Our Last Smile for the Day

031Day 5: Sossusviel to Swakopmund.

You may not want to read this blog, but I have to write it. This day started out to be different, but ended up worse. You may have read that we are driving a rental car because our car was stolen the week before the rally began. So, we have a backseat and agreed to take along Gary and Debbie after their Ferrari broke down. It felt good to make this offer but Gary is an assertive backseat driver. Enough said about that because this was not the real problem.

Our first metal section began at the Tropic of Capricorn sign. In case you don’t know, a metal section involves trying to meet, or surpass the set speed for a given distance. It is usually on a public road and involves quite fast, precise driving. While we taking photos and  waiting to begin, the Ford that left two minutes ahead of us, came roaring back and our doctor, Delle, who was serving as a marshal jumped into the support vehicle. It was clear there had been an accident. Because I have some medical training, I offered to go along. The driver, Jan, in the 1965 Mercedes, 230SL had lost control and the car had flipped over. Strange things happen. There was a Safari van behind the Mercedes and there was a doctor with that group. By the time Delle and I arrived, they had already gotten Dana and Jan out of the car and were performing artificial respiration on Jan. Jan had a severe head injury and needed all our doctor’s attention. I attended Dana, his wife, who had been placed in the back of another vehicle and appeared to be in shock. Her pupils were pinpoint, her extremities cold. Not knowing the extent of her injuries, I did my best to keep her engaged and focused. I didn’t know what I else I could do, but I felt she should not be alone since she knew Jan had been seriously injured and did not know whether he would survive. I was there when Doctor Delle told Dana that Jan died. In my head, I could only imagine my own grief if this had been Ed and me but this was not our time, it was about Dana.

I don’t know how she held herself together but somehow she did. She wanted to see Jan before they took her to the hospital. He was already in a body bag and could not be moved until the police arrived.  Watching Dana impacted on my emotions is so many ways. I don’t know if I could have unzipped that bag and stroked the man I had shared so much of my life with and maintained any kind of composure. Dana is a strong, but heartbroken woman.

We are all in shock. The rally part of the day was cancelled and we all drove to our destination for the night. (We dropped off our passengers at the airport where they had a rental car waiting.) There was no group dinner planned for that night and that was probably a good thing. The mood was sober and I think each couple just needed to be alone that evening. Then there are the practicalities of continuing the rally. The metal sections will be cancelled for the next several days and alternate routes given. We will not drive another metal section. Even when we have driven these sections in the past, we don’t drive competitively; we just drive the route at a speed we are comfortable with. I don’t know what others will do.

A rally group becomes a family and for everyone, it feels like a family member has died. I won’t get over this quickly. It keeps coming back. I am sure everyone feels this too.

I will have happier things to post.


About ejhowle23

Authors and adventurers, participated in the World Race 2011, an automobile rally from New York to Paris, crossing three continents and 14,000 land miles. Following much the same route as the setting for our debut novel, The Long Road to Paris. This blog describes our own adventures and challenges. And now you can follow our Bahamas sailing adventure that provides the setting for our second novel, Night Watch. Our rally, the African Safari Challenge, crossed five countries in South Africa in May 2014 and in 2015 we participated in the second Trans-American rally this time from Nova Scotia to San Francisco. Spring of 2016 we travelled 28 days around Australia with friends from previous rallies and in the fall participated in our most exhausting rally through Argentina, Chili and Peru- the Rally of the Incas. We were awarded the Against All Odds award. We're still not sure if this was for us or our car. Stewball never broke down and we hardly did. We will soon take on Iceland as a self-drive tour and in the fall of 2017 we will participate in the Odyssey Italia and then back to Africa for a do-over (almost) of the Africa Safari Challenge.
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3 Responses to Our Last Smile for the Day

  1. Ann Puts says:

    I have just read your text Janet… I am crying… My heart breaks… I feel so sorry for Dana…
    Oh my god … I do not know how I would react if this would happen to myself or like you where, with Dana in your arms… tears tears tears right now after your text. But I think on that moment you where very strong to… I am so happy you were with Dana. She was not alone on such a terrible moment. I am so happy you were there X

  2. TBC says:

    Was this the second tragedy? Whatever, it is so sad for you all, and our hearts go out to you all, especially to you two whom we know so well.

    Take care, and

    BIG hugs to you,

    TBC and Arnie

  3. Kmf kiefer says:

    I send you loving thoughts..what a shock! Life! Kiss from paris, flame

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