On Saturday mornings, usually, I drag myself out of bed and don running attire for a jog with friends. In the pre-dawn darkness, this is harder than usual, especially as I try to do this silently. My wife likes to sleep in on the weekends, after her tiring toil all week, and our dog remains catatonic until the sun comes up. I stumble around with a tiny flashlight looking for everything I need. I could have done what my wife suggested and put all the items out the night before, but who’s got time for that?
A cup of joe, a banana, and a little cereal get me going. And then I’m off to a great morning with friends who have also struggled to get up and make it to the run. Most often our run leader apologizes for one of the group who has texted him that he is coming, is a little late, but to please wait. Somedays the late arrival screams to a stop in a cloud of dust in a VW SUV. Other days a fellow arrives quietly, parks at the end of the line, and makes some excuse about his kids, or his wife, as we point to our watches. Yesterday a tall older engineer driving a white SUV was almost late. Well, if you are in a military-themed fitness program he was late, being on time. Exactly on time.
It was a beautiful spring morning yesterday. Cool but not too cool. The blue sky beckoned, and the bright sun said “Come on down to the river and play!” Our leader had mapped out not one but two 5K routes for us. Down the path we went. The cool kids zoomed ahead, while I stayed back with…well, no one. We went to the flood wall, eastward, and then back to the parking area along 7th. From time to time the real runners turned about to rejoin me, in a maneuver called “back to last.” This keeps the group together, but also serves to motivate the last person to move faster. Who wants to be last? At the parking area, two more of our group joined in for the second 5K. Here we risked our lives along Riverside Drive until we could turn off towards the trail to Belle Isle along the railroad. Around Belle Isle, over the pedestrian bridge, back towards Brown’s Island, over the T Pot bridge, and back up the hill we wandered. Another 5K, and time for breakfast.
I think breakfast is really why we run together. It’s a time to connect. You can’t talk much on the run, especially if you are zooming along at the 8:15 minute per mile pace favored by some. But at breakfast, we can check in. How’s the new Volvo? Are you feeling okay with your upcoming blessed event? Is the home renovation going well? Yesterday I invited my wife and Sandy The Little White Dog to join us at Cafe Zata, and both had a great time. I think Sandy was a little nervous, at first, but then realized she could have fun with new friends. The breakfast bowl and blueberry muffin lasted about three minutes, but the conversations lasted an hour. I think that’s our rule. If we run for an hour, we eat for an hour. Seems fair to me.
I took a little time to work on the taxes, and to fiddle with some band sound equipment after the run. I looked forward to the afternoon and evening, as I would again be helping Henrico County Police with my partner in the Motorist Assistance Unit. The day got away from me, and once again I was just on time to the parking area. Thankfully my partner had set up the car and called in our information to the Communications Officers, and we headed out into the afternoon sun. Within a minute, we heard our first call. You never know what you’ll face, and you hope only that you can help in some way.
It was a confusing call on the radio, this one. A crash at Three Chopt and Cox. Wait, a crash at Rockport and Three Chopt.
Turns out it was one crash, involving two cars, but one vehicle didn’t stick around. Hit and run accidents get everyone excited, especially a bad one. This one was worse than usual. We found a Hyundai SUV hit broadside on the passenger side, both doors bashed in, and airbags deployed everywhere. Fire and Rescue were there, along with two other units.
We set up traffic control for the incredibly busy Three Chopt Road, two lanes of continuous traffic, with one lane blocked headed east. We had the east bound traffic detour through a ritzy subdivision, and slowed the westbound traffic through the scene. Throughout the hour, we found many of the motorists only too accommodating to the chaos, taking the detour without stopping. But, dozens of drivers stopped to see if there was some way they could be directed through a crash scene with three police cars, one fire engine, one rescue truck, and a wrecker. I use what the military calls “command presence” and politely direct these ditzy drivers to a new reality. From time to time, we had to stop all lanes to let the emergency vehicles in and out. All the while we were working this crash, other officers had located the vehicle that caused the crash, about a mile away. This explained the knocked down mailbox, the deep tire tracks on the road shoulder, and the radio traffic about a second crash involving a white truck. White paint covers the SUV impact damage, as you can see. You gotta wonder who would obliterate another vehicle and just keep on keepin’ on. No doubt they had problems with insurance, license, alcohol, drugs, or citizenship.
