking the road with no other way around except to backtrack and circle around the mountains, fully 10 miles to get to the highway below instead of just 2. And what if there was a forest fire, as there was a while back, smoke everywhere. I think of Guatemala, of Hawaii.

Anyway, notice the washout, big enough to break off a front wheel and throw a vehicle sideways into the ravine. They can appear within hours with hard rains, and do. Right now there are many axle-breakers. Being a one lane road and the inside of the curve, the washout is is where people drive to make the sharp turn, all things being equal. But nothing is ever equal.

You have to have constant situation awareness, which is not just for emergency situations. This picture was taken on a beautiful day, sunshine, flowers blooming, birds singing. And then…

One will be caught off guard in the spiritual life if one is trusting in nice circumstances. “I’m doing fine! And everything is nice!” No. We must continuously be in humble thanksgiving mode before Jesus with all joy – however stressed out we can be. If not, we are trusting in ourselves and there’s not much there to trust in there.

Is this low self-esteem? It is actually low self-esteem to trust in oneself, to congratulate oneself, to think that one is one’s own savior, that one doesn’t need to be carried along in the friendship of Jesus, for then, merely trusting in ourselves, we are undercutting what we could be, that is, good friends with Jesus. Why undercut ourselves? Low self-esteem? So, it is actually great self-esteem to be good friends with Jesus, to be saved by Him, to be held in His friendship, to be in humble thanksgiving mode, and, in this way, to have constant situational awareness. A disaster could come along at any moment…  expectedly. We’re always looking for deescalations of situations, but in the spiritual life, this is done in a most pleasant way, by the love of God, with the joy of being loved by God.

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Update: Road Danger: reverse PIT maneuver

road danager reverse PIT

I mean, it’s not that I was going slow. I was right at 55. It’s like he was trying to do a reverse PIT maneuver, cutting sharply in front of me despite both lanes being wide open ahead and despite not turning left at any of the exits farther on. I was going to turn left and had my left blinker on. It’s one of those “the road is only big enough for one of us situations.” I bet these kind of cowards, hiding in their cars, beat up vulnerable children or parents or spouses or live-ins. It’s an occasion to pray for the coward. Anyway, should such a maniac actually hit the front corner hard-bumper of an all wheel drive Subaru like mine, the effect would still be the same as a PIT wrought against the aggressing car. Forget what a PIT maneuver is? Here’s the best example ever:

UPDATE: I took a look at the rear-window video just to make sure I hadn’t done anything that would have offended this guy. Nope. Instead, he closed the distance of, say, a quarter mile within seconds (meaning he’s maxing out his engine going say 90 miles an hour), with the road turning to a four-lane before he passed me. He did it just to do it. I had seen all this (situational awareness!) and was already on the left hand side of the left lane for the upcoming turn and to get away from him…

To show what PITs can very often do with the slightest touch (video starts at the PIT):

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Road Danger – “It’s just a death”

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On the way back from Graham County today I saw half a dozen motorcycles parked right on the side road, and this ambulance parked right in the middle of the road. Not a good sign, especially on one of the most dangerous “dead man’s curve” type of “restrictive” curves (were the curve radius gets tighter as you go along), a frequent road design of choice, bad choice, in these back mountain ridges baiting the deaths of very many, indeed, four times as many deaths as anywhere else in the state. It seems the ambulance driver just stopped on a pick-up call when he saw the motorcycles here. They were just stopping to make sure of their directions to the Tail of the Dragon with its zillion curves. I asked if there was anything I could help with and the ambulance driver simply said, “Nah, it’s just a death” [!], referring to the corpse in the back. Of course, what that means is that the person’s been dead probably for many days and somebody just noticed and called it in. He stopped wondering if he could be of help to the motorcycle crowd as well. I guess we’ve all seen and heard about waaaaay to many deaths on these curves.

Meanwhile, the local EMTs and Firemen, my neighbors, have their own motorcycle gang and need a chaplain and so want me to get a motorcycle and go on their escapades with them. I’ll pass, however. That was what I did in another life. ;-) But it is tempting.

