A few years back in 2013 things were going well, all things considered. I had been hit by a car and survived. I was at mile 25.2 of the Boston Marathon, and Pamela was across the street from the second blast waiting for me to make my way to the finish. Then, in late August, during a work trip, cooking and supporting People for Bikes’ Tim Johnson’s Ride On Chicago, it happened.
On day two of our five day trek I had relegated driving duties to one of my crew. Generally I would drive, but after a long summer and having just driven all of us out to Missouri for the start of the trip, I needed a break. Prior to this trip Joe (names changed) had driven with me on a cross country journey to Chattanooga. He was on the trip so I could groom him to do more events for us at Skratch Labs and to do more of the driving. I wanted to make sure he was comfortable driving a truck and 25’ kitchen on wheels. During that time he did great. He was alert, attentive to the trailer and he was receptive to insights and instructions from me. Having driven the Skratch Labs food trailer for the better part of 2 years, in addition to numerous large vehicles with and without trailers for a variety of promotional clients, I consider myself pretty well versed in driver safety, education and awareness, enabling me to properly teach Joe and others how to drive the truck and trailer.
With Joe behind the wheel and the other two crew members and myself buckled up and in the ready position, we departed for Springfield, MO, where we’d be greeting Tim and the other riders with a warm meal of pork tenderloin, fresh salad, cut fruit and other mouth watering items. During the initial few miles on Interstate 70, east bound, the trailer was a bit active due to the heavy semi-trailer traffic causing burst of dirty air. During these moments I had explained to Joe that the appropriate action is to slow down as the trailer has brakes and it will help reduce some of the sway. My input fell on deaf ears as he kept driving without changing his approach, in the left lane with a convoy of 10-2 semi’s in the right lane. The trailer began to sway again and the other passengers and I took notice. Again I had to let Joe know that if we were to slow down the movement of the trailer wouldn’t be as severe. He took notice this time and told me to “write it down and put it in a paper, which he will read once we get to the hotel”. This comment took myself and everyone by surprise. I then told him that if he wasn’t going to listen then I’d drive and he should pull over at the next off ramp.
Within minutes of the verbal exchange between Joe and I, we hit another patch of dirty air, which took the trailer and tossed it from left to right as if someone was shaking a blanket of its dust. In an instant we all looked at each other in wonderment as we heard the screeching of tires and felt the truck being jerked to the right lane of the freeway. As we looked to our right we saw the side of the food trailer. The truck and trailer had jackknifed. We hit the right lane guardrail like a pinball leaves the lever and our momentum pushed us across both lanes of freeway into the center median tension wire guardrail, where we came to an abrupt stop.
In a haze of bewilderment, shock and disbelief, we asked each other if anyone as hurt. No one had suffered any cuts, concussions or visible injuries. After ensuring we were all physically in one piece, we inspected the truck and trailer and called the authorities as the trailer was not moveable and the truck was stuck on the guardrail.
Don’t fear we did end up fully support the riders, just not that night as we were a bit delayed getting to town. But we thought on our feet and got the job done…The show must go on right?
It is this accident and the lack of control (telling someone what to do vs. doing it myself) I had in the situation that has forever changed how I am when traveling as a passenger in any vehicle, including in our van with Pamela (real wife’s name). The truth is that ever since this accident occurred, I can’t stand being a passenger. I don’t think I’m always right when driving but I feel as though I’m a better driver than most when it comes to larger, odd sized vehicles or while towing something. It’s for these reasons and my lack of ability to give up control that I do 99% of the driving of Ellie (our van). I know Pamela is a great driver and she’d be able to handle anything that occurs, but I can’t seem to get over the anxiety of ‘what if X occurs’. Maybe I will get over my anxiety of other people driving or maybe I will not. No matter what happens as Pamela and I continue to travel and roam, I’m forever grateful that the accident wasn’t worse for all and I will always feel responsible for not trusting my gut and intervening sooner with Joe.