My wife, Linda, and I, along with another couple, planned a Scandinavian road trip holiday in 2005. We’d travel to Helsinki, take the ferry to Stockholm, ride to Gothenburg, then take the ferry to Denmark to complete our road adventure.
The first 200 miles of our journey west were unremarkable. We next drove gently into Fiskars, a charming, nicely maintained foundry village.
I parked my vehicle on the crest of a little incline. We took a tour of the town for approximately an hour before heading off. I managed to start the car by stepping on what I assumed was the brake, but it turned out to be the clutch. The automobile failed to stop, and we started to slide down the hillside. Our ladies shouted, and my companion reached for the vehicle overhead in an attempt to stop himself from falling. I anticipated the automobile to flip over onto its roof, front first.
The car abruptly came to a halt, the two front wheels suspended in mid-air. A big boulder that was supposed to maintain the hillside wall from degrading had come loose and jammed itself beneath the automobile, immobilizing it. We all exited at the same moment, very gently. We expected the automobile to eventually tip over and be destroyed.
We were on our way to the Fiskars Factory Store. The owner saw our dilemma immediately — all he had to do was peek out his front gate — and began making phone calls. While there was a Finland Automobile Organization, their trucks were either stranded or unavailable due to a major accident. The store owner contacted the city engineers, who dispatched a truck driver within an hour.
After surveying the situation, the truck driver returned to us, shaking his head. He was in desperate need of assistance. He reappeared with a forklift and another driver. The forklift approached the vehicle from the front, lifting and levelling it with the rear wheels before returning it to its original parking spot. The car flew into the air and then returned. Even when the under carrier was investigated, no destruction was discovered. All attempts to thank our newly found Finnish friends were turned down. They waved as we drove away (this time I wasn’t steering!)
My spouse Frank and I were talking about what we planned to do on holiday in March 1984. A cruise was recommended by me. He’d heard about Grand Canyon rafting expeditions on the Colorado River. Although this was not exactly what I had in mind (I was concerned about bugs and snakes), I agreed to go ahead and do it. He persuaded Larry and Karen, as well as his brother Jim and sister-in-law Jo, to accompany us.
We began our journey down the stream, which was calm. We came across a category seven rapid in the afternoon and had so many amazing experiences flying over it that we went straight back two more times. They ventured a bit too close to the stones on the third voyage, and one of the rafts burst, forcing the boat to collapse.
I didn’t think we were in danger at first (I’m used to attractions at Six Flags or Disney World), but I quickly realized the raft would not right itself. I was trapped in an air pocket beneath the raft and realized I had to get out. So I pushed off from the depths, found the raft’s side guideline, and grasped it. When Jim noticed me clinging to the raft, he reached down and hauled me up to the top. I questioned as to whether he had seen Frank, but he stated that he had not.
The Forestry Department arrived with a search chopper after we arrived at the temporary camp to look for Frank and a lost guide. They got on the radio about 50 minutes later that they had discovered them, but Frank needed to go to the hospital. I was able to accompany them on their journey.
When we boarded the chopper, Frank was seated next to the pilot in the pilot’s seat. He appeared to have been in a terrible fight, and his life jacket was ripped to pieces. He stated he got busted in a tornado when he popped up from underneath the boat, and by the time he reached out, our boat had already disappeared downstream. He was dragged back into the water every time he tried to pull himself out.
My neighbour contacted me six weeks later to say she had registered for a UPS delivery that stunk so horrible she had to take it outdoors. We managed to open it and found all of the raft’s clothing items inside. They hadn’t even attempted to rinse them, and they were covered in dust. While the riverbank company would not compensate us for our tour, they did provide us with a certificate for a future excursion. Exactly, as if I was planning to do that again.
We haven’t let Frank organize any of our subsequent trips since that visit. He now follows my instructions.
We were looking forward to our journey to Cliff Point, Mexico, on the Gulf of California, a small little beach town that provided a welcome respite from the Arizona heat. Our daughters, Kim, 13, and Aaron, 8, were equally enthralled. I got our SUV repaired before we left, just to ensure it was ready for the journey.
Until we entered the country into Mexico, the trip was unremarkable. When the automobile began to shimmy, we were on a two-lane road far from human civilization. I glanced in my rearview mirror and saw my right-hand rear wheel chasing me down the highway at around 60 miles per hour. I instructed everybody to “hang on” and did my best to maintain the SUV steady.
We managed to land in a field up straight. We managed to crawl the embankment with no problems. There was no sign of a vehicle, individual, or maybe even a wolf.
When a Mexican bus came down the highway, we stood for approximately a half-hour by the roadside. I chased down the bus, and the gracious driver helped us by opening the door. My spouse speaks Spanish, so she told the bus driver our story. The nearest village, we were told, was yet another five miles away.
We got dropped off at a cantina on the side of the road. In the dirt lot next to the cement building, a fresh Porsche was parked. When my family and I walked inside the cantina, we noticed two businessmen seated at a table in the corner. When I requested assistance, a not-so-friendly American instructed me to wait my turn.
After doing his business, the American approached me and my terrified family and questioned our needs. I told you about our experience. He regained command of the circumstances. He claimed to be an American with a mining firm in Mexico. He warned me that if I didn’t return to my car as quickly as possible, it would be dismantled. He insisted on driving me there and recommended that I stay with my family at the cantina. I was alone at the accident site before I realized it, as he sped away to arrange for a tow crew to come to pick me up.
I couldn’t comprehend what I was witnessing. How did I end up in this situation? Was I ever going to see my family again? Why did my wife marry a jerk like that? As I began to beat myself up, I noticed a tow vehicle approaching. It managed to pick me up and drove me to the village where my family was waiting.
We were all seated in the tow truck driver’s cabin now. It wasn’t air-conditioned, and it was around 110 degrees in the dunes. Not only that, but his truck only had half a floor. My family continues to communicate with me, but I’m not sure why.