(Note: This #TBT Post was written back in late March 2008. Considering the massive snows that the East Coast has endured in Winter 2015, it made me think of this treacherous time for me 7 years ago. At this time I was still working in Ontario and living in a small flat in Paris, ON)
March 24, 2008: This last few weeks have been a wild ride for me and most literally so. I have been through some life-threatening experiences as well as some absolutely exhilarating experiences.
It all started back on Friday, March 7. I was very excited as I planned to go to Cleveland that weekend, both to see my half brothers and sisters (the Laurienzos) as well as to see my good friend Aaron Boone play football for the Utah Blaze. I had planned on this trip for about three weeks. Aaron had gotten me tickets and I had arranged for my visit with my half-sisters Nicole, Tina, Lori and Debbie. It would be a fun weekend…or so I thought.
As early as Wednesday (March 5) there was talk of a huge winter storm that would hit the area around Saturday. By Friday the talk was that it would hit Friday night. Well, I was determined to make it to Cleveland and I had driven in the snow many times before. I decided that I would drive through Detroit as the brunt of the storm would be going through central Ohio later on in the evening. I figured if I left early enough that I could make it, so I left Woodstock at 1 PM and headed west. Generally, the weather was OK. There were occasional snow showers, but nothing too bad.
I got onto I-90 (the Ohio Turnpike) and headed east. As it grew dark out, the weather also took a turn for the worse and it started getting bad about 50 miles west of Cleveland. Nonetheless, traffic was still flowing along at about 60 mph. I got behind two semis (on a three lane road) and was getting sprayed pretty badly, so I decided to hit the far left passing lane, which was a bit icier as it was less traveled on. As I got about halfway past the truck, all of a sudden I saw the truck veer to his left and next thing I knew, I was hit in the right front bumper. My van went spinning out of control and I was horrified!! I really truly thought to myself, “So, this is how it is gonna end“. I could see that I was going to careen into the 10 foot tall cement dividing wall that divided the east and west bound lanes. And, indeed, I did…I smashed into it head on. The impact was so hard that the van bounced off the wall and back onto the highway, still spinning. It continued to head back towards the wall and this time smashed from the rear end and I ended up stopped at a 45 degree angle facing the oncoming traffic.
After I realized that I was NOT dead and not even injured (and I was totally amazed by that) and I was also stunned that no other oncoming vehicle had hit me, I finally came to my senses and called 911. The semi continued on as did all other vehicles. I sat there, 2 feet away from the road, still fearing for my life as semis came blazing by in the far left lane. More than once I thought to myself…yeah, right, I survive this crash only to be smashed by a semi trailer that loses control. It was a very scary 20 minutes before the highway patrol arrived.
Upon arrival, the officer first had me put the van in neutral and then he pushed it about 6 feet off the road. He then had me get into his vehicle. It was then that I began shivering in realization what had happened. The van had been totaled. The front end was smashed in (but the air bags never popped out). The right side of the van was destroyed and the back was also in bad shape. Worst off was that the insurance I had for the van was liability only and I had no details about the truck that hit me, so it was a total loss to me.
We waited for quite a while for the tow truck to come get me. By this time the storm was raging wildly. The westbound traffic was nowhere in sight as a semi had jackknifed across the road blocking all lanes, just a mile down from me. It was pretty horrific.
Finally, the tow truck (from Charlie’s Towing in Norwalk, OH) arrived and took me back about 20 miles to the town of Norwalk. It took him about 45 minutes to get the van onto the truck and then we had to drive through blizzard conditions. Once there, I unloaded most of my belongings from the van (which had all been thrown to the back of the van) and he took me into town to a hotel.
Needless to say, I was devastated…no vehicle, no idea where I was and no idea how I would get out of there. I got checked in at about 1:30 AM at the All American Inn in Norwalk. The young gal at the desk was very helpful in assisting me get all of my stuff out of the tow truck and into the hotel. I had a pretty fitful night.
The next morning, I awoke to a massive blizzard in Norwalk. I tried and tried to get a rental car to get out and finally got hold of someone at Enterprise Rentals. He was EXTREMELY kind and helpful and was able to get me a car…a PT Cruiser. I tried to drive it out to the hotel and got stuck three times in the half mile back to the hotel and the snow was blowing so badly that I passed the hotel up once as well.
I finally did get back to the hotel and decided I would not make the trip to Cleveland. Turns out I had no choice since all the roads were closed. The night of my accident saw over 800 accidents in Northern Ohio. What a mess I was in.
