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Location: Stevens Point, Wisconsin, United States

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Roadside attractions

My bike workout yesterday afternoon proved interesting, not because of my hill-repeats on Sunset Drive but because of my chancing to return down N 2nd St and so happening upon the scene of an accident below the I-39 bridge. As I crested the rise I saw the pickup first, parked next to the northbound lane. Then I saw the people gathered along the bridgewall on my side of the road, looking north. Finally the lights of the emergency vehicles on the highway below came into view. I stopped. Crews were working to haul a small red sedan from the ditch, which seemed to be buried in the grass and mud. I assumed the car had left the highway, but the lane-edge markers were unscathed. I traced the tire-marks on the grass verge and, to my surprise, found them disappearing beneath the bridge. I crossed over to find that the car had left the pavement just before the end of the northbound on-ramp, flattened the large YIELD sign on its post, continued under the bridge on a severe slope, knocked down three saplings on the crest of a rise, become airborne, pancaked into the ditch some thirty to fifty feet further on—chewing a car-sized patch of grass into mud—then come to rest more than fifty meters along the ditch. I turned to the people I’d seen at first—the four of whom easily weighed more than half a ton—to ask if they’d seen the crash. “No,” one woman said, “we heard about it on the scanner.” Then I noticed the large walkie-talkie-like radio in her hand. “A 70-year-old woman driver,” she said, listening to the radio report, “taken by ambulance to Marshfield.” Speculation ensued, centering on a heart attack. The crash-route certainly suggested constant acceleration with no braking. I thanked them for their account, after listening to a rant about how few of the “1050s”—auto accidents involving occupant-injury, I gathered—get reported in the local paper, complete with details about two such incidents locally the previous Friday.

As I rode home I mused on the lives of such folk, who apparently spend their time at home eating while they listen for accidents to visit as spectators…

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