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Road danger: beauty seen and unseen

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Having a tiny parish population wise but with a vast territory nestled in the clouds on top of the absolutely beautiful Smoky Mountains, the Blue Mountains – which beckon one to praise God – requires lots of driving. Especially here in this most visited of National Parks, one gets accustomed to tourists who either drive way too fast (usually motorcycle racers: Be careful!) or way too slow (the elderly on vacation just enjoying the scenery: that’s great!). But then there are the locals who might be tempted to rejoice not too much in the beauty round about them so that they can just be intent on getting to where they are going (they’ve seen it all before: that’s cool too). But then there are the druggies, myopic in ignoring everything, including safety, entitled to be on the road all by themselves and taking revenge on anyone else who is on the road for the crime of also being on the road at the same time as them (which is all boring to witness: sigh).

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This guy (who knows what’s up with him…), inches from the back bumper, looks like he crashes into the backs of vehicles as a pass-time, with both corners on the front being damaged.

But can we not see more beauty in the soul of this guy than all the rest of the beauty of creation? I mean, you remember Mother Teresa’s meditation in the hospital, don’t you? Here’s a summary:

“Jesus is the Word Made Flesh. Jesus is the Bread of Life. Jesus is the Victim offered for our sins on the Cross. Jesus is the Sacrifice offered at the Holy Mass. For the sins of the world and mine. Jesus is the Hungry, to be fed. Jesus is the Thirsty, to be satiated. Jesus is the Drunkard, to listen to him. Jesus is the Drug Addict, to befriend him. Jesus is the Prostitute, to remove from danger and befriend.”

Shocking? Jesus has redeemed all. Not all are saved. We want to share the greatest love of our lives to help introduce many more to Jesus, do we not? “What you have done to the least of these, you have done to me.”

I mean, we know nothing about this guy, do we? No. Could he actually not be a druggie or some kind of full-of-himself road rager? Could he have gone through some pretty bad experiences that’s he’s re-living with all too real flashbacks, the all too real PTSD when one is going through an episode?

But even if not, even if he doesn’t see all the beauty around him, even if he doesn’t see that God loved the world so much as to send His only-begotten Son, even if all his entitled rage is entirely his fault, isn’t this exactly the person that Jesus died to save? Yes.

And that person is us all too often speeding through life so as not to notice God in this way and that, right? But Jesus is very good and very kind.

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Road danger: hitch-hike car-jacking?

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This guy is literally just a few inches off my back bumper, violently swerving, slamming on his brakes (though I was not going slow by any means) as he had up to that point perhaps been going at triple digits, if a GMC can even do such a thing. But it’s not like I could go anywhere anyway.

This was in front of me fully taking up both lanes, and it’s not as if this house guy was going slow. He was zipping right along:

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Anyway, go back up and look at the top picture. It appears the person in the driver’s seat is smashed back against the head rest, and that someone else has grabbed the steering wheel. Sugar.

After the bridge and right lane construction, the house guy got over into the right lane and shoulder, letting me pass and then I got over to the right and the guy behind me took off like lightning. Sugar. I wasn’t able to get his tag number. The camera’s not good for that for anything more than a few feet.

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Road danger: catching up to yourself

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Wide open on his right lane, this guy just wants to smash the other guy out of the way in his left lane even though oncoming traffic, me, had to severely swerve out of his way. I was happy enough to do so as I knew no one was next to me. Note that this battle between the blue and red (actually only the red is raging with him/herself) is happening in a turning lane to the left coming up to a traffic light.

road danger pass wrong way

He successfully shoves the blue car out of the way. But then, not wanting to turn left after all, severely swerves in front of the blue car, miraculously not smashing into a handicap transport who is turning to the left. A shot from the rear window camera as the red car squeaks in between the blue car and white transport into a normal traffic lane:

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Yawn. I had already said my guardian angel prayer. Yawn. No worries on my part. It’s a good idea to pray this prayer every time you buckle up. Also at other times!

  • Angele Dei, qui custos es mei, Me tibi commissum pietate superna, hodie (hac nocte) illumina, custodi, rege, et guberna. Amen.
  • Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom his love commits me here, ever this day (night) be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen.

I said a prayer for the driver of the red car. That’s always a good idea. Running from yourself is never a good idea. You’ll never win the race. You’ll only catch up to yourself.

Other clips were already automatically written over by the time I write this. Another guy, at a stop light, didn’t stop, but screamed around everyone through an adjacent parking lot and back out onto the intersection full speed in a cloud of dust. Really lucky no one was walking in the parking lot. This is just wanton disregard for human life.

