Marty’s photo of the day #3411: Yesterday, I made it home from my six-day, “Don’t Get COVID-19 and Die Tour”—but barely. If you’ve been following my posts, you know that I drove a rental van for the tour, because in addition to performing Around the World in 90 Minutes at Eastern Arizona College, I also picked up my late-mother’s belongings from a storage unit near Sun City West. The blizzard that hit Montana forced me to extend my tour, waiting it out in the town of Dillon. Then this happened:

The Dodge Caravan I rented was absolutely the worst vehicle I’ve ever driven in the snow. I blame that more on the cheap rental car tires than anything else. When I arrived in Dillon on Saturday, the van slid through two intersections. (I grew up in Duluth, Minnesota, so I’m an experienced winter driver.) When I got up on Sunday morning, for the final leg of my drive, I decided to go two hours out of my way and take the freeway up and around through Missoula, instead of the shortcut across Lost Trail Pass. The freeway would be easy and stress-free. Wouldn’t it?

I was only twenty minutes north of Dillon when I knew it was going to be a long, long day. The freeway was plowed but sported a thin layer of packed snow. For most vehicles this wouldn’t pose a problem. The tires on my van began to spin as it climbed a hill. I eased up on the gas, but soon realized that even though the speed limit was 80 mph, I couldn’t drive the van faster than 45 mph if I wanted to stay on the road.

I followed the slowest moving semi, never exceeding 45 mph. A little north of Butte, on a straight section of the freeway, the back-end of my van violently swung around! I turned the wheel and pumped the brakes—and it was as if I had done nothing! I was headed for the ditch on my right! Then, just before the ditch, the van swung the other way. I was headed for the ditch on my left!

When I was in high school in Duluth, I used to practice doing “shitties” in the icy parking lot. While at the time I was just having fun, in reality, it taught me how to control a vehicle on ice.

Everything I learned back then came flooding back to me on the freeway yesterday. Multiple times I thought I was going to end up in the ditch, but I kept the wildly swinging van on the road. Never had 45 mph felt so fast—and because of the worthless tires, the van never slowed during the incident.

When it was over, my neck and shoulders ached as if I had whiplash. I slowed even more. I am normally a fast driver, but yesterday I was—without a doubt—the slowest driver on the highway for all 250 miles. But I made it!

Since Deb and I live at the edge of the mountains, there was no way the van would make it up the steep gravel road to our house, so she met me below with the truck, we transferred my mother’s belongings to it, and returned the van.

Despite all the adventures along the way, I enjoyed my “Don’t Get COVID-19 and Die Tour.” The scenery in Arizona and Utah was stunning (today’s photo is from Utah), I listened to some great music, enjoyed performing my show, and took full advantage of Audible. On the way there, I listened to Live Long and…: What I Learned Along the Way by William Shatner, and on the way back I listened to A Man Called Ove: A Novel by Fredrik Backman (narrated by J.K. Simmons). Both were excellent.

The trip ended up being 2,771 miles-long. And during that drive, I never used a public restroom. (Just another COVID-19 precaution.) Instead, I got very good at spotting backroads, where I could exit and find 60 seconds of privacy. Because of all the precautions I took along the way, I’m virtually certain that I didn’t bring COVID-19 home. Yay!