Two Girlfriends, One Car crash, and Seven life lessons

Hi, Girlfriends.

Car crashes are NEVER good. 

Especially when your husband totals your girlfriends’ car.

I promise to tell the crash story (a.k.a. Part 2), but first, read Part 1 because it’s directly related to Part 2.

Oh, and then plan to read the finale, Part 3, to learn about John’s second cardiac event.

You’ll understand why I haven’t posted for six weeks!

March chest pain and my Girlfriend visit

It was a lovely Saturday morning on March 30th as John, and I began traipsing up Soldier Trail for a hike.  You’ll recall two months earlier we had unsuccessfully completed this trail because John had chest pain that led to his first cardiac stent.

Guess what. The chest pain happened again!

John placed a nitroglycerine tablet under his tongue- which erased the pain.

We turned around to go home, knowing a trip back to the Cardiologist was in order.  Since it was Saturday, John planned to call for an appointment on Monday. 

Coincidentally, my girlfriend Laurie was arriving in Phoenix from Wisconsin the very next day.  I planned to drive up from Tucson, pick her up at her hotel, and enjoy a girl’s road trip to the Grand Canyon.   

John assured me that he’d be fine almost pushing me out the RV door for my it’s-been-too-long-since-my-last-girlfriend-get-together-and-need-not-worry-about-John’s-health.

Northern Arizona Fun

Laurie and I reunited at her Phoenix hotel the next morning filling the parking lot with warm hugs and giggling.  I drove us north through Saguaro Cacti covered hills leading to our lunch destination “The Haunted Hamburger” in quirky Jerome, Arizona.   

Two hours later it was delightful hearing Laurie ooh and aah at the red rocks of Sedona.  Next, we passed Humphrey’s Peak in Flagstaff squinting at the bright snow cap.  Perfect timing brought us to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon just as the sun was setting.  After dinner, we retired to our hotel room for conversation and more giggles.

Girlfriends who care

I was having such fun sharing the beauty of Arizona with Laurie that I almost forgot about John’s chest pain the day before.

That night I updated Laurie with John’s health scare.  She offered huge listening ears to my babbling words.  Being able to speak of the scariness to my girlfriend seemed to loosen the grip that fears placed around my heart. 

Intoxicating vistas and dirty hiking boots   

The next day Laurie and I awoke excited to experience the Canyon on a hike.  Before heading down the South Kaibab Trail, we packed snacks into our backpacks, filled our camelbacks with water, and grabbed our hiking poles. 

Again, it was exhilarating to witness Laurie’s joy as we descended from the ridgeline taking in the dramatic panorama of this natural wonder.  Our 3.5-mile hike to our lunch spot and turnaround whetted Laurie’s appetite for the Canyon. 

Heading towards the Crash

Laurie and I had Tuesday morning to hike a bit of the South Rim, meet an adorable Sheepadoodle, and enjoy the vistas before heading back to Tucson. 

On our drive, my cell phone rang around 3 p.m., and it was John.  I began to share on speaker phone about our awesome trip when he interrupted me. 

“I’m in the Trauma Unit of Banner Hospital.  I had a car accident with Kathi’s car, and I think I totaled it.” 

I responded…. “WHAT?”

I took a sideways glance at Laurie’s stunned face which confirmed what we just heard. 

He told us what happened, but all I remember is “Big black truck,” “blind spot,” “T-Boned,” “Neck pain,” “CT Scan,” “concussion,” “no brain bleed,” “discharged today.” 

The Totaled Car

Here is a photo of what used to be Kathi’s car.

Crisis Mode kicks in

Laurie asked me “Do you want me to drive?  Do you want to pull over for a while?”  My response was no.  My M.O. is always the same when a crisis arises.  (Probably from my nurse’s training).  I stay calm, focused, and begin doing mental checklists and triage to move towards solving the problem at hand.  I’d be fine to drive. 

(Truth be told, it’s 3 or 4 days later when I fall apart.)

2nd Time to this Trauma Unit in 3 months

Laurie and I drove straight to Banner Medical Center’s Trauma Unit.  It was Deja-vu.  Just three months earlier I was with my friend Kathi (yes, whose car John crashed!) in the same Trauma Unit after her biking accident and head injury. 

Luckily John had no broken bones, a few skin lacerations, and would certainly be sore for days.  The airbags had done their job protecting (perhaps saving?) his life!

Laurie Ubered it to her hotel from the hospital as I went in to attend to John. 

How to tell Kathi?! 

Honestly, this was the most stressful situation knowing that John was responsible for destroying our friends’ car! 

