Many days I awake in sheer wonder that I am still alive. You might ask why and when you do scenes flash before my mind of my crazed and misspent youth. I was highly intelligent when I was young, but I really wasn’t experienced enough to be smart.
So, in the hopes of preventing stupidity I’m creating a new category and tag for my online journal, “Crazed Youth” in which I will occasionally confess my own foolishness.
In Alaska the Parks highway stretches about 360 miles between Anchorage and Fairbanks, and it’s a wonderful, scenic drive in the summer. During the winter after it was first built you were taking your life in your hands whenever you drove it. After construction there were few facilities, houses, or anything else along the way but for wilderness and bitter winter cold (one gas station midway, the Tesoro Igloo.)
The problem was that in Fairbanks it was dark, cold and miserable in the depths of winter so occasionally one of us would yell “Road Trip!” in the wee hours of the morn, and we would all pile into my ’74 Plymouth Satellite and take off for Anchorage to get Sushi, or to see women in bars in dresses instead of parkas.
So there you have it — four drunk guys sailing at high speed down the icy road in the depths of the deserted night, 100 miles from anything at -20 or lower degrees. Foolish? You bet.
Picture: Heading into a blizzard in Broad Pass
Now comes the insanely stupid part…. The scenery is beautiful even in the winter, but after the fifth or sixth road trip, it gets boring on a 4.5 to 6 hour drive (4.5 hours if I drove the entire distance, yes, this is the insanely stupid part after all.)
So to entertain ourselves we would see how fast we could clock driving on ice between mileposts using a stopwatch (the speedometer would just go “tic-tic-tic-tic” as the needle bounced against the peg at the 120 MPH mark) We clocked a 28 second mile between markers, you do the math. Sometimes it was “Sunny” Jim holding the stop watch and sometimes it was someone else, the car only held five comfortably so there were road trips where some got left behind.
After a while even that became boring so instead we clocked ourselves between mileposts in controlled, tire-spinning slantways skids, the longest skid being four mileposts long and almost 60 mph (again the speedometer was useless as the tires were spinning the whole time — we clocked a 59.8 seconds mile between markers going sideways.) It took both skill and insanity to keep a car part sideways that long at that speed, it’s the very definition of Akrasia, and somewhere in the cosmic dictionary there’ a picture of us skidding sideways down the road to illustrate the term next to that Greek word.
One microsecond loss of control and we would have been sushi instead of going to get sushi. One ice-bump under a tire and even if we had survived the crash we surely would have frozen in the temperature extremes.
So, yeah, some mornings I awake with wonder just to be alive.