Are You Sure You’re Not A Hero?

Mountain Sunset

I apologize for the large gap of time since the last post. I have had a lot of changes going on in my life and have had trouble finding a new writing schedule. Hopefully this fairly long post will make it up to you.

The night I saw the most beautiful sunset of my life, was the night I almost died.

I was going through the pictures on my phone the other day. One of the pictures was of a beautiful mountain sunset. Thinking it was a stock photo that came preloaded on the phone, I almost deleted it. I looked at it one more time. Then I realized that this wasn’t a stock photo. I had taken this picture years ago. It wasn’t even with this phone. In fact, if I recall correctly, the picture was taken three phones ago and has been transferred from phone to phone along with all my contacts.

Taking a closer look, the picture sucked me in and I was transported back in time and across state lines.

I found myself driving 80 miles per hour in a black Honda Civic on Interstate 84. I was about 20 miles north of the Utah border and off to my left, the sun was just settling behind the mountains.

As many of you know, I grew up near the shores of the Great Salt Lake. When you combine that with the inversion that occurs yearly in the Salt Lake valley, it means that I have seen a lot of amazing sunsets in my lifetime. With all due respect to my native Utah, the sunset I saw that day in Idaho was the most beautiful I have ever seen. There was something about the journey I was on that made that sunset just a little sweeter.

The night before, my girlfriend at the time had called me in a bit of a panic. She had just arrived in Portland, OR for a business meeting. She would be giving a business presentation two days later at 9 am, but she had left several important documents in her office in Salt Lake City. She was upset and felt that she was going to make a fool of herself at her meeting. I comforted her and told her that everything was going to be alright. I had a plan.

It was time to play the hero.

There were about 36 hours to get the documents transported from Salt Lake to Portland and at least 24 of those hours were outside of regular business operations. Even with same day delivery, there was no guarantee the papers would get there in time. These were exclusive corporate documents that the company did not want scanned. I was going to have to make the 11th hour, 11-hour drive to Portland and hand-deliver the documents.

The next morning I got online, planned a route, and printed off the directions. To make the trip as efficient as possible, I decided to take her Civic instead of my Jeep. I didn’t know how long it had been since her last oil change so the first stop was Jiffy Lube. Next, I went to my girlfriends office. Her coworkers had the papers ready for me. I put them in my bag and headed out the door. I wanted to keep the stopping to a minimum, so I hit the drive-through next. It would be Arby’s for the entire day. All these errands had me running late and soon it was past noon. After one last stop to fill up the gas tank and my coffee mug, I was finally off to Portland.

I didn’t know it at the time, but this was going to be one of the most memorable days of my life.

The first part of the trip was extremely peaceful. There was very little traffic at that time of day and by the time rush hour hit, I was well out of the city.

Sacrificing my time to come through for my girl had me feeling like a good man. That good feeling allowed me to enjoy the beauty of the drive. I celebrated my joy by singing along with the music coming from my iPod via the car stereo. The time was flying by, and soon the sun was going down.

It was this same good feeling that made watching the sun sink behind the mountains so beautiful. Inspired by the picturesque moment, I grabbed my phone and snapped a picture.

When the sun finally settled, the darkness disrupted my serenity. The second half of my journey was about to begin and as it is in every good hero story, I would face some terrifying challenges.

As I drove through the rest of Idaho and most of Oregon, I began to feel very uneasy about the journey. I wasn’t very familiar with my girlfriend’s car, I wasn’t familiar with any of these roads, and it was very, very dark. I was weary from the road.

It was almost midnight when I crested a hill less than 100 miles from my destination. The rain was waiting for me on the other side of the hill.

Suddenly, I found myself hydroplaning down a winding canyon road.

The raindrops were so large that it only took five of them to obscure the view through my windshield.

My arms ached from squeezing the steering wheel. I turned my headlights off and back on three times, because they seemed so ineffective. My wipers couldn’t keep up with the pace of the rain. The sound of the water hitting the car was nearly deafening –then I heard something even louder.

The rumble of the thunderclap was so powerful that it reverberated inside my lungs and almost made my heart stop. But, it was the ensuing flash of lightning  that revealed the true danger.

Just to the right of my car was the edge of the road. In the next lightning flash, I caught a momentary glimpse of the white river just below. The neglected condition of the road gave me very little faith in the small guardrail that was now the only thing between the car and the Columbia.

I had invaded the great American Northwest and she was not happy to see me.

To my left, cars were going by me at speeds I wouldn’t dare attempt on that road under perfect conditions. I could only assume they were driven by travelers more familiar with that road than I was. To my right, the mighty river snarled in an attempt to frighten me into submission followed by submersion.

The farther I went, the worse the condition of the road became. Two ruts hugged my tires and made any corrections in steering nearly impossible. As the rain pounded the road, the ruts filled with water. The water splashing up from the road onto the undercarriage of the car caused a third terrible noise to enter my already overcrowded ears. It was like an aquatic symphony of static.

The cars passing me were shooting water out of the ruts from the other lane. Each time, the murky liquid coated my windshield,  my visibility went to zero.

Driving blind on unfamiliar curves, I had no control of my car.

I pushed on my brakes, but three inches of standing water had stolen the traction from my tires. With my vision completely obscured and my car out of control, I glanced out my left side window. The headlights of the car passing me reflected off my rear-view mirror and blinded me. Shaking my head and blinking, I tried to recover my vision. My blindness faded just in time for me to see the rusty guardrail inches from my right side window and getting closer.

I immediately turned the wheel to the left. Although it was probably only about a half a second, it felt like several minutes before the car finally responded. As I swerved to the left, I was deafened by the blaring horn of the next car that was passing me.

With my lungs and my heart pounding, I was finally able to gain control of the car and slow it down to a speed at which I felt safe. Many frustrated drivers passed me as I drove the final 50 miles into Portland at about 35 miles per hour.

Having defied death, I finally made it to my girlfriend’s hotel. I delivered the papers with enough time to spare for a good nights sleep.

I had completed my quest. I was her hero. She threw her arms around me and gave me a long kiss.

I had invaded room 304 of the Portland Residence Inn and Suites , and she was happy to see me.

The memory of the kiss brought me back to the present. I took one final look at the picture of the beautiful sunset on my phone and then pressed “delete.” Although some of the memories of that period of my life are sweet, it’s still best to put it behind me.

It occurred to me that regular readers of this blog might be getting the impression that I am not a very sympathetic person. I couldn’t blame you if this is true. In an attempt to show honest emotion, the previous posts in this blog have highlighted some of my less than endearing characteristics. This time I want to share a story that might show me a better light.
Even a cowardly asshole isn’t all bad.

Don’t forget to “like” and share. No, that is not the same sunset.

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About John Dilley

John is an endless source of new ideas. With a background in both sports and music, he offers a unique perspective. He has written for The Daily Utah Chronicle, Filler, and has contributed content to several commercial websites. "Be it the past 10 beers or the past 10 years, may you learn from all of life's mistakes. Cheers!" - John Dilley

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