I’m sure you all have similar experiences every day, and not just in traffic.

I have them one right after the other.

They say not to drive faster than your guardian angel can fly. Ha ha.

By the grace of God, we can let our guardian angels be the ones who catch up to us instead of just ourselves. The angels will introduce us more directly to Jesus in whom we find our identity. Better, we find that we are found by Him.

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Tornado? It’s been a while…

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Tree downed near Peach Tree. It was right across the road. Imagine: night, bucketing rain, hail, blowing rubbish hitting your windshield, you know the road, but then… a tree across the road. This one was obviously cut by some guy who lives on the road just to get by. I myself have done the chainsaw thing like seven times on the backroads, at one point not going anywhere without my trusty chainsaw. This tree continues on the other side of the road.

Where I was, there was also lightning, thunder, a bit of rain and hail. But no wind where I was. Stupid me. I didn’t think: “tornado.” I should have known, having been in plenty of tornadoes as a kid, that these are all the signs of a tornado, for which you don’t at all need wind if the funnel hasn’t yet dropped down. The second it does, it’s all full speed out of control train on the run. I and the ones I was with should have taken cover. But, come to think of it, there was no place to go. Except. Heh! To heaven! At least hopefully on the way. As one reader said recently: Go to confession!

When I was in the hermitage there was a level 5 tornado that when right overhead, slamming the hermitage as a number 3, but skipping over the mountains until it landed harder in eastern North Carolina, Virginia and D.C. How quickly I forget.

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Things I hate to see… But then!

road danger anger

I was out on Communion calls on Sunday, getting on toward a couple hundred miles in this expansive parish, when I wound up behind this guy, and not for the first time, and it’s always the same with this guy: all over the road, over the double yellow or with a tire in the ditch. Weave, weave, weave. You would think he was drunk. But, I think not. Or maybe an angry drunk.

You can’t really tell, but when I’m behind him he always seems to be leaning way over into the passenger seat, yelling down into the seat at what must be just a little kid. I mean, it’s really ugly, like you wouldn’t be surprised if you were to see a little kid thrown right through the closed window and into the ditch.

But then! Then he turns off, always into the same driveway, and is immediately followed by what looks to be a deputy in an unmarked black Suburban with super-blackened windows. Hopefully he’s getting nailed for something, like a custody kidnapping. But, what do I know? Maybe he was yelling at pet goldfish. It’s just that it reminds me of when I was a kid and was in untoward situations in untoward vehicles. Bad stuff happens. I got out of it. I don’t know about this kid. It seems to happen a lot. I’m rarely on that road, and there’s a quantifiable percentage of times that this scenario plays out with this same vehicle, which would mean that it happens a lot more than just when I happen to be on that road impossibly coincidentally behind this very guy. It’s stuff I hate to see. But maybe he’s in prison now.

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Just use explosives: Appalachian Trail

rock slide graham county nc highway 28

Aerial shot of the massive explosion site in the northern part of the parish. That controlled explosion helped the mountainside move down and then get hauled off the road, which itself was destroyed. There had been a smaller rock slide which had destabilized the mountainside. The explosion quickened the work by three full months, which is a real help to the economy this coming Spring. The road (Highway 28) was just opened to Fontana Dam and the Dragon’s Tail just the other day.

An Appalachian Trail hiker at Mass in Robbinsville let me know. We get hikers at Mass once in a while. I assume he’s moving South to North at this time of year. I asked him about a certain landmark on the road above. Apparently, he went an entire day’s walk past the rental cottage he would get for a couple of days to take a break and regroup, that is, to a place where once again the trail would cross a viable road quite far from his rental, on the far side of the rock-slide on the far side of the mountain. He didn’t look to be any worse for the wear since he started. His flimsy tennis shoes seemed to be utterly unfit for the trek of thousands of miles across twelve states. He’ll find out. An interesting fellow. Nice guy.

If you plan to hike the trail, read everything you can about preparations before you start! Do practice walks up mountains trying out footwear that won’t cripple you or give you blisters on your heels, the bottoms of your feet or toes after just a few hours. When I lived on the Via Francigena in Montefiascone, we would get hikers with bloodied feet hardly able to walk.

