Oh Shit, Another Damn Stop Sign

My family and I used to ride snowmobiles every winter when I was young. We would go on snowmobile trips to the U.P. or all day rides around Cadillac or Traverse City. It was a blast. We each had our own sled: a Polaris, two Yamahas, and an Artic Cat.

I was 13 and had just gotten my snowmobile permit. I had to take a two-day course to get it. I was so excited. I was going to be able to drive by myself, no one with me. I would have total control. I would be able to do spin outs, throw snow with the track, and take turns sharp. That same year my mom got a new sled: a 1999 Yamaha Phazer, white with yellow and red lighting strips. It was an awesome sled. None of us were going to be able to ride it. It was hers and she wanted to be the first to put miles on it. But we hadn’t had snow yet that year. We got a lot of rain and ice.

We finally got snow in the middle of December; it was about a week after my birthday. Eight inches of pretty white fluffy powder is the best to ride your sled in. My dad and I were so excited we were going to be able to ride that weekend.

The weekend finally came. The other groups of snowmobilers we ride with wanted to go for a ride. So I begged my mom to let me take her sled out. “Dani, no, the sled is too fast for you, so stop bugging me about it,” she said. But I didn’t stop bugging her. She finally gave in. She said, “You can ride the sled but you have to be careful.” Like all kids my age when parents tell you to be careful, I was thinking Yeah, yeah. Then I said, “I will.” I was so excited I was going to ride the new snowmobile that whatever she said went in one ear and out the other.

My mom went to work that morning, and my dad and I got all geared up: helmets, snow pants, coats, gloves, and scarves. We went out to get the sleds all filled up with gas and the oil checked.

The sleds were finally ready. My dad and I hopped on to go meet the other riders in an open field like we always did. The field was filled with the white fluffy snow. We shot the shit, and the smokers had their smokes like always, and more of my dad’s friends showed up.

When everyone was there, we finally jumped back on our sleds. Our first stop was Boy Scout Bridge, then Taffel Town, Mesick, and Kingsley. It seemed that we stopped at every stop sign so the smokers could have their smoke and shoot the shit some more. We had lunch at the Mesick bar and played music on the juke box. My dad and I shared a one-pound hamburger. Oh boy, was it big.

It was around 4 p.m., and we started to head home, stopping at every stop sign so the smokers could smoke. It was getting late and everything was freezing. We stopped in the field where we had met up earlier in the day to say our goodbyes to everyone. Then my dad and I were on our way home to meet my mom so we could go out for dinner.

We were less than a mile from home when we hit this straight shot. My dad and I opened up the sleds to burn out the carbon, and we started racing. I pulled away from him.

I was winning. I thought I was, at least. I passed my dad. I was thinking, This sled is awesome. It’s fast. I’m going to beat him home. I didn’t see my dad waving at me, trying to get me to slow down. I was so excited that I was ahead of him that I didn’t look back.

Then there it was: another damn stop sign. I did all my hand signals to indicate I was stopping and hit the brakes. “Oh shit, I can’t stop.” I hit ice that was under the snow. I never really panicked; I just braced myself for impact. I flew right past the stop sign and went through a directional sign’s legs.

I must have blacked out because I don’t remember anything after seeing the stop sign. When I finally came to, I was on my knees in front of the sled, my body feeling numb like it wasn’t there.  I started freaking out: My mom is going to kill me. There was no front end to the sled; it was gone. The front end was pushed all the way back to where the tail light was.

It seemed like it was a long time before my dad showed up, but it wasn’t. It was only seconds. He started patting me down because I told him I was numb. He was trying to get feeling back in my body and kept asking me if I was ok. All I could say was, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” He said “I know, I know,” and asked me again if anything hurt. I was finally getting feeling back in my body and that’s when it hit me that my wrist was hurting.

My dad put me on his sled holding me and drove us up to the house, which was only a block away. He called his friend Ray to ask for help getting my mom’s sled. Luckily for my dad, my mom wasn’t home yet. My dad and Ray brought the sled home and put it in the garage while I stayed in the house, lying on the couch crying. I had no idea how my mom was going to kill me.

It wasn’t long before my mom got home. My dad had to explain what happened to me and my mom’s sled. I was in the house waiting so I never heard what was said between the two of them. He was probably getting his ass chewed. After my dad was done explaining what happened, my mom came in to see how I was. I said my arm hurt, and she said we’d go to the ER.

At the ER, it ended up being a big night with people coming in for snowmobile accidents. Due to the first fluffy snow of the year, there were two other families for snowmobile accidents ahead of us. The police were busy taking reports because any motor vehicle accident has to be reported to the police. The other two families’ accidents happened in their yard, so it was just private property, and the police couldn’t do anything. My accident happened on a road, and we soon realized that if we told the truth, I wouldn’t be able to get my driver’s license until I was probably eighteen or older. We would also have to pay for the sign. The story we told police was that I was riding with my dad on the back of his sled, we hit a bump, and I slid off and hurt my arm. The cop said okay and wrote the report that way. I believe he had a lot of snowmobile accidents to file that day, so he moved on to the next accident.

I was finally called back for my x-rays. My arm was broken, and I had to wear a cast for six weeks. I got a purple cast. It’s my favorite color.

When we were through at the hospital, we met my sister for dinner. We went to Burger King, and I tried some fries. I felt my face going flush, my stomach queasy, and then I threw up on my tray. It was gross, and right in the middle of the restaurant. People were looking at me, and my sister was embarrassed. We cleaned up and went home. My dad had to take my mom and me to the garage to see the sled. That’s when I saw the skis parallel to the tail light.

My mom’s sled was totaled, and she was pissed. Two years before this, my sister and I were riding my dad’s new sled, and we hit a culvert. We bent the skis straight up and bent the tunnel of the sled. It couldn’t be ridden for about six weeks. My punishment for my mom’s sled was a broken arm, and I couldn’t ride the rest of the year, which was fine with me. I didn’t want to ride anymore.

Danielle Zuzula