The Backwoods

Where we teeter between our love of modern convenience and the yearning for something long past; a world where neighbors knew your name and a “Friend Request” was eye contact and a smile.

Always Be Prepared

Posted · 18 Comments

I was once in a vehicle that slammed into an eight foot snow burm, flipped to the right and rolled onto the top, spun in the center of the road, upside down, and finally came to a stop.  I crawled out a broken window with two other people, unhurt, and quickly realized the next vehicle to come upon us in our snowy tunnel would kill us all…there was no place to go.  I ran, in socked feet, a few hundred feet in three inches of slushy water running down an ice slicked highway.  It was midnight on the exit ramp of the Seward Highway where it intersects with the Sterling Highway near Cooper Landing, Alaska.

For three hours we waited in the dark as freezing January rain poured down onto the ice at our feet while the tow truck, just forty miles away, tried to make it up the treacherous roadway.  It wasn’t until much later I realized I must have been in shock to not have frostbit my stocking feet as we waited for our rescue.

Numerous near misses and frozen feet later, I’ve still not learned to carry emergency gear in my vehicle.  And each time something goes wrong, I think…wow, I’m really stupid!

Tonight I hauled seven middle school basketball players to a dinner at their coach’s house, five miles up a winding dirt road.  After we’d eaten I loaded them all back up and dropped them off at their homes, most of which are off the beaten path in the wilds of a Wintery Alaska.

While turning into a narrow backwoods driveway, I swung too far left and slid into the ditch.  After some initial cussing, I stopped to assess the situation.

I had not a tow strap, a chain, a pair of gloves or a coat.  I was without a flare, water, food, a lighter, or basic first aid.  I had a flashlight…but only because the girls had played flashlight tag at the party.  I had winter boots…but only because I’d needed them the day before and hadn’t remembered to take them out.  And my cell phone was flashing red…on the brink of death.

I used the little juice I had left to dial someone who lived nearby and request a tug from the snow berm.  We were rescued in short order and all was fine.

But what if it wasn’t?  What if I’d not been near houses.  What if my phone was long since dead.  What if…what if?

The reality of it is…it’s stupid.  I shouldn’t even be going to the post office without carrying emergency supplies.  I definitely shouldn’t be driving on deserted backroads and I for sure shouldn’t be doing it with a vanload of children!

So this week I’ll make it a priority to stock each vehicle with emergency supplies.  I’ll duct tape the lid so we’re not tempted to ‘borrow’ from the box.  And I’ll use this forum to kindly remind all of YOU to do the same!




18 Responses to "Always Be Prepared"
  1. Chaelismommy says:

    When I turned 18yo, my father gave me an emergency roadside kit (fully stocked; a good one) for my birthday. At the time, I wondered “WTF?” I live in the suburbs outside of Portland, Oregon… and I didn’t drive up to the mountains in my car. Then, one day, my friends & I decided to gas up my car & roadtrip to the coast (only an hour away, right?)… and had a flat – no cell phone, stuck in the coastal mountains for over two hours, no idea how to even change it out. Almost 20 years later, I am not only the mom who carries a (different) well-stocked roadside kit, but also the mom who carries water, snacks, bandages, extra warm gear, and a few other things… all because they’ve been needed over the years!

  2. Sue says:

    A good reminder for earthquake country too! Thank you.

  3. Georganne says:

    Thanks and might I add, me too.  WHY do I not have a tow strap?  Really?  On the road I live on.  I’m an idiot.  Ok, off to Wal Mart after work.  Thanks. 

  4. Heatherguess says:

    Great blog about life in Alaska…makes Minnesota seem pretty easy!

