Coming around the corner at lightning speed during our All Stars blast through the woods,;I see a Toyota pickup on its roof.; Uh-oh, what did;we do?;
We’re on some amazing back road in Ohio, and I’m behind the wheel of a Subaru Legacy Spec B sedan, bringing up the rear of a caravan that includes editor-in-chief Gavin Conway in a Mazdaspeed3, contributor Ezra Dyer in a VW GTI, design editor Robert Cumberford in an Infiniti G35, New York bureau chief Jamie Kitman in a Mercedes S550, tech editor Don Sherman in a Pontiac Solstice turbo, and West Coast bureau chief Michael Jordan in a BMW 335ci. We’re almost at the end of a long day of hard, fast driving, much of it in pouring rain, so I’m looking forward to getting all sixteen drivers and sixteen cars (we had two groups of eight cars) back to the lovely Holiday Inn with everyone and everything in one piece. And since it’s late afternoon, as usual I am thinking about dinner, because if there is something I like to do as much as drive fast, it is to eat, and to eat well.
My daydreams (fantasies, actually) about juicy prime rib at the Holiday Inn are abruptly shattered when we bend into a gradual, uphill left-hander and find a crazed-looking man in tattered clothing standing in the middle of the road waving his arms for us to slow down and stop. I quickly realize that he is not waving two full arms, but rather one arm with a hand and one stub. No prosthesis in sight, just the sad-looking stub waving us to the side of the road.
The first thought that goes through my mind is that some member of our group has crashed, and crashed horribly. As I pull over behind Cumberford, I see that that is not the case: all of the cars in our fleet are fine, although they’re parked helter-skelter across both lanes of traffic in a blind corner. What is not so fine is the one-armed man’s maroon-colored Toyota T100 pickup truck, which is lying on its side, perpendicular to the direction of traffic, with its rear end stuck into an embankment. The contents of the truck’s cab and bed—boxes, fishing equipment, clothing, and quite a few empty beer cans—are strewn all over the road.
Some of my colleagues are already out of their cars and approaching the truck. I’m still wondering if one of them is partially responsible for the mishap, and I’m anxious not to be associated with the group. I’m silently thankful that my relatively modest Subaru sedan won’t automatically pin me as a member of this posse of big-bucks metal, although the truth is that any brand-new foreign car sticks out in this rural region of Ohio. A man in an old Subaru wagon stops behind me, gets out of his car, and runs to my window.
“What’s going on?” he asks.
“I don’t know,” I reply. “We just arrived, too.”
The man runs up the hill, but I hold back. It’s still not clear whether anyone in our group had anything to do with this situation, and I’d just as soon not be involved. I can still back up, turn around, and find my way to the Holidome before the police arrive, leaving my colleagues to their own devices. I know, that doesn’t make me much of a team player, but it’s a cold, cruel world out there.
I get out of the car long enough to hear the one-armed truck driver curse his fate. “Boy, I’ve been running some bad luck lately,” he says to the assembled group while circling the fallen Toyota. “Just last week a battery exploded in my face.” It’s then that I notice that the man’s stub appears to be bloody at the end, and I have the morbid thought that he might have just now severed his limb, since the Toyota is lying on the driver’s-side door, before I come to my senses and realize that he must have simply scraped it during the tip-over.
The truck’s exposed underside is facing downhill, so a decision is quickly made to take advantage of gravity and tip the truck upright with simple, old-fashioned muscle. But not mine–I’m staying out of this, remember? Keeping at a careful distance, I watch as my strong-armed colleagues put their shoulders to the T100 and their feet to the tarmac and one! Two! Three! tip the T100 upright. I hear Sherman offer to check the engine fluids, but Mr. One-Arm seems anxious to flee the scene as soon as possible. As everyone scoops up his clothing and beer cans from the road and throws them into the bed, he pulls open the cab door and turns the key, and the T100 fires right up. Our drivers all head to their cars, and our caravan moves forward.
I get a good look at him as he guns the Toyota by me down the hill, and I can’t help but pity the poor, pathetic guy. His long, dirty hair is waving in the breeze blowing through the broken driver’s door window, and his face is crossed with drunken embarrassment. His truck is a mess, with all the body panels on the driver’s side crunched or creased and mud flying out of the wheel wells. Our eyes meet for a split-second, and as I slide the Legacy into second gear, I wonder what he thinks of us. I learn later that he had already flipped his truck when our group discovered him—did he have a beer can in his good hand? we wondered–so he was probably grateful that we arrived before the police did. I just hope he kept all four wheels to the ground until he made it home, wherever home was.