After the first crash, we patrolled the western half of Henrico County. Transiting from Staples Mill to Short Pump on I-295 we happened on a disabled motorist. His car was barely off the interstate, and the flashers were blinking. My partner inquired if we could be of assistance. Through the open Police Interceptor window, I could hear the citizen. The gentleman gave a long story about being taken advantage of, in buying a trailer, which had broken down, with a bad wheel and tire. He had left the trailer there overnight, and was attempting to repair it on the side of the interstate. There, a white Ryder truck driver had driven so closely to the white line that the side of the truck had kissed his backside. Literally. But wait, there’s more! The fellow was from Boston, but had moved to New York, where his wife had a job with a TV show. He hated New York, with all the people and traffic. He wanted to move elsewhere. But his wife, she had a great job. Then she tired of New York, and they decided a move to Alaska was in order. Of course somehow they needed a trailer, to haul all their stuff, and he had purchased this one. And the seller was not nice. He had misrepresented the trailer as being in good shape. And the police were not helping him get his money back. The fellow’s wife was mad at him. Because they had to get to Alaska, and he was the one who picked out this trailer. After sharing all this, he turned and pulled the tow vehicle ahead of the trailer, and made ready to hook up. The stories people tell. And when they tell them.
We set out a few flares to alert passing motorists of the hazard before the State Police arrived, and wished him well in his endeavor to pull this trailer to Alaska. The tires and wheels were of different sizes, the axle was noticeably bent, and the open trailer contents reminded me of an episode of Sanford & Son and Hoarders…total junk.
We checked the calls for service again on the web portal, and found another disabled motorist at Shady Grove and Nuckols listed. In a few minutes, the Interceptor made it there, where we saw a large dump bed truck filled with topsoil hooked up to an even larger wrecker. We helped the officer on scene for a few minutes, and shook our head as the wrecker front axle and tires rose off the pavement with the heavily loaded broken-down truck on its tow hook. The driver moved the load forward as far as he could, to reconnect the front tires with the roadway. The officer followed the tow truck towards the county line, to ensure its safety, and we headed back towards the western end of our county.
In the darkness, we heard another call for service. This time a three car crash on North Parham. There is a lot of traffic on Parham, and a three car crash sounded like it might be a major event. We arrived and found three cars in the fast lane, headed north, and a couple of our units there. With the speeds on Parham being upwards of 45 mph and the need to protect our officers we placed our unit a fifty yards further south. Robert Frost wrote of a journey, and his words come to mind.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
This spot on Parham Road is not unlike a spot between the woods and the lake, and is quite dark without any streetlights. There is a small lake there, just to the west.
Our little horse, the Interceptor stopped there, like Mr. Frost’s horse and carriage, and it probably wondered why we stopped in the middle of the thoroughfare.
We joined the officers to see what needed to be done, and discovered the rearmost car, the one starting the crash, was leaking coolant badly. Coolant in the waterway is hazardous, so we had to create a solution to prevent it heading into the storm drain just across from the scene. Without “kitty litter” absorbent, carried by the wrecker driver normally, we used our available materials from the cruiser. One roll of shop towels, and an ancient green bath towel made a suitable dam for the coolant. A fire engine came to evaluate the situation, and the Lieutenant told us we had done well to keep the waterway clean. They put a few shovels of dirt down in front of the coolant path, and headed back to their station. The Mercedes driver at the front of the crash was released, with essentially only a bump to the bumper. The middle red GMC Denali with the smashed up six-way tailgate and bumper headed out a few minutes later. But, the rearmost car, the one causing all this consternation, continued to leak. In time, the wrecker driver arrived to tow the Honda Pilot with the smashed radiator, and a few pounds of absorbent were used to sop up the mess. The female passenger spoke no English, and was not happy with the way things were going based on her stream of forceful Spanish to her husband. The driver spoke haltingly, and it was all I could do to move them out of the way of the wrecker operations. When the vehicle is towed onto a flatbed, the steel cable can come loose, and sling sideways with great force. I had to move the couple away from the ramp, and I finally resorted to a forceful exclamation “Andale! Andale!” with gestures to move away. We helped steer the SUV up the wrecker ramp, as it was not aligned well with the lane of traffic. And, after an hour on scene, the last car was removed, and we could move on.
By this time, it was late. We headed to our home base for fuel, and parked our cruiser at the secure lot at the Public Safety Building. Looking at the odometer, we noted 85 miles of driving. Six hours, six calls for service, and 85 miles. I felt like I had just run another 10K.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
So that was Saturday. Miles to run. Miles to drive. You never know how many. But thankfully, finally, sleep.