  5. cares_about_alaska says:

    Like you Keri, I’ve been saying I was gonna do it for years, but kept putting it off.  Then last December we hit black ice going 65 on the Parks Hwy.  We were on the way home from the hospital…..where my hubby had opeh heart surgery 4 days prior.  The last thing we could afford was for him to get chilled in any way.  We were lucky that someone behind us saw it and stopped immediately and got us into their warm car.  We were lucky not to be dead as the air bags didn’t deploy.  But it finally scared me enough to get it done and like you said, duct tape it so we can’t borrow from it.  I find I’m a bit gun shy this year in winter driving, but I’m trying not to be overly cautious and cause an accident that way.  But at least I know I’m prepared now.

  6. islandgirl says:

    Yup, I really need to do the same. Thanks for the kick in the butt to get it done.

  7. Sue Blakeman says:

    Great reminder! Here in FL I drive barefoot, having kicked off the flip-flops that I live in 9 months of the year. I usually make sure I have sneakers and socks with me in case I have to walk. The usual threat here is highway blockage from someone else’s accident. I keep a jug of water, too.

    Have you loaded up yet?
    Do it now, please!

  8. Audreyalfson says:

    You make me laugh! Mostly at memories of my own life in Alaska, snow-filled ditches, slippery surfaces, and close encounters with moose struggling to cross the same stretch of road you are. Glad you figured it out! For an Alaska girl, you’ve been lucky!!  I only laugh because I am an Alaska girl transplanted to Minnesota, but I’m usually picked on for being uber-prepared to make a 3 hour drive on the interstate: Jumper cables, tow strap, blankets, hats, gloves, boots, first aid kid, wind up flashlights, stash of granola bars at all times, cell phone charger in van….

  9. Shari says:

    Glad you finally came to that conclusion! 🙂

  10. Jbost says:

    I having been taught by my husband long ago even bought my daughter an emergency kit for her car.  Make it your priority during these winter months.  It could be the difference between life and death.

  11. Rene Shepard says:

    Git’r did sister. We used to carry a case of water in our car, to hand out to beggers, but we haven’t replaced it since the heat wave ended. We do keep the car charger in the car for the phones but that’s about it nowadays. Thanks for the great article.

  12. T Wiggs says:

    So True–So True–Thank you for sharing–even if it cost you a little bit of ‘humility’ to do so.  I gave my kids a plastic tub packed with “emergency” stuff for their trunks a year or two ago–for Christmas.  I think I will give them the Duct Tape idea and see what items need to be replaced this year–even in Nebraska and Colorado–we can get some nasty weather.

  13. Cheryl Beuning says:

    Also, never let the tank get below half before topping it off. Its just as easy to keep the top half full as the bottom half!!
    I have two similar occassions.
    Hit a dear and it took out 1/2 the engine & the car battery. After calling sweetie (voice mail) second call the cell died. My backup was amature radio in the car. Enough battery to get out and have someone call highway patrol (and find out sweetie was on his way)
    Second it was nasty icy and I could not get out of a deep valley as I would loose my running start because of others stuck on the hill. That was a first. No cell coverage. Again radio to the rescue. A good friend w 4WD picked me up. Bought chains after that one.

  14. Bobbyspain009 says:

    you got to watch that cussing

  15. Jim Collins says:

    A  lesson FINALLY learned…(the hard way).  But, now if you just follow up on it.  Also, make sure you add flares, and a solar blanket, it comes in handy, from the mentioned Jacket, you forgot.

  16. Kellybean32 says:

    Your not alone….I think alot of us Alaskans do the same thing….I think we have a blanket (1 blanket for 5the kids….) I thank you for the reminder and will be making it a point to stock the cars as well! PS- my hubby and 2I oldest boys were just in your neck of the woods for a hockey tourney I am Kenai!! I get to drive for the next one coming up in Dec!!

  17. Liz Neill says:

    Hmmm, we are in New Zealand, so on the roads I’m on we are mainly fine. I have first aid kit, and water… but our main saving grace at the moment is there are so many pairs of shoes, warm hats, sun hats, pens, jackets, swimsuits and spare clothes that we could live out of my van for a month… but yeah! Good thought, as we head into summer…

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