Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Travels with Wiley

Wiley Baker was what some would call an "aggressive driver." Or, more accurately, Wiley Baker was what most would call an "aggressive driver."

I remember one day-trip we made with Wiley and Lauretta from Missoula up to Glacier Park. Wiley was driving his big Suburban, and the passengers included Lauretta, Aaron, Caleb and Sascha (Marci's three kids), my mom and dad, Chris and Tim, and Dan and me. Lauretta was riding up front with Wiley, and had fallen asleep, as was her custom whenever they traveled.

Wiley wasted no time getting to the park. At one point, on a 2-lane road, he pulled around a car that wasn't going fast enough, only to see an on-coming car in our lane. In the back, Mom and Dad, Dan and I were white-knuckling it . . . especially my Dad. Wiley never flinched. The on-coming car drove off the road, onto the shoulder, thus avoiding a head-on collision. Wiley smiled and said, "That was sure nice of them, wasn't it?" (That line has since become code, between Dan and me, that someone might be driving a little too aggressively.)

As we climbed higher up the steep mountain road, it became narrower and the switchbacks became sharper. It seemed as if Wiley thought he was driving on a straight, flat Texas freeway! I remember someone asking my dad, who was holding a camera, to get a shot, over the edge (which I recall as being perilously close to the outside tires of the Suburban). He stuck the camera out the window, aimed it downward and clicked, all the time keeping his head and eyes straight ahead, so as not to risk seeing the ever-increasing distance to the valley floor. Through all of this, Lauretta slept soundly and peacefully - not a bad strategy, I decided.

When we got to the top, all in one piece but with shakey knees, and stepped out of the vehicle, my dad, pale and frightened, put his arm around Dan's shoulders. "Dan," he said, "I'll never criticize your driving again!"

With that background, I'll share another little story involving Wiley and his driving.

At the time that Chris was in college, in Abilene, Texas, Wiley and Lauretta were living in Montana. Since they still had relatives and some farming interests in Texas, they came down a couple times a year, often without forewarning. Chris, at the time of this story, was dating Kelsey. The two of them were in the Wal-Mart parking lot one afternoon when a car backed out of a parking space and rammed into a light pole. Kelsey said, "Did you see that old man? He just ran into that light pole!" Chris looked in the direction of the accident, and by then the long, lanky driver was climbing out of his car, to examine the damage. "That 'old man'" said Chris, "is my Grandpa!"


Mom said...

Oh, my ! You took me back with that trip to Glacier Park. That was a frightful drive, and we all dreaded going back on the down-hill side of that narrow road.Wiley did give us few gray hairs that day, didn't he?

Anonymous said...

I was wondering about the trip back down the hill!
Just as exciting? I would have been so scared to
get back in the car with him........Genie

Linda said...

Genie, it wasn't quite as bad, since the downhill lane was not on the cliff-hanger side.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'll just tell you that would be a "hell on wheels" for me. I used to have dreams about a trip we made up a mountain side...with my dad driving slowly!!

I'd say that Wiley deserved any and all "leftovers" that remained in his car after that trip.

And poor Loretta...maybe she was never really asleep but had just learned to squeeze her eyes tightly at the onset of a drive and start praying!

Whew....so glad you are here to tell the tale.