Run-in with a raccoon

Usually I fly home to visit my family during the holidays, but because I’m going to be spending a few months with my parents, I decided to drive down so I could take more stuff and have my own car while I’m there. I left Seattle at about 1 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, and things went well for the first nine hours or so. There was a little bit of ice on the road outside La Grande, Oregon, but nothing too scary. I got to Boise around 10 p.m. and was feeling pretty alert, so I decided to drive a little farther.

Just outside of Glenn’s Ferry, Idaho, I saw a huge raccoon in the road. I swerved to go behind it, but the critter turned around and ran right in front of my car. THUNK! THUNKETY THUNK THUNK! I felt bad for the poor little guy, but I didn’t stop. A few miles later, my car started making weird rattling noises, so I took a nearby exit to check out the damage. As soon as I got to the stop sign, my car died and wouldn’t start again.

I got out and saw fluid pouring out from under the front of my car. When I looked under the front of my car, I saw a little bit of fur stuck to my bumper, some bumper damage, and some bent metal. I also saw that my exhaust system was hanging down. Who would have thought a raccoon could do so much damage?

I called Meg to ask what she thought I should do, and she suggested that I call AAA and get an emergency tow. They signed me up for coverage and took me to Glenn’s Ferry. There were two motels there, one of which was open, so I stayed the night and got up early to survey the damage. The AAA guy had dropped my car off at Main Street Garage, so I had the owner, Jimmy, take a look at my car. One look was enough for him to decide he wasn’t equipped to handle the damage. I called my insurance company, Pemco, and they said I needed to have my car towed to a body shop in Boise.

Boise! I had wanted to get about an hour past Boise the night before. Apparently it was not to be. The tow truck got me to Boise at about 1 in the afternoon and took my car to Parks Royal Body Works. The owner, Matt, took the front of my car apart and told me the compressor for the air conditioning unit, the radiator, the bumper, and the metal parts holding the radiator in place all needed to be replaced. He was super nice, doing all the negotiating with Pemco, getting parts overnighted from Portland, putting his guys to work on my car right away. I was hopeful that I’d be on my way by Friday evening.

Well, Friday evening came and Matt had some bad news: They fixed everything they thought needed repair and then tried to start my car. Nothing. They pulled out a spark plug and looked underneath and saw fluid where there shouldn’t be fluid. Matt said that indicated that the head gasket had gotten overheated and warped, letting radiator fluid into the engine. He had the car towed to the Honda dealership to have work done that his shop couldn’t handle.

So I’m sitting here at Cabana Inn (very cheap downtown Boise motel) on Saturday morning waiting for word from Honda on some kind of timeline for repairs. I had expected to be home by now, getting ready for Christmas cheer with my family. Meanwhile, it has snowed a couple of inches here in Boise, and a quick look at Idaho’s DOT website shows that roads are icy all the way to Utah. NOAA has a winter weather alert on all the roads I would be driving on to get home. I’m really hoping that being home for Christmas won’t only be in my dreams.

p.s. Some facts on raccoons: National Geographic claims that North American raccoons only get to about 23 pounds at most, but I swear the one I hit was way bigger than that. People in Chicago claim they’ve seen huge raccoons that have bent steel window bars to get into houses, and a woman in Pennsylvania had a pet raccoon that weighed 75 pounds. So obviously coons can get bigger than NatGeo says. The one I hit wasn’t 75 pounds, but I’d be willing to bet that it was more than 30. National Geographic also says the critters hibernate during the winter. I wish. I don’t know if coonskin caps are fashionable in Idaho, but there should be a good-sized pelt by the road near Glenn’s Ferry if anyone wants it.

2 Responses to “Run-in with a raccoon”


  • maren, I love your story! So sad to hear about you still being in Idaho, but thanks for taking time out to share this. I had no idea that racoons could do so much damage! I hope you make it home for Christmas and have an uneventful trip the rest of the way!

  • I’m glad you’re in AZ at least for Christmas and spending time w/your family. I hope all goes well with the rest of the repairs w/the dealership (and insurance), so that you can go back and get your car as planned (with NOTHING EVENTFUL ON THE WAY!)

    On a side-note, it’s worth clicking “Parks Royal Body Works” link (with your sound on)… I laughed so hard. Not sure if that’s what they were going for… Glad they were so nice and helpful for you though.

    I agree w/Trina… I liked your story though. I’ve always liked how you write (and tell stories in general.) 🙂

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