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Road danger: invisible is for angels

road danger cop blocks road

This State Trooper is a nice guy. He’s been helping out with some too rambunctious drivers since we don’t yet have a North Carolina certified Police Officer, just a Chief certified down in Georgia. He’ll be regularized soon.

The Trooper suddenly pulled out directly in front of me on the highway, perpendicular, as if he were going to try to cut across the median, but he changed his mind and raced to the U-Turn just a couple hundred yards up. He was frantic.

My first thought in seeing this is that he had been shot by the guy in the truck and needed to rush to the EMS station which is right nearby. There was no one behind me, so I just stopped dead right there on the highway and out-waited the guy in the truck who had been taking off at the same time as the Trooper, until he saw me. Sorry, but in these circumstances I just didn’t trust him. He finally took off.

All this happened because I guess I was invisible to the Trooper. It happens. I guess the Trooper had a long day. “Routine” traffic stops can be exasperating when people have guns, are drunk or on drugs, have warrants, are uncooperative. Who knows. Anyway, I figure this Trooper owes me one for wearing down my brakes and not T-Boning him on the driver’s side. ;-)

Perhaps I need to ask my ever invisible guardian angel to make me more visible to others. Being invisible has its benefits, but not always. The angels always see us, as does God Himself, of course, He being the One who holds us in existence.

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Road assault: when 911 not in service. Priest happy to have gun at the ready.

road danger fist fight

It was my day off yesterday. First I went about 80 miles one way to a rehab to give sacraments to a parishioner. Then on my way back to highway 74/40 just off parallel 19/23 East of Canton (coming from the far road next to the Exxon), I stopped to the side of the entrance to the eastward on-ramp to see if this damsel in distress needed some timely assistance. I had seen him wildly slugging at her as I came around the corner. She had her hands up in a defensive position. I think he did make contact with her forearms.

In the picture above from the rear-window digital recorder, you can see him rolling up his sleeve to get in some better slugging with his arm and fist ready for action, walking toward her. You can see her quickly backing away again with hands up in a defensive position. The white truck to your left had stopped. He kept honking his air horns at the aggressor and just let traffic pile up behind him. Another car had stopped on the ramp just ahead of me as well. It was quite the wild scene.

I tried to call 911 dispatch. The phone got the signal but 911 was not to be had:

” ♮ ♪ beep ♮ ♪ Beep ♮ ♪ BEEP: This number has been disconnected or is no longer in service. If you think you have received this recording in error, please try your number again.”

I tried again. Once again, the same recording played. Perhaps that happens when a number is overwhelmed with calls. I’m guessing that’s the case here. But I didn’t know that. As far as I knew, I was on my own unless the trucker and the other guy would come to my assistance if need be. They were watching inside their vehicles to see what would happen next.

Here she is bawling her eyes out walking away from him. Or is she cradling facial injuries? Or both? He hesitated, but is now chasing after her.

road danger fist fight run

In just another moment a couple of firemen in a red pickup with roof lights showed up and firstly, smartly, did a perimeter check. “You O.K.?” they asked me, seeing if they could find out if I had any connection with these two. I told them I  was trying to call 911 but couldn’t get through. They said they had been watching this scene unfold as well. I think they then used their radio to get another fireman in a more official vehicle with an array of white and red lights flashing to come. They then ran away, well, perhaps they were going to another call. The other vehicle did come all lit up. Then two law enforcement cruisers with lights flashing and sirens blaring showed up. So, O.K.

For myself, I had been standing next to my car, making it obvious that I was a witness and was getting pictures on my phone. He was not impressed. He was only three lanes away (just over ten yards or so) and I’m sure deciding whether he should rush me or not, just a few second sprint. Staring me down, he then turned to his car and looked like he was madly searching for something in his car, rifling through a mountain of rubbish. A gun? Dunno.

But this was my way of attempting deescalation. And it did work.

After this, he just argued with her, really ferociously, and chased her repeatedly, but I didn’t see any more wild swinging with fists that would have made any connection. You have to know that not all people taking pictures are simply letting bad stuff happen, or getting pictures for social media. Sometimes they are. But sometimes this is done as an indirect threat with the aim of deescalation. I mean, pictures can be used to help throw this guy into prison for years, right? Criminals know that and sometimes back down. Sometimes not, but it’s worth a try. Deescalation is important, necessary when possible. It was possible in this instance.

