Gang aft agley

"Ooh, what doing now?" asks Peep from the back seat, the first positive chirp we've heard from her in about an hour. She does not like being contained in cars, has been very patient during our long drive.

"Now we're on the Milkshake road!" I say as we hit the exit ramp, because we're only a few minutes from her long-promised milkshake at Diablo Burger. And I'm stoked, cause after burgers we'll hit Sedona, meet up with Peep's dad and our parents and Dan and the girls and have a few fun family days hiking and climbing and eating really good food.

"Ooh, the Milkshake road!" my sister repeats from the passenger seat, as you do when there's a toddler in your midst.

And Peep answers something from the back as we enter the short underpass tunnel and I say something about the tunnel or maybe I only think about saying something but don't quite get it out because then I glimpse the sly sheen of ice in the dark just too late to avoid hitting it and the car loses all purchase and there is a solid thunk and maybe a second solid thunk and something wallops my face and there is full-tilt screaming from the carseat.

Then the car is suddenly, horribly still, headlights nestled slightly into a massive rock wall and I open my door cause I'm pretty sure there's going to be vomit and Peep is screaming and my sister is asking if I'm okay and blood is streaming down her face. Then she's handing me her phone, has already dialed 911, and I'm arguing with the operator who keeps asking me what road I'm on and I keep saying "Exit 195" and she keeps saying "But what road?" and I keep saying "We're not on a road we're on an exit ramp, we just exited I-40, Exit 195" and she tells me there's no mile marker 195 and I repeat that it's not a mile marker, it's an exit ramp and wondering what the hell is this lady's problem. Exasperated, she transfers me to highway patrol; they of course say "Sure, Exit 195, be there in a few minutes."

And then I remember to breathe. I thank God for airbags and carseats and for my blessedly calm and logical sister. Peep is okay, possibly bit her tongue (interviewing hysterical toddlers is an inexact science). My sister explains that she's not hurt; the lacerations on her face are chemical burns from the airbags. I've never heard of such a thing but she swears she's okay. My chin and jaw ache from their smash into the steering wheel, but no one is seriously injured (except my poor car) and there were no cars in front of us or behind us so we are, given the circumstances, blessed. The car is drivable enough, and the road empty enough, that I can move us safely onto the shoulder to wait for the kind, lovely policemen.

The hotel I booked (at the last minute because the weather turned too cold to camp) is literally less than a mile from the accident site; the tow truck dude puts us-- car and all-- up on his flatbed and drops us off. This is Peep's lowest point; she really wanted to ride in the tow truck and the disappointment combined with the car's incline while being hoisted onto the truck sends her over the edge. Once we were level again though, she sniffles and rallies, declaring "Dere's ghosts in dere" in an accusatory tone while glaring at the truck's cab.

We unload our things from the car and bid it farewell; Peep is extremely concerned that such a ghost-ridden and clearly untrustworthy vehicle is taking Mamie's car away. She has a real soft spot for my car. My sister reassures her that the car is going to the car hospital, but it's still very suspicious stuff.

My sister's husband (bless him) arrives at the hotel shortly thereafter and whisks his family off to procure protein for all of us & the milkshake for Peep. I have a much-needed good cry, and then call Dan. He's a couple hours behind us with the girls and the dogs. Driving separately was a last-minute change to save Sister & Peep flying back to Denver then turning around and flying out to Arizona two days later. I called him from the scene of course, in between police cars and tow trucks and things, but now I can tell him it's over, we're at the hotel and all is well. Considering.

"Honey, I know this isn't ideal, but at least you're all okay," he says. "And just think, if they declare the car totaled you'll can get a new one with a working radio!"

I do really miss my radio. "Well, there is that. Thanks, honey. I really love you lots."

"I love you too. Plus, I've been meaning to thank you for saving me hours and hours of work repairing your clutch."

Sister & family return, burgers & milkshakes are consumed, they depart for their Sedona lodgings and I call Dan again to tell him I'm exhausted and can't wait up. He says that's fine, he's only an hour away.

I wake up much later in the middle of the night and there's no Dan. No messages on my phone from him either. I call him, refusing to panic, reminding myself it's really stretching statistical probability that he, too, might have been in a car accident today. And I’m right; turns out he's a half-hour away, but the road's been shut down in both directions due to a car accident. He can’t get to Flagstaff or turn around and head back the other way to bypass the wreckage. They've been sitting there since right after we talked, about five hours. He and the girls are cuddled up in sleeping bags because it's winter here, and the dogs are tucked under blankets in the back. They have a well-stocked cooler and portable DVD player, so it could be worse, but it still feels like too much for one day.

Dan and the girls roll up in the wee hours. He carries them slung potato-sack-style over his shoulder, still wrapped up in their sleeping bags, tosses them on the bed giggles become delighted shrieks when he yells "STEAMROLLLLLL!" and proceeds to thoroughly roll them into the bed.

We look at photos of my poor demolished car and my sister’s poor demolished face. Our long day catches up with us. We settle dogs, turn lights off, exchange goodnights. We’re together and all is quiet. Then Dan says into the dark "Look at the stars, kids!" and we all crack up again. And then we sleep.

Thanks, God. All of that could have been so much worse.
Thanks, Miss G, for riding with Dan instead. I’d much rather have her stuck in the cold watching movies for 7 hours in the car than turned sideways talking to Peep at point of impact in mine.
Thanks, level-headed sister and resilient niece for their level-headedness and resilience.
Thanks, brother-in-law and his rescuing, protein-procuring ways.
Thanks, husband, for the perfect mix of support and humor at all the right times.

Okay. Back to our vacation.


  1. And thanks, Sister, being the kind of scrappy scrapper who can fold up an airbag with one hand while actively arguing with an emergency dispatcher. You go girl.

  2. Hee hee, well. We are Miller Girls, after all.