Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Missouri Back Roads at Night: Oh Deer!

Yesterday I had a presentation in Owensville but getting there proved to be interesting as my GPS decided it wanted to take me 10 miles North of town. It's been a while since I've had a GPS story, but my GPS loves to get me lost in all sorts of ways.

My presentation went great with around 75 people in attendance which surprised me being election night and all. While I was selling books someone asked me where I was off to and I said that I was driving to Mountain Grove and they said, "Tonight? Are you serious?" I inquired as to why and they told me, "Deer. Lots of deer. You'd be crazy to make the drive."

I called my dad when I got into the car and repeated what was said and he told me to be careful and no less than 10 miles outside Owensville I had my first sighting off to the right. This was rather unsettling as ever since the time I hit a horse nighttime driving has been quite eerie. Now, I will say interstate driving is okay, but the road I was on was a narrow, winding road with my twists and turns than a daunting race track.

The speed limit was 55 but I didn't dare do it as I was constantly seeing small animals on the shoulder. I was actually surprised to see so many skunks walking. I had only seen the remains of a skunk, but I saw at least a dozen.

It was now about 45 minutes since I left Owensville and I was coming over a crest and I slowed a tad and I'm thankful I did because the king of all bucks was standing in the center of the road. This deer was built, had antlers the size of, well, a coat rack, and he didn't really care that I was barreling down on him. I've heard the phrase, "a deer in headlights" and I always thought that meant a deer was so scared it froze. However, this deer had more of an attitude of, "Yeah, hit me. I dare you. Do you know how much damage I can do?" Quickly I swerved and I went off the road but thankfully the ground was even with the road. and the trees, unlike most other parts of this road, were a ways off the road.

I had a decision to make. I did not want to continue on but stopping wasn't an option either because, truly, I was in the middle of nowhere. If I stopped where would I stop?

The choice was made and I forged on and 10 minutes later I found out the answer to, "What's worse than one deer? Two? Three? Four?!" Try five! And these young deer were more of a traditional deer in headlights as the pack, or herd, of whatever one would call a group of deer froze in the road. I slowed and corrected the situation by honking my horn and they scattered to my right and into the black darkness of the night.

This is something I should mention; the darkness. Except for my headlights the rest of the world was a black void. The sky was cloudy and there are no street lights. Living in a city one can become oblivious to the fact that night time is dark time.

The next fifteen miles I began to see animals that may or may not have been there. A sense of animal paranoia set in, but there were several times I saw eyes up ahead and then a deer scurrying across the road.

If the threat of deer in a clear night drive wasn't thrilling enough I came around a corner and all of a sudden the world was white. I didn't know what it was a first and I slowed to a stop. I knew no one was behind me, and in fact I had not seen another car for almost an hour. Also, I had driven past houses that were burning leaves so I thought maybe this was a big fire, but there was no smell. Then I realized that this was fog, but it was so random. Seeing how it was fog I drove on because I have been told and have seen many a sign that stated, "Do not drive into smoke."

The fog became patchy and I was nearing my destination per the GPS. I was 30 minutes out and all the while I was checking the GPS to see what the road in front of me would do. Then, I noticed an odd turn. It truly was an odd turn so I slowed and saw a stop sign followed up by another stop sign then a steep decline. I proceeded with extreme caution because, even with my headlights, seeing where I was going was difficult.

At this point in time I am so glad I don't trust my GPS because as went down the decline, had I had blind faith I would have gone around this turn and ended up either on this ferry or in the river. Yes, what my GPS called a road was a ferry service. And when I say ferry this boat looked like it could only carry one car at a time. It was 10:15PM and no one was around so this service wasn't going to be working so I backed up and then noticed the sign that said that the ferry runs something like 10AM-4PM. It would have been nice to know that well in advance, and it would have been nice for my GPS system to, I don't know, chose roads that are actually roads.

I now had another problem. My GPS was fixated on trying to see if my car could swim. On top of that I had no cell phone service and had had none for an hour. Never in my life have I felt so alone. We live in an age where technology binds us together and being alone, truly alone, is something that is hard to do. Unknowingly and unwillingly I achieved this state of isolation.

All I wanted to do was to have someone look at the map and tell me where to go. I could look on my GPS but I couldn't tell if those roads were a ferry or a real bridge. I had a river to cross and needed a bridge but no one could tell me because I was cut off from all the world.

To make matters even more fun the fog returned and was thick enough that I couldn't see more than a car length in front of me. And I was once again entering an area that the deer seemed to like as I avoided a couple of them after I finally made it over that river.

Eventually I made it to a town and from that town I made it to US 60 and then finally I made it to my hotel over an hour later than what my GPS told me. But more importantly I made it in one piece and my car undamaged. Living in a city like I do it is hard to imagine such a drive as I had last night. On top of that the feeling of being fully alone is something that a lot of people would find hard to imagine; no people, no Facebook, no cell reception, no data, no contact.

It was certainly a drive to remember. Today though my focus shifts to my two presentations I have today which will be career presentations 299 and then 300. It will be a major milestone for me and I'm rather excited about it.


  1. Wondering what you were going to Mountain Grove for....That's where we're from, at least for the past 25 years. Glad you made it safely!

  2. Aaron you are braver then I am! I hate to travel at night, and never on side roads! Glad it all worked out for you!
    Congratulations on reaching the 300 milestone! You are a gifted young man and I am thankful that I have found your Blog! You have helped me see the world through different eyes. Thank You!