For the record, I never brandished. I never open-carried. But – I will be honest about this – I was happy to have my Glock 19 with me. And – I will be honest about this – if he had smacked her to the ground and started smashing the life out of her, or started to rape her in front of God and everyone (some people are just that arrogant), I would have done something about it, not hesitating to save her life by stopping the threat against her, he being much, much stronger than her. Bullies like this, by the way, are always cowards. They will almost always back down from someone at least as capable as them.

Some are saying, I’m sure: “Priests should just be nice! Don’t be such a meanie!”

No. Not nice. Priests should act in God’s own charity. Deus caritas est.

Meanwhile, I recommend to women in an abusive relationship, ditch the cosmetic cover-up of wounds and black-eyes. Just get out. Do it. And don’t go back. You will die if you go back. That’s how it works. It’s a progression. Get out and stay out.

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Road danger: lefting rights brakecheck

road danger pass on right 1

It seems that this guy is trying his best to ditch another guy. This guy is passing on the right in a right turn lane only at about 90 miles an hour in a 45 mile an hour zone. Whatever. As expected, the other guy who is chasing him also passes on the right in the same way, except he’s not so nice, cutting me off because, hey, I’m some other guy on the road, a common condition of humanity:

road danger pass on right 2

You can see the guy he’s chasing up ahead. But this guy was going so fast that he crossed the solid double white lines. Not having knocked me off the road, he decides that it would be a good idea to brake-check me to a dead stop, screeching tires and all, because, well, you know, just because:

road danger brake check

And then he squeals away. Happy day. As it happens, and it always happens, there was a slow vehicle up ahead of both of them with double yellow no-passing lines for miles and miles. Hurry up and wait! There was a long line of cars ahead and behind.

I said the “Angel of God, my guardian dear…” prayer again for good measure. Being close to one’s guardian angel is always a good idea. Our guardian angels see the face of God right now. Jesus told us this.

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Road danger: I never saw it

img_20180204_100033535_burst000_cover_top~21081866928..jpg

This was an accidental picture, as it were. Descending from the top of the Nantahala Gorge, negotiating sharp curves at top speed, I come screaming down to the T-Bone with Highway 74 / 19 (Truck 64) at Topton, taking a right toward Andrews. There’s a Stop sign at car level at the end of the bridge to the right of the driver, as one might expect. I’ve always seen that Stop sign. The one I’ve always also seen but never noticed hangs in front of the driver high up on the high voltage power cables. That’s almost 4 1/2 years worth of seeing but not noticing this Stop sign.

Maybe it’s just a dumb place for a sign as you come down perpendicular-wise into a 90-degree curve over the train-bridge and have to look for oncoming traffic from a blind hill-top to the left while stopping. Leaning over the steering wheel so as to look up from under the car roof is a bit of a strain when you’re busy doing other things.

Seeing but not noticing. It’s like seeing a criminal coming out of an office building but not noticing the criminal because he’s disguised as a UPS driver. UPS drivers are invisible in that situation, right? You could describe the UPS driver in detail never thinking that he’s the one for whom all the police are searching.

So much for the strength of my situational awareness. I’ll have to work on that. Meanwhile:

“To those outside everything comes in parables, so that ‘looking they see but do not perceive, and hearing they hear but do not understand, lest they turn and be forgiven” (Mark 4:11-12).

You might almost think that Jesus is locking people out on purpose. And He is! Here’s the deal, if we aren’t drawn by the truth of His love, the love of His truth, we are only looking at ourselves and so we don’t want to be turned to Him to be forgiven by Him. He’s the one who draws us to Himself, who turns us about, who forgives us. We’re not our own saviors. We can’t see His salvation of us without Him revealing that salvation to us. He’s the One. He’s the only One. He can be grabbing us by both shoulders and shaking us so that we might actually take notice of Him whom we’ve otherwise always seen. But we can choose to just keep going through life on our own, thinking that’s enough, but remaining in darkness.

Back to situational awareness. It’s a service one renders not only to self but to others. Part of situational awareness is noticing what is otherwise usually un-noticeable. It involves always taking it down a notch, stepping back so as to be more immersed in the situation.

 

 

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