Before I arrived at the Trauma Unit, John left a voice mail with Kathi for her to call him.  She had been out with friends all day, and John was also supposed to be watching her cat, Lilac.

I too called Kathi’s cell phone, but she did not answer.  I left a general “hey, as soon as you get this message give me a call.”  My memory is a bit blurred, but around 5 or 6 Kathi did call us back telling us she and her friends were heading home. 

I was so grateful that she was not alone and had her best friends with her when she got the bad news. When we got home to the RV Kathi and her friends greeted us with nothing but concern and love. 

Fast Forward

I’m going to end this story now because the next two weeks were basically full of the post-trauma stuff you must do after accidents.  There was lots of contacting insurance companies, mixed with watching John’s deep bruising appear, whispering heartfelt apologies over and over to Kathi, and hourly thanking God that John was not seriously injured or dead! 

Ending on the positive

Here are some truths that I’ve walked away with from this car crash story.  These are gifts from my two girlfriends that I’d like to share with the world.  I am forever grateful for their maturity and friendship.

  1. Being on the receiving end of Kathi’s grace was humbling.  She could have been derogatory, scolding, belittling, tossing contempt our way, slamming John’s reputation, or gossiping about us.  Instead?  Her concern ran deep and wide as she continued to check on John and saying things like “cars can be replaced, people cannot.”  Thank you, Kathi.
  2. Shared misfortune can deepen friendships.  The car accident necessitated having some conversations about health and finances that you usually don’t have with your RV’ing buddies. Kathi and I had also enriched our relationship a few months back as we processed her bike accident and some other health issues.  We have a new special bond.
  3. Humor and forgiveness are priceless.  Kathi’s first words upon hearing about the accident were “Well, I didn’t want to pay for new tires on that car anyway!”.  This comment was a balm to our devastated ears and hearts.  We kept repeating how sorry we were, and “please forgive John” for this accident.  She accepted our sorrow and replaced it with forgiveness.  One sure way to strengthen a friendship is to be supportive- even when it hurts. 
  4. Healthy communication decreases stress.  To avoid the rumor mill going amok at our RV resort, Kathi offered to communicate to our peeps through email and face to face with friends. She could have turned it into a gossip mess or worse yet, internalized her anger, frustrations, and fears and stressed her body.
  5. Authenticity trumps platitudes.  Kathi and I had to practice real-life discussions on insurance claims and legal stuff which is entirely mentally draining.  I was honored how she walked toward the dialogue, not backing down.  At times it felt like we were unwrapping trauma bandages but luckily only to reveal the healing wounds underneath.  The good news?  She got a new car in the process, and all the insurance stuff is a thing of the past.
  6. I’ve lost all faith in coincidences. Laurie’s trip to Arizona was perfectly timed and medicinal for me.  Additionally, we had my friends Beth and Randy coming the week before John’s second heart cath.  Again, the timing of these friends’ visits proved helpful in distracting our stress from the moment.   My advice to my readers is to trust your gut when spontaneous travel plans arise.  There are going to be undeniable blessings that come out of it. 
  7. Seeing gifts in painful moments.  As Laurie and I received the news about John’s accident and continued our drive towards the hospital, I glimpsed her quietly clasping her hands together and just being still.  I knew she was praying for me right at the moment.  As I witnessed this gift that only she could give it brought tears to my eyes and strength to my resolve.

Your Turn

  • Have you been in a traumatic situation like this one? Who can you identify with?  Kathi? John? Laurie? Or me?
  • Is there someone who needs your forgiveness for a mistake they made?
  • Have you been able to verbalize your fears, frustrations, failures lately? 
  • Who would you be if you took out that one stressor away that clogs your brain?
  • Who is that friend or family member who you can go to in times of stress?

Whew!  We’re not done yet, Girlfriends and Guy friends.  There is one last (I hope!) chapter to this saga. 

Click here for part 3 of John’s second cardiac procedure and how much it cost!  Plus, you’ll learn about our health sharing co-op that we are a part of. 

Click here if you haven’t read part 1; John’s first cardiac event.

Click here to read about Kathi’s traumatic bike accident.   

Click here if you need a good laugh about our dog, Penny.  She promises to write another post from a dog’s perspective of life on the road- now that Johnny is done having cardiac events.



An interview with Laura Fahrenthold- author of The Pink Steering Wheel Chronicles- plus author-signed Giveaway!

 “Laura Fahrenthold tackles grief and loss in the most American of ways, hitting the road in a camper, with two kids, a dog, and her dead husband’s ashes.  Courageous, brutally honest, and observant, “The Pink Steering Wheel Chronicles” is a classic road story of love and healing.  It’s also laugh-out-loud funny.”  Barbara Barker, Newsday

Hi, Girlfriends.

