After Deadline: Don’t be too eager from Beaver to Weaver

December 21, 2018

SOMEWHERE ON HWY. 74 — It all went to hell on the road from Beaver to Weaver.

Let me preface my little tale by saying this to the Wise Woman: I’m fine. The car is fine. All of this happened in the past. The chances of me driving on Minnesota Highway 74 between Beaver and Weaver — especially when it’s slippery or icy out — ever again lies somewhere between slim and none.

Let me also shout out to the three guys in the truck — Tim, Eric and T — who pulled my car out of the snow. You could have kept driving. You could have thrown your arms up and said, “Sorry, nothing we can do.” Instead, you unpacked a tow rope and pulled my little Toyota out of the snow.

The word “Heroes” isn’t big enough to describe what you did.

Why Am I Here?

The Wabasha County Board of Commissioners has decided to realign the intersection of Hwy. 74 and County Road 26. It’s a project being met with no small amount of opposition.

So Friday morning, I grabbed a camera and a notepad, and checked my Google Maps app on the trusty smartphone. The fastest way to Weaver from Rochester? Take Hwy. 74, including the 6.6-mile gravel segment from Winona County Road 30 to the aforementioned intersection.

Paul Wotzka and I were scheduled to meet at the intersection, which is conveniently located next to his home, around 9:30 a.m. Knowing the road might be slick, I was aiming for 9:15.

I was late. Way late.

Slip-Sliding Away

Everything was fine until I crossed CR 30 and started on the gravel segment.

About a mile down the road, I think I gently applied the brake as I drove downhill. Unfortunately, this change in force upon the road started a slide that ended up with my poor little Toyota sideways on the road.

I straightened out the car, deciding that 40 MPH was too fast.

All seemed to go well for the next few miles. Keeping the speed at about 30, I went up hills and down hills, used my brakes and turned the steering wheel. There were no problems until I again tapped the brakes a bit hard. The result was my little car halfway off the road with the front wheels in the snow.

Fortunately, after a few tries rocking it back and forth, reverse worked well enough that I was back on the road and driving at about 20 MPH. Hey, I had time. At worst, I’d arrive in Weaver safe and sound a few minutes before 9:30.

Son of a Ditch!

As the last mile of the road approached, so did another vehicle, the first I’d seen on the gravel stretch.

Wary of the shoulder and what lay below it, I’d been hugging the center of the road for a while. So, when the pickup loomed into view, I gently moved over to give it room.

It was gently, I swear.

Doesn’t matter. This time, going even more slowly, I went farther off the road, my little Toyota practically hanging over the ditch when it finally came to rest.

Tim, Eric and T got out of the truck and asked if I needed help.

Oh, yes I did. It took a couple of tries and about 15 minutes, but eventually they pulled my car with their truck and I was free.

After profusely thanking them, I was on my way, driving about 15 mph for the next mile, until I finally spotted Paul standing in the road, waiting to talk.

It’s A Beautiful World

I’d advise taking a drive on Highway 74, though please wait until the snow has melted and the spring runoff is back in the banks of the Whitewater River.

The trees, the rolling hills, the grassy wetlands with meandering streams weaving through them: It’s all something that cries out for a great camera or someone who knows how to use oil paints.

But something even more beautiful was strangers helping a stranger who needed a helping hand.

I saw something similar at Stewartville Middle School a couple of days before. No, not natural beauty, but people letting strangers know they care. Ms. Kandice Mascotti’s eighth-grade students had painted portraits of kids from Colombia, kids whose lives aren’t so great.

Yet, these poor (likely, literally poor) kids would receive paintings from Stewartville that basically show, yes, they matter to someone.

Even better, the art lesson also served as a life lesson to our local kids that a) you live a fortunate life and b) showing you care matters, no matter how big or small the gesture.

Of course, beauty aside, I drove back to Rochester via CR 26 instead of Hwy. 74. The Wise Woman awaited, and she and our girls are the beauties that truly matter to me.

(There, am I forgiven yet, Honey?)

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