Last week I was fortunate enough to go on a trip to Northern Minnesota. A family cabin partway between Hackensack and Walker has been a yearly retreat for me every year of my life. It’s somewhat Spartan living up there, with no hot water or shower, but a wood-burning sauna and a beautiful lake more than make up for a lack of city amenities.
One of the things I most love about traveling up there is the wealth of wildlife you see every day. Deer abound, as do skunks (unfortunately), chipmunks, squirrels, bald eagles, loons, ducks, gulls and way more. I actually saw my first wild bear this year!
But it’s the deer that my story focuses on. As many of you know, deer like to come out in the twilight hours of dusk and dawn. Because of the fading light this makes them harder to see, and therefore harder to hunt. It’s a smart survival tactic, but it also makes them a hazard when driving.
Last Thursday, August 2nd, I was driving back from town. A sun shower bathed the street and surrounding tall grass with a light coat of water, and at 8pm the sun was setting but not yet below the treeline.
The fading light was in my eyes as I headed West. I put on my Wiley X Air Rage Sunglasses (which the week before I outfitted with polarized lenses instead of photochromic to help with glare when out on boats) and made my way slowly down highway 371. There was a ton of glare from the sun on the wet pavement, and it was patchy, with some areas drying in the warm sun. This inconsistency made the roads extra tough to travel along, and to make matters worse I was being tailgated by a big Ford Semi-Truck and kept having to speed up.
I know these roads well. My first experiences driving while sitting on my dad’s lap were right along this stretch of highway, and I’ve driven them on the darkest nights and foggiest mornings. I’ve dodged deer more than once here, but this year I had seen very few deer. I can’t account for this lack, so I simply must have been lucky in having few run-ins while on the road.
Or, at least, MOSTLY lucky.
It seems Thursday was my day to have a close call. I’d just come out of a small stretch of road with a slower speed limit and there was another mile or so of a no-pass zone. I sped up a bit to get the truck off my tail and my eyes were on the rear view mirror. As I turned right, which lined me up directly with the setting sun, a doe ran out from the treeline right in front of my car. The glittering sunlight made it difficult to track movement, but out of the corner of my eye I was able to make out the shape of the deer and swerve out of the way.
The deer was able to cross the road, I didn’t fly into the ditch, AND the truck driver behind me slowed down and gave me more room. Apparently he figured out I was driving a bit slower than normal because of the deer hazards.
There were two features on my Wiley X Sunglasses that saved me: the polarized lenses and the wide field-of-view. The lenses were a huge factor because a polarized lenses filters light to cut down on glare. Though it doesn’t eliminate 100% of the glare, enough is reduced to help you get a good view. As I said in my previous post about swapping out photochromic (light-adjusting) lenses for polarized, I did this because it would help me drive a jet-ski and not be blinded when cruising with my cousins on the lake. The sunglasses worked great for this as well, but I didn’t run into any dangerous situations out there. In my car it was a whole different story.
The wide field-of-view from the Air Rages was also a big factor in keeping me from hitting that deer. I saw the deer out of the corner of my eye, and because the Air Rages have a wide frame and lenses that both provide protection (they’re great motorcycle and shooting glasses as well) and help you get a great view. The lenses wrap around your eyes and don’t block off much of your view. That’s a big deal when selecting glasses for specific activities. When I’m jet-skiing (or when I was jogging after my LASIK surgery in March, which is when I got my Wiley X Air Rages to protect my then-delicate eyes) I use the facial cavity seal, but for my everyday purposes I prefer the feel of them without the strap or seal.
With a wide field-of-view and polarized lenses I had a much better chance of seeing the deer before it ran out in front of me. I missed it by mere inches, and I’m certain I would have hit it if I wasn’t wearing sunglasses.
And that’s how polarized lenses saved my life!
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