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Corn Flakes: Racing Down I-80

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Kind of like this but without a helmet or other protective gear
Kind of like this but without a helmet or other protective gear
Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

I was back in Nebraska this weekend for a family reunion. We met at a place out in the country near Union, south of Omaha. No internet. Very little phone service. It was kinda nice.

I'd forgotten what a racetrack I-80 has become. There's enough traffic on it now that it's like Formula One without the curves. You are constantly jockeying for position and apparently not everyone learned what I thought was a universal rule; the left lane is the passing lane, and if you're not passing, you should be in the right lane.

Invariably, you run into those people who sit in the left lane oblivious to the rules of the road. They probably started 33rd out of 33 and are just trying to finish the race. Unfortunately, they sit out there in the left lane creating a safety hazard as other drivers have to jockey around them.

They're not as bad as the guy who doesn't want to get lapped. He sits out there and waits until you're ready to go around on the right, then puts on that sudden burst of speed and doesn't slow down until there's a semi in the right line that he can sit beside while everyone else lines up behind him.

Another safety hazard, especially since the speed limits have been raised.

It was a great weekend... except for the part where my sister broke her wrist and pelvis in an ATV accident. The land we were on was hilly and full of trees, but there were enough trails to have a lot of fun on the ATVs. I hadn't been on one in a long time. I like speed. I like to push it a little harder than most.

Saturday evening, my brother-in-law decided to take my sister for a ride. I went along, because, well, machine. There was one steep hill on the property that was somewhat of a challenge. I went up first, then drove on a bit to get out of the way, then stopped and waited. And waited. I turned off the bike to see if I could hear them, but all I got were the 17-year cicadas.

I decided maybe my brother-in-law had tricked me and headed back the direction we came (because this is a competition for me, you realize), so I headed back to the hill with the purpose of going down it as quickly as possible. I approached, standing on the bike, which was fortunate, because I just spotted my brother-in-law's head and stopped just in time. They apparently were going up the hill, didn't make it, went to back down when they hit an exposed root and the bike flipped over.  My sister was lying at the bottom of the hill screaming in pain; had I started down it, I wouldn't have been able to stop and possibly could have killed her and my brother-in-law.

Instead, I turned around and flew out of the place as quickly as possible, swearing at the bike all the way. An ambulance, and a trip to the hospital in Omaha were her Saturday night.

I felt guilty that I should have come back for them sooner than I did, but I guess that wouldn't really have changed much. My sister will be laid up for a while. She's pretty active - so I have no idea how long her injuries will take to heal.

I suppose we were lucky, though. It could have been a lot worse.

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