Deer Strike

I hit a deer.

I drive a 2013 Chevy Spark that is about the size of a postage stamp named Lorraine. On Sunday she was in great shape! As of Monday night, Lorraine had about $3,500 in damage- nearly the total value of the car.

November travel in the mid-west can be treacherous. It brings the official switch in weather, the harbinger of winter, and it’s mating season for deer. In fact, national auto insurance statistics place Wisconsin (#4), Iowa (#5), and Minnesota (#7) in the top 10 in the nation of likelihood for collision with deer.

Mom is in Illinois and I am in Minnesota. Any route I choose must go through Wisconsin or Iowa.

Veterans Day had a nasty snowstorm that delayed my departure until 1:30pm. I had to consider three factors- duration of the storm, time it takes to clear roads with high winds, and the setting sun. My bet was to leave late enough for snowy travel in Illinois but clear travel through Iowa. Half of my total eight-hour trip would be in the dark.

Three miles west of Floyd, Iowa a young buck ran into the highway and collided with my car.

I was in the passing lane and did not see it until its antlers flashed in the headlights. I held onto the steering wheel in the knowledge that I was going to hit this deer. Slowed the car as quickly as I could and moved to the far side of the passing lane without going into the grass. I did not watch the strike, only heard a mild *thunk*. My car was not moved or spun on impact and I naively hoped for minor damage. Inspection revealed it had taken out my entire front passenger fender, headlight, and turn signal. I did not see where the deer had gone but I do not think it survived.

It was 15 degrees with high winds. I unbent the fender enough to free the tire for driving. For a moment, I had that insane hope that somehow, someway I could just drive it the rest of the 175 miles back to Minneapolis and deal with it in the morning. Thankfully common sense prevailed, and I made a U-turn back to the nearest gas station in Floyd. There I purchased a roll of duct tape and secured those parts of my car that were hanging. The hotels were 35 miles west in Mason City or 8 miles east in Charles City. My car made scraping noises above 35mph. I backtracked to Charles City, passed by semi-trucks barreling down at 70mph the whole way.

I hit the deer at 6:30pm and by 8:30pm, I was in a hotel room, had renewed my auto insurance (which was set to expire next week), called family, the police, and filed a claim.

The cost to tow a car 175 miles is roughly $1,000. *Gulp* Comments online suggested a U-haul auto transport trailer if the car was still drivable. Luckily my friend George recently bought a RAM truck with a trailer hitch and is very generous. He agreed to drive all the way from Minneapolis to Charles City and bring me and my car home safely. Even if it cost me $500 to cover all the costs, it was still half price!

So, I devised a plan. George could not come until 9pm Tuesday so I had to be somewhere with my car until then. I would rent another night in the hotel even though I would not sleep there. I would eat free hotel breakfast, gas station lunch from the Kwik Star across the street, and take a cab downtown in the afternoon to enjoy the local coffee shop and walk to the pub for dinner.

The next day, the hotel breakfast was OK but I had to switch rooms. I moved from a quiet hallway downstairs to a second floor hallway where travelling construction workers were in residence and it was too cold to work but not to drink a lot of Busch Lite. The walk to the gas station across the street was bitter cold but they are more like a grocery store so the selection of food was OK.

My insurance agent called and directed me to make a photo claim using an app on my phone- Twenty-first century! I had to take photos of the VIN on the hood, the VIN on the door, the mileage, the damage, the rest of the vehicle, and take a video. Two times during that short activity, I had to get in my car and put my hands in my armpits to get them to move again. My gloves meant for 30 degree weather or as liners for mittens left my hands frozen stiff.

I was ready for coffee in a cute small town shop and some writing. No Uber so I searched for a taxi. All numbers for taxi service were disconnected. The only remaining choices were to 1. Walk (no); 2. Hitch hike (no); 3. Call ‘Curt’s Cab’ (yes). Though Curt got some good online reviews, he is not going to pick you up if he doesn’t feel like it. He told me to call ‘transit’ instead and hung up. Charles City Public Transit is a smart utilization of the buses used for the elderly and disabled for regular citizens. Except that service ends at 4pm. So, I could get to downtown but I had no promise from Curt to get me back to the hotel.

I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening listening to the construction workers yell and ate dinner from the Kwik Star. I purchased some beer and made the best of it. It’s too bad for those small businesses downtown because I was desperate to get out and spend some money on hot food. It is a real eyeopener to the life I am accustomed to in Minneapolis and how small towns don’t have the same access to services that we do.

George arrived at 9pm as promised. The hotel staff were confused as to why I was leaving early but was not angry. I explained and the manager said, “Oh yes. There will be our first big snow, the hotel will be busy, and ten wreckers will show up in the morning to transport our guests.” I guess that stretch of highway around Charles City is known for frequent deer strikes…

Lorraine was loaded onto the trailer with little trouble and we headed back to Minneapolis. George had been up since 3:30am and had conducted training all day. What a trooper! Near the Iowa-Minnesota border there is a welcome center next to Diamond Jo Casino. George had not had a break and wanted to stop into the casino to play a little video poker and relax. I thought he was crazy but wouldn’t you know- he won some money! Something to make the trip worth his time.

We arrived home at 1am and got Lorraine unloaded and parked in my space. The body shop where I intend to take her can’t start work until the first week of December. This is still easier than trying to coordinate a repair in Iowa. But I might have to fly home or rent a car for Christmas.

All told, I am damn lucky. I am lucky the deer didn’t come through the windshield. I am lucky I could drive the car to a hotel and had the money to stay there. I am lucky I have friends who are willing to go on a crazy adventure to help me. And I am lucky I have enough insurance to cover the cost of repairs.

Thanksgiving indeed!


-Copyright C.M. Mounts, November 2019

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