He Tried to Kill Me!
by Lamont Shaindlin
I have driven the Alcan a handful of times, but there was only one time when the guy I drove with tried to kill me.
To be fair, he was a friend back then, and still is to this day. But, to my dying day, I will swear that he tried to kill me that day.
To protect his identity, we will call him Mike (His real name.) Mike and I were college buddies in Portland, and we lived in Anchorage during the summers.
At the end of my freshman year in 1983, Mike asked me if I was open to making the trip with him, sharing driving time and expenses. Always up for an adventure, I jumped at the opportunity.
The first three days of the drive were uneventful except for the fact that Mike, a bit anal to begin with, did not like how I drove.
He was a serious back seat driver, and he was constantly worried that I was following other vehicles too closely and he was going to get a chip in his windshield.
That, of course, made me a more nervous driver as you could feel the tension in the car when I drove. So, while it was never “discussed”, at some point Mike stopped asking for me to drive and he just did it all.
Ok. It’s your 1979 Datsun, your call who drives. I’ll be navigator.
We were outside of Haines when the adventure happened.
There was a long stretch of road that was not only unpaved, (as any Alcan veteran can remember), but this stretch had been recently graded and there was a dirt berm about 12” tall serving as a lane divider. I kept telling him he was driving too fast, and if he drifted over the berm, we were going to lose control. Yes, my turn to be backseat driver.
Well, we are heading down this long and seemingly deserted stretch, and Mike (again, that’s his real name), decided he would straddle the berm and drive down the middle of the road.
Well, picture yourself in the days prior to seat belt laws, on a long drive, where you can’t get comfortable while belted. I was co-piloting, and not belted in when we did, in fact, start fishtailing after the berm caused him to lose control.
Trying to brace myself for what seemed inevitable, I placed my left arm against the drivers seat, and my right arm against the passenger door and, in the process of bracing myself, opened the door.
While we are out of control. While I am un-belted.
I remember when the door opened, looking down between my knees and watching the ground going by at an uncomfortably fast pace, and thinking this was not going to end well, just before I fell out of the car that was sliding at about 40 miles per hour.
Somehow, the car, which was sliding passenger side first when I fell out, hit something, (the open passenger door?), and vaulted over me as I was rolling on the dirt. Mike rolled the Datsun about 3 times before it came to rest on it’s wheels.
I remember laying there and taking a physical inventory of all my body parts and thanking the good Lord all of the were still attached and still worked as designed.
Both of us, bloodied, but not broken, essentially walked away from the crash. The other vivid memory I have, is Mike’s windshield. The one he was so concerned about. Seeing it laying on the road shattered.
He says I tried to kill myself by leaving a moving vehicle. I say, I’m not staying in the moving vehicle if you plan on rolling it.
At least we are both still here and can agree to disagree.
Was your drive on the Alaska Highway an adventure?
Can you imagine what the highway was like back in 1947?
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What are some of your Alaska highway memories?