That Saturday at the hotel was not too much fun. The people were very nice, but I had no food and none of us could get out. One guy did get over to Dominoes pizza before it closed at noon and he got us all Pizza. That was our last hot meal for the day as we could not get out again. We did enjoy Continental breakfast items for dinner that night.
March 9, 2008: Sunday morning rolled in and I got up early to get to Cleveland. I had heard that the roads had cleared up. I wanted to get to the football game and also wanted to get over to see the Laurienzos. So, off I went. Following are some scenes from the road in Norwalk that morning:
Fortunately, I-90 was pretty clear. There were huge piles of snow everywhere. It was amazing. I finally did make it into Cleveland and over to Mayfield Road in Little Italy, where my sister Nicole’s Mayfield Smoke Shop is located. The entire city of Cleveland was socked in. Only the major arteries were semi-clear while most of the roads were buried under almost 2 feet of snow.
I had a nice visit with my younger half- sister Nicole. We went out to breakfast at this nice place near Little Italy and I did get a couple of photos. Unfortunately, Nicole was the only one who could even get out of the snow that morning. While visiting with Nicole, she gave me a little surprise…a baptismal certificate…mine. As Carmen David Laurienzo (my birth name before adoption) I was baptized in the Church of the Holy Rosary in Cleveland by Friar Ettore Patragnoni on November 18, 1956. She also gave me perhaps the earliest known photo of me.
After my visit with Nicole, I made my way downtown to the Quicken Arena to watch the game. I had good seats and had a good time. Aaron Boone scored a couple of TDs. For the entire second half, I sat right behind the bench, practically on top of the field. Bad news was that the Utah Blaze lost in the last seconds. It was disappointing.
After the game, Aaron and I walked down the street from his hotel and had a nice dinner at the Winking Lizard Grill. I then headed back to Ontario and drove straight through. It was an exhausting weekend.
March 10, 2008: I was back safely in Paris, ON, but this area had also been pounded by the same storm. During the previous Saturday I had called the Credit Union in Lexington numerous times trying to set up a loan. Frustrated, I left numerous messages. The Branch Manager called me back first thing Monday morning and told me that all of the branches had been closed due to the storm (which had also hit Lexington pretty hard). She promised to make arrangements to set up a loan and by lunch time I had been approved for a loan to get a new vehicle. She also assured me that someone would be there on the following Saturday so that I could try to get a vehicle in Cleveland instead of going all the way back to Lexington. It would be a long worrisome week as I struggled to find a vehicle, but Linda at the Credit Union came to my rescue and by Friday, we had found a car through the Enterprise dealers in Lexington who had contacted the Enterprise dealers in Cleveland.
March 14, 2008: Friday afternoon and I was off to Cleveland again, this time to get a new (used) vehicle and also, hopefully, visit the Laurienzos more meaningfully. I drove back through Buffalo, NY and Erie, PA and finally made my way into Cleveland. I got to Enterprise around 6:30 PM and the salesman for Enterprise Sales showed me the new vehicle…a 2002 Ford Explorer Sport (2 doors, 4WD, 48,000 miles). It looked great!! We took it for a spin and I was hooked. The next morning, it was mine (or at least mine with the Credit Union!!). The really exciting thing was that I have had wanted a pickup and this drives like one. It was comfortable and had all the things I wanted in a car.
After looking at the car on Friday night, I took a drive over to Tina’s house. Snow was still quite deep everywhere, but the roads were all passable. It was so good to see Tina. For the Catholics, this was the season of Lent, so Tina was not having meat. She did make some dinner for me though… Pasta e Fagioli, a pasta dish with white beans. It was really really good. After a while, Tina’s husband Jim showed up as well as their son Joey. I was glad to see them all.
March 15, 2008: With keys in hand, I was off to Little Italy again. I parked in front of the Smoke Shop and paid another visit to Nicole. While there, Lori and Tom also showed up. Nicole bought some pizza from the place next door. We had a nice visit for a couple of hours.
After the nice visit and good company and excellent pizza, I was back on the road. I had plans to get to Niagara Falls this time as I had never been there. So, off I went. The drive through Erie, PA and Buffalo, NY was much more pleasant than the last time and this car was much more comfortable than the little PT Cruiser. Plus, I had cruise control this time. It was nice.
I did make it to Niagara Falls this time. I chose to go on the Canadian side as I had heard that it was much nicer. I drove over the Peace Bridge at Fort Erie and then onto Niagara Falls, Ontario.
I finally got back to Paris and my little humble abode after Easter weekend in Lexington with the family.
It can be seen that the last couple of weeks have been filled with terror, angst, excitement and unfettered joy in my family. I am glad that I am still on the Right Side of the Dirt and also that I have such a wonderful wife and family.