Friday, March 29, 2013

Roof-be-gone

Envision the last trailer you saw for an action movie. Cars careen through narrow streets, bullets fly, people jump out of the way, things go flying, and in the final, slow-mo scene, a vehicle goes airborne, flipping through the air for what seems to be way too long. The clip then morphs back into real-time speed as the hunk of steel smashes into the ground, exploding into a million pieces.

Save the chase and the bullets, I felt like I was the stunt driver in that scene just a few hours ago.

"Before"
Gary and I had driven to North Carolina to pick up his latest EBay purchase: a 1990 one-owner Ford four-wheel drive truck. But it wasn't just a truck. It came equipped with a big 'ol snow plow and a dump trailer complete with electric brakes. Obviously, those two complementary bits of equipment will be quite useful to Gary. However, I was more excited about what sat in the bed of the truck: a pop-up camper that sleeps four, complete with refrigerator, stove, sink, heater, AC unit, and water and propane tanks for easy overnighting. I had often mentioned to Gary how I would enjoy such a thing. Imagine my excitement that one came with this truck. He was happy. I was
"Before" and in camping mode
happy.

We chatted effortlessly with the lovely couple who sold us this strange yet wonderful combination of stuff. They were moving to the beach and had little use for all of this. They were good honest people, both life-long educators. "It seems to leak a little so you"ll probably want to seal up the roof."

"Okay" we said, looking inside the door. Everything looked fine. "We'll check it out."

Money and titles were exchanged and hands were shaken before we started back on the two-hour drive. Everything seemed to be in order until we made the turn heading north onto RT 29. Suddenly, something flew off from the roof of the camper, barely missing my car that followed behind. "Hum, I wonder what that was?" But I didn't have to wonder for long.

Open door, open roof policy
I noticed the roof of the camper begin to ripple like water on the lake when a sudden wind comes up. For a second or two, it undulated in the 60 mph driving wind. "Slow down. Slow down," I silently screamed to Gary. He didn't hear me. In the next instant, the roof settled briefly before rearing up on the back hinges in one grand motion, creating a twelve-foot high wind block. The inevitable was about to happen.

I watched the rear hinges break away. Now, the entire  7' x 12" roof was headed toward my windshield flipping end over end. I no longer heard the radio or thought anymore about the beautiful blue sky overhead. I felt like I really was in a slow-motion movie. Still, I remember marveling at how high a camper roof can fly when becoming unhitched at such speed and angle. "Wow. Look at that."

Then reality set in. Not panic. Just reality. Time had picked up speed again, just like in the movies. If I didn't perform a few defensive driving tricks real soon, that roof was coming through my windshield. I doubted the result would be pleasant. I braked, swerved, and watched it crash inches from my car, sending glass and camper-shell shrapnel everywhere. I pulled to the side of the road, looking up in time to see Gary's truck pulling over a third of a mile up the road. "Good thing no one was coming down the ramp," I thought when I noticed this took place at the bottom of an on-ramp.That was fortunate. Otherwise, I would have had no where to go except into the guard rail.

I turned off the key but realized I was now in overdrive. The shattered roof had landed in the slow lane of the highway. It had to be moved- and fast! I ran to it and reached under the crumpled rim. It was heavy. Still, I heaved and ho'ed, dragging the wreckage from the path of an oncoming semi. A gentleman who was traveling behind me ran over to help once he pulled to the side. As he reached down to grab a corner he exclaimed, "Man, I can't believe how it didn't hit you. I watched the whole thing. I thought you were gone!"

Left front corner buckled then ripped away
After thanking him for stopping, I ran down the road (literally) to Gary, who was now standing inside the roofless camper. It looked a little strange. "Shoot. Just when I thought I was getting the camper I wanted," I mused enroute. Just then a state trooper came alongside me with his window rolled down.

"You okay? What's wrong? Why are you running down the road?" I almost laughed at our predicament. Almost.

"See that truck and camper?", still two hundred yards down the road. "We bought it about forty-five minutes ago and the roof just blew off. It's a revolting development."

Rotten wood: floor and camper sides
With what I considered understated concern, he simply said, "Okay" and drove away, stopping momentarily to ask Gary if he needed anything.There really wasn't anything to do but pick up the pieces and continue home with the newly air-conditioned camper and one very large sun roof.

Inspecting the remains, it became obvious that the hidden wood rot destroyed the structural integrity of the camper. The left front corner had crumpled, the latch detached, and the rest is history. Who could have predicted this?

There really isn't much to the rest of the story. The drive home was uneventful. But now in the aftermath, I'm beginning to understand how busy my angels must have been today. I wonder how many it took to keep that thing in the air just a tad longer or a smidgeon higher, allowing me to escape. Did they clear any traffic from the ramp? Did they take the wheel of my car, giving it the right degree of swerve and mixture of brake and accelerator? Interesting thoughts.

Just prior to the incident, my radio was tuned into a christian station. I recall Chuck Swindoll talking about conducting funerals for more and more younger people. "And in most cases, their deaths were unexpected. . . We are never guaranteed another day. Another hour." (Paraphrased)

He's right. We never know. And because we never know, perhaps we should consider more carefully how we live.

Thank you, Lord, for your gracious protection. Thank you for the chance to live another day for you.



No comments: