Back in 1997, my wife and I took a road trip from Southern Illinois to San Diego. With little more than gas money, a near-endless supply of Coca-Cola– thanks to my incredible luck with bottle-cap sweepstakes instant-win games; and my wife’s uncanny ability to actually read the text upside down reflected in the soda itself– and a camera we headed to “America’s Finest City,” a ballsy assertion if there ever was one.
It was a fun but frantic road trip. With a court date to release some insurance money to my wife fast approaching, we had to move quickly to get to San Diego on time. As the only licensed driver between the two of us, the driving fell to me. Luckily, I was up for it– a long drive has always been one of my favorite activities, if you can call ruthlessly commandeering a vehicle’s stereo for thousands of miles an “activity.”
On the second day of driving we traveled from Shamrock, Texas to San Diego (nearly 1,200 miles!) with only the requisite stops for fuel and Coke. Sleep? Forget about it. We arrived in San Diego almost totally broke, and in need of a place to stay before the next morning’s court session to get my wife’s check. Since rest stops had worked so well for us on previous road trips, I suggested to my wife that we “check-in” at the nearest one. As any native of Southern California probably knows, this isn’t exactly the safest thing to do. My wife’s advice was to at least head for Palm Springs, look for a rest area there, and enjoy the peace in comparison to the truly scary rest areas in San Diego.
This all sounds easy enough, right? However, when you consider that I was going on two days with no significant amount of sleep, that I was hopped up on Coca-Cola, and finding myself inside an El Nino-influenced monsoon– well, let’s just say that I was in no shape for driving whatsoever.
Both my wife and I were fading fast. I can vaguely recall asking her to talk to me to keep me awake, but realizing that she was already passed out. I watched as a trucker-album nightmare unfolded before me– white lines blurring, eyes crossing, sudden head jerks when a semi would pass– but when I finally got to the Palm Springs exit, it was closed due to the heavy rains. I knew that I would have to drive nearly an hour out of my way and re-approach from another road.
By this time, the wipers were totally ineffective. The rain was so heavy, and traffic so dense on the eight lanes that I could do nothing but soldier on as best as possible. In my memory, I can only picture the blinding gloss of high beams off the rain-slicked pavement. However, what happened next is crystal clear–
Dee Snider saved my life.
It is very strange. I looked through the windshield and no longer saw trucks, rain, or the glare of headlights. Instead, Dee Snider’s disembodied head– gigantic, actually– filled the sky, floating in the dark clouds. And then he spoke.
“Dave,” he said gently. “Dave!”
I looked up at Dee, totally accepting of the situation as if this sort of thing happened to me all the time. This was not the frightening make-up Dee Snider of Twisted Sister days, but a kinder, more compassionate Dee who authored his “Teenage Survival Guide.”
“Hi, Dee,” I said sleepily.
“You shouldn’t be driving, Dave. You need to get off the road,” he said.
“I know, Dee. I know,” I said softly, resignation in my voice.
At this point I saw Dee’s arm coming through the clouds, as long as the horizon, and pointing to my right.
“Why don’t you stay at my house, Dave?” he said; and I now noticed that he was gesturing to a beautiful, glowing mansion. I even noticed that it was on Dee Snider Avenue, located conveniently off the highway with its own private exit road.
“Thanks, Dee,” I said, with genuine gratitude.
“Anytime, Dave,” Dee said, as he vanished.
I pulled off the highway, and drove up to Dee’s house. I can still recall his circular drive, which I thoughtfully pulled to the side of before falling asleep.
When I awoke, I was surprised to find myself well off the highway, in some sort of factory parking lot, behind the building. In fact, I could not even see the highway from the car. Still a bit groggy, I checked the nearest street sign, which was Ocean something– definitely not Dee Snider Avenue!
We did end up making it to Palm Springs, and spent some additional time sleeping there before being woken up by a crazy man intent on me driving him to Yuma, Nevada. I know he was crazy, because my lame excuse that I was meeting a police officer actually convinced him to leave. The picture below is from this rest stop, taken with the knowledge that I nearly died to reach… this. Later that morning, my wife got her money, and we promptly checked into a hotel for more sleep.
To this day, I have no idea why my brain would choose Dee Snider as my personal highway savior, but I suppose you can’t question these things too closely. I find a healthy amazement at my ability to apparently drive while actively hallucinating, but its not an experience I care to have again. Since that day, I’ve been far more careful while driving, and now hope to only encounter Dee Snider on land.