What drew me in?

It was the RV on the cover that immediately caught my attention on the Facebook post.

Bonus that it was an RV named “HaRVey The RV.” 

Once I began reading the book, I couldn’t put it down.  It helped that Laura is funny.  

Super funny.  

Even though she tells a deeply traumatic story. 

You’ll fall in love with her too.  And you’ll be surprised at her coping skills…

Another reason I was drawn to Laura is because we had something in common.  We each coped with loss by getting out of our “normal” surroundings.  Hers was death, mine was divorce. 

(Read to read my coping story.)

These three things

  1. I am delighted to share this interview with my reading audience.  AND…
  2. How cool that you have the chance to win a FREE AUTOGRAPHED COPY of “The Pink Steering Wheel Chronicles” just by subscribing to my blog! (Previous subscribers are automatically entered in the giveaway.)

3. PLUS…Laura happily agreed to meet/chat with all of us on Facebook live Monday, February 25th at 12 noon CST. Start reading, Girlfriends and Guy friends! It’s a fairly quick read, told in slice-of-life, page-turning dispatches.

The Interview

I wanted to know more about Laura, her late husband Mark, and her incredible journey.

So I asked.

Gretty:  Tell me more about yourself and your background.

Laura:  I got a lucky career break in landing a job as a crime/police beat reporter for the New York Daily News. From there, I worked at another newspaper in Sunday features and then became an editor at Woman’s World magazine, where we have 1.6 million weekly readers throughout the US and Canada.

I have interviewed more than 60,000 women over the course of my career at Woman’s World. I’m not a news junkie. More like a human-interest story junkie. That’s why I love my job so much. I get to interview and write the stories of women’s lives. We are incredibly resilient! It is that resilience that drove me through grief.

Gretty:  I loved reading the pages where you describe how you and Mark met.  Can you share a bit of your love story with my readers?   

Laura:  Let’s put it this way. I called my mother after meeting Mark in the newsroom of a new job and told her I was in love with one of my editors. She said I was crazy (in the nicest of ways.) How could that be possible? Mark and I moved in together a week later! I never believed in love at first sight, but I saw home in his eyes the second we met. We were together and married for 15 years.

Gretty:  What advice would you give to other couples who find themselves facing health concerns? Or even the death of a loved one, a divorce or a lingering personal crisis?

Laura:  I wish I had the perfect answer. No one does. Each of us has to come to our own place of acceptance in life. We can lean on friends and family. We can go to shrinks.  We could even fly the Dali Lama in to give us private meditation classes and pedicures. But at the end of the day, everything just takes time… lots of time… All I can say is be kind to yourself.

Gretty:  You begin each chapter with an excerpt from Mark’s personal journals.  How long had Mark been writing these prophetic words?  Did you read them prior to his death? 

Laura:  It’s crazy because after traveling all those miles, I found the answers at home through a lone sunflower and the discovery of his journals.

Gretty:  Since I live in an RV fulltime, I am naturally fascinated by all things RVing.  Your decision to travel the country in an old RV was impulsive and hilarious.  Can you share what ran through your mind in that decision process?  

Laura:  It was all about the price. $4,200 seemed totally worth it to ditch the tents and hit the road.  

Gretty: Your book describes your journey through grieving the death of Mark, but I know your grieving didn’t simply end when your manuscript was finished.  Describe the effect that promoting your book had on your grieving process. 

Laura:  You are the only person who has ever asked me that. It honestly often makes me feel uncomfortable like look at me, look at me. It’s not like that at all. I wished there were a book like this when Mark died. Then I could have lived vicariously through another person’s life!

My Kindle Copy of The Pink Steering Wheel Chronicles


If you have signed up for my blog, you’re already registered.

If you’re not receiving my email updates and newsy RV and Relationshippy stuff, sign up now! I promise you that I’ll never share your information with anyone else.

Deadline to sign up is 11:59 p.m. MST on Friday, February 8th, 2019.

A name will be selected by a random number generator. I’ll contact the winner by email, and they’ll have 48 hours to reply with their mailing address. If I haven’t heard from them in that time, I’ll select another name randomly, and we’ll repeat the process.

A special thanks to Laura for this interview and our future Facebook live event on February 25th. I’ll be sending a reminder on FB.

Hugs from your Unlikely RVer,


P.S. I love to hear from my readers! Just like these nuns who did a book club with Laura! Check out her FB page!

Please let me know if you’ve read Laura’s book already or if you are planning to. Can’t wait to meet up with ya’ll on Monday, February 25th for our discussion!

“Grettytheunlikelyrver is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to her site.”