Did you know I have an intersection named after me? Don’t look for any official signage… it’s all very informal, but legendary in the history of my school to the extent that it still gets brought up… from an event that was decades ago.
The school, being right next to the UBC Endowment Lands, uses those trails in the forest extensively. Wander or bike those trails during school hours, and you will often run into a group of depressed Saints boys slogging through the muck. They’re beautiful trails, those that make up Pacific Spirit Park… but not when you’re forced to run them in freezing December rain.
On this particular day, in the Spring of 1983, there was some sort of cross-country race for the whole grade. Somehow, I’d managed to get out of running; in hindsight, as miserable as that might’ve been, it would’ve been preferable to what happened…
I was assigned the corner of 29th & Imperial as a spotter, to make sure cars were aware there was a race running by, and to be careful. So I made my way out there before the race, and just walked around, sat around, wasted some time.
If you’re not familiar with that particular intersection, it’s a hairpin turn… at the end of the straightaway of 29th Ave, as it turns into a beautiful short cut through the forest of Imperial Ave, all the way to 16th. If you’re approaching it from the east, it basically looks like you’re approaching a dead-end, but then there’s a sudden sharp turn to the right. If you’re approaching from Imperial, and you’re not expecting it… it goes from an uninterrupted, undivided forest road… to a sharp left turn, back to reality. The signage from both sides is supposed to slow you down to 20km/h. It’s that sharp.
On this particular day, Chevrolet was on campus at UBC, allowing students to take cars out for a test spin. This was long before L and N and whatever restrictions… got a license? Great, good to go.
Some guy at UBC packed his three closest friends into the little Chevy, flew down 16th, turned right on Imperial and kept the speed up… right up to that intersection. Police reports and skids marks and all that imply he hit the hairpin at 80km/h. He tried to make the left turn, but there was no way. He hit the concrete curb thing, flew over it – fully airborne briefly – before slamming head-on into a tree. What’s left of that tree, the dead stump, is still there.
Unfortunately for me, I happened to be sitting on that concrete curb thing… and looked up just in time to save my life, but not in time enough to avoid getting hit. I sprung up and dove to the right, but the car clipped me and sent me flying about 20 feet. I landed with a thud in the forest, and avoided going head-first into a huge boulder by less than a foot.
I wound up with two broken vertebrae and plenty of bruises and cuts… and, as it turns out, two broken back bones is better than just one, because it dissipated the force of me slamming into the ground. It otherwise might have been a broken spinal cord, and a whole different story. Or worse.
This all happened before the race. By the time the guys went running by, it was a full-on accident scene… cops, paramedics, a couple of ambulances. Nobody was hurt as badly as I was… still lying on the ground being tended to when all of grade 10 went running by… many of them looking curiously at the car embedded into the tree… and stopping abruptly when they saw me. I may have set the record for hearing the most “Hey, are you ok?” over the shortest period of time.
Anyway… yes, thanks… I’m ok. After several months of rehab and all that. Painful as hell at the time, but like the pain we’re all going through right now (see, there’s always a way to make it about the pandemic!), I made it through all of that ok…. as hopefully everyone reading this will as well… eventually.
And be sure to visit Kemeny Korner™ next time you’re in the area!