“It’s time to go… Now. Get in the car. We have a long way to go so let’s get out of here… I’ll drive!” As usual, I drive. I just have to be in control, I don’t know why – I just do. “Put your seat belt on! Please.”
If you haven’t figured it out yet, my family and I are on the way to having a vacation…a short vacation. I have to be back to work Monday and this is Wednesday. It will take 7 to 8 hours to get where we’re going so time is important.
I really don’t feel like going…I mean, I love my mother and I really like my new millionaire step-father (the step-father only lasted a few months) but I really don’t feel like going. My stress level starts rising just thinking about a car trip with a 6-year-old and a 3-year-old who have a love/hate relationship. And it’s mostly a hate relationship when they’re in the car together!
Four minutes out of the house I stop the car…”We forgot John Ryan’s’ medicine!” I turn the car around, the kids start screaming bloody murder. “We don’t want to go back home… We want to go to Van Horn!” Chaos ensues. I tell Mike, “I’m this close to going back to the house and staying there. I mean it!” He talks me out of it.
Since we don’t leave Austin until almost 5:30pm I drive only 2 1/2 hours in the light before darkness intrudes upon my comfort level. The trip is going quite well at this point though. We stop in Mason for our first pit stop. No problem there. I decide to take the “back” route to Van Horn which will save me about 30 minutes so right outside of Mason I take my first and only left of the trip. This is only 45 miles on Route 377 that will take us to Junction, Texas and then we’ll get on I-10 for a straight shot to Van Horn, Texas.
Route 377 is a nice little stretch of road. I remember it from the last time I went to Van Horn when I was by myself. The difference was now it was DARK and I can’t see anything but the road ahead of me about 1/4 of a mile. 5 miles down Route 377 my son John Ryan is having some kind of difficulty in his car seat so Mike has to get out of his seat belt and turn around and help. No problem, right? WRONG! I’m driving a steady 55, maybe 60 and this cute little fawn appears on the road in front of me and freezes in my headlights. I step on the breaks with a million things going through my head…
* Don’t hit the fawn.
* If I break too hard Mike will be flying through the window.
* If I break too hard the van behind me will be flying through my window.
I swerve to my left and miss the fawn by probably inches at most. The adrenalin rush is fairly intense. I can tell as it leaves me and my legs turned to Jello. I was thinking: Thank God I didn’t hit the deer. Big deer have been known to have done more damage to a car and the passengers in them, than to themselves. Of course this deer wasn’t that big, it was much the size of Bambi really. As I continue to drive and collect myself I see a deer sign – GEE THANKS for telling me now!
Okay everything is fine…I’m still in control. My kids begin expressing how “neat” it is that there’s deer on the road. Here they are having a great time and I’m still thinking how I almost hit little Bambi! I continue to see several deer off to the side of the road, lifting their heads as my headlights light the darkness. I’m thinking these deer are getting bigger and bigger…how many more miles to Junction and the relative safety of an Interstate? I’ve got to be at least halfway down Route 377 so I’ve probably gone maybe 25 miles and have a little less than that many miles to get to Junction. No sweat.
Several cars are heading toward me in the other lane and they seem as though they aren’t too worried about deer, I mean they’re going pretty fast. The van behind me seems pretty content too…so I’m okay. It’s been at least five miles since I saw Bambi…
Oh my God! There’s 2 huge deer darting right out in front of me! Not one but TWO. I dodge the first one and miss him as I press the brakes all the while trying to make sure I don’t hit the car heading towards me. Then I veer to the right to try not to get the second deer…but I hit him, I hit him on the hip with the front left of the car…BUMP…! I look off to the left as the red-nosed reindeer (it really had a red nose) goes running off into the bushes. All the while Mike is saying “Oh, there’s 2 of them,” Michelle is screaming; “There’s some deer mommy, there’s some deer!” John Ryan yelling “I can’t see! I can’t see! Where are they?” The cars that were coming toward me, pass as though nothing has occurred and the guy in the van behind me must think I’m a total drunkard.
I have to stop. I cannot drive anymore. The adrenaline rush on this one is so intense my whole body literally feels like it’s melting in the seat. I start to breathe heavily and tell Mike he has to drive. He gets out, Michelle and John Ryan get out to see if the car is okay…it’s fine. I’m not fine, I am definitely not fine. Michelle comes around and tells me that deer looked like Rudolph because it had a red nose and if I had killed Rudolph, Christmas would have been ruined for every child in the world. I don’t need this guilt trip right now Michelle…I really don’t. That’s it, that’s it. I decide to drive the rest of Route 377. I have to be in control…I trust only myself.
Well, several weeks later was Christmas and I was thinking about the two most famous deer in decades (Bambi and Rudolph) that I had almost killed. I didn’t run them over, and Christmas for all the children in the world was saved because Rudolph could still fly!