A Very Uncomfortable 88 Mile Drive

This afternoon I made the trip back from Spokane to Missoula. With it now December, my concern going into the drive was successfully navigating my car over two mountain passes during wintry conditions. Never did I know that a greater obstacle would prevent itself.

I made it over Fourth of July Pass just fine. Although heavy rainfall did slow me down a little bit, the relative ease I got over it gave me confidence for the usually more dangerous and snowy Lookout Pass. Much to my enjoyment, Lookout Pass was just a tad bit more challenging than Fourth of July with only traces of snow and the continued rainfall. After the passes were in my rearview mirror I thought I was home free for the final 100 miles of the drive.

As the relief set in I lightened my grip on the steering wheel, turned the radio on, and cracked open my Xyience energy drink as I passed a green sign that notified me I only had 88 miles to Missoula. Suddenly my relaxed state turned to panic as the black truck ahead of me started shooting out sparks all over the road. The next thing I knew a tire was rolling at a high speed right toward my car! I jerked my steering wheel on the windy road and missed the tire. It was just like a movie!! The truck, still shooting out sparks, successfully pulled to the side of the road. I pulled right behind it.

Another car that saw the whole incident pulled in front of the truck. The Good Samaritan who stopped in front of the vehicle went to the truck’s passenger window to see that the person was okay. I in turn got out of my car and went and fetched his tire that had come to a stop against the guard rail about 50 fifty feet behind us. In the cold, windy conditions with traffic zooming by me I trekked through the snow on the side of the road to get the tire. With my nice new Nikes sopping wet I pushed the tire back to the truck. As I got close to the vehicle I saw the occupant and let me tell you….it was not what I expected.

I am not into stereotypes but I must admit that I thought the owner of the nice, newer model black truck would not have looked like the neglected brother of a ZZ Top band member. The man, probably sixty, had a long straggly beard, stained clothes, a bizarre top hat, wrinkled skin, and strands of hair poking out from the hat. He thanked me for stopping and retrieving the tire and then asked the question:

Can I have a ride?

At first I was completely caught off guard by his request. In my surprise I muttered “ummm, sure.” Now that I am removed from the situation it makes sense that of course he would need a ride. He was stranded out in the middle of nowhere with a truck that only had three tires. But after I granted his request I felt uneasy. I went back to my car to wait for him to finish some business he said he had to attend to at his truck. After a minute or so I saw him open his truck and guess what jumped out?…


This was the man's dog that sat in my back seat for the 88 mile drive!

This was the man’s dog that sat in my back seat for the 88 mile drive!

Now if you know me, you know very well that dogs are not my favorite animals. Under normal conditions I would never let a dog set foot in my well-kept and clean car. But the man simply walked to my car, opened the passenger door, and his dog hopped right in and moved to the back seat. Things were getting weird. The man did not even ask for permission or apologize for the unexpected occupant. For a split second I wanted to end things right there. The last thing I needed was a creepy guy and a dog in the back seat distracting me on an already tense drive. But I kept my cool and straight up asked the man if his K9 would bark or go to the bathroom in my car. When he replied no to both, I started to drive. The guy needed to go to Kalispell but I had already told him ahead of time that I could only get him to Missoula. With that understanding, we set off on the longest 88 mile drive ever.

Heck yes I felt a little nervous. I have heard all the accounts about Good Samaritans picking up strangers and the horror stories that follow. The fact that this guy looked a little, how shall I put it, rugged, heightened my concerns. We had small talk for maybe two minutes to start the drive off. After that we were silent. In those uncomfortable moments of conversation he introduced himself and explained that he was a mechanic. He notified me that the lug nuts on the front passenger wheel gave way causing the mayhem on the road. Thoughts about him intentionally planning the incident to take advantage of someone like me ran through my head. I asked him if he was a sports fan. He said not really. Conversation ended.

When we were a few miles out of Missoula I started to negotiate with him on where I should drop him off. He went back and forth between a truck stop and a cheap motel before finally settling on a cheap motel. He tried to explain some place he stayed at ten years ago but for the life of me I couldn’t make out the motel he was talking about. But he made it very clear that he wanted to stay in a cheap motel so I took him to an area that would cater to his needs…Broadway Street.

Here is a picture I took of the man as he inquired about occupancy.

Here is a picture I took of the man as he inquired about occupancy.

I parked at one of the value motels and he told me to wait one second so he could walk in and see if the place would welcome his dog. I was now spending my Sunday evening parked outside some run down motel with a random dog in the back seat of my car. He came out and announced that he couldn’t stay there because they wouldn’t allow pets. I went to the next motel. Same verdict. Luckily they had told him a motel where he could go that would accept his dog so I once again transferred him and his animal to our third stop on Broadway Street. Of course he had to go in by himself once again to make sure they would take the two of them so I got to spend some more quality time with the dog. Finally he came out, opened my passenger door, thanked me, called for his dog, and walked out into the night. I was hoping he had keys to a motel room (I couldn’t tell if he was walking to one of the far away buildings of the property or simply didn’t want to have me shuttle him around anymore).

The silhouette of the man as he walked out of the final motel that U drove him to.

The silhouette of the man as he walked out of the final motel that I drove him to.

I was reminded of a couple things today. First, I shouldn’t be so judgmental and I shouldn’t always assume the worst. Secondly, the ways events unfold are crazy. If I would have left my parents’ house five minutes earlier today or left a few minutes later, I never would have had my encounter with the mechanic. Thirdly, you should always be considerate and notify the driver if you plan to bring an additional passenger! Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving weekend. Have a happy and blessed December. Don’t Blink.

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