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  • Writer's pictureGeoff

A Brush With Death: Merlot Embargo's Origin Story

There's a little town on I-10 just west of San Antonio called Kerrville. It's where Scarlet and I cheated death.

We were about 20 hours into our 24-hour drive from LA to Corpus Christi, TX. It was noon-ish, as I recall, and I remember being pretty alert considering we'd driven straight through the night. As we were driving the speed limit, 80mph, (130kph) I reached down to change the radio. When I looked up, I realized the car had drifted from the lane slightly, so I made what I meant to be a slight steering correction to bring us back into the lane. The next thing I knew, I'd overcorrected, and our Toyota Yaris was careening off the right side of the highway, speeding through the shoulder, and down the grassy, tree-lined embankment.

We were traveling far too fast for brakes to do much, and a sudden steering move could have flipped or spun the car. Even so, the car flipped onto its side anyway, thanks to the hilly terrain, and quickly the passenger side windshield, hood, door, and front quarter panel were crushed. Right where Scarlet was buckled into the seat. Our long slide took probably a hundred feet to come to an end, and this gradual slowing was probably one of the saving graces of the wreck. Miraculously, we missed striking any of the large trees directly.

The car finally came to rest when a smaller tree brought us to a slightly abrupt end, but by that point, we were moving slowly enough that it wasn't a major impact. As we sat/hung in our sideways car, we took in what had just happened, and realized that, despite the crushed windshield just inches from Scarlet's face, we'd both somehow avoided at least major bloodshed. We freed ourselves from our seat belts and crawled towards the rear of the car, escaping through the now-missing rear window. This beautiful, wonderful Yaris' crashworthiness had just saved our lives.

Our metal and plastic savior

Standing beside our car, we immediately examined ourselves a little more closely, as did some good Samaritans who'd seen the crash and stopped to help. Scarlet seemingly only had some small superficial gashes on her hand and head. Although we saw no obvious serious injuries, we thought it wise to take the ambulance to the hospital for further examination anyway. Hours later, after receiving a relatively clean bill of health, many pronouncements of "you guys are incredibly lucky" from the doctors and nurses, and a prescription for some pain relievers, we were discharged, and a police officer gave us a ride to Wal-Mart, where we picked up our prescription. There we also met Scarlet's family, who at that point, had finished the drive up from Corpus Christi to rescue us.

We'd miraculously walked away from this crash with only minor injuries. Emotionally we were a bit frazzled, though. Over the next few days and weeks we, and especially Scarlet, reflected on life, what this crash meant, and what was important to her and us. She began to ask herself the question, "if we'd have died, what would I regret in my life?"

The answer came as clearly as the question: She'd never seriously pursued her own music.

We'd both been a part of many side projects, holiday cover recording projects, church bands, and other musical groups over the years, but never really tried recording and releasing songs that we'd written. Never started our own band. Always bridesmaids, but never the bride.

And it really was as simple as that. Though it took us a couple of years to figure out the logistics, Merlot Embargo was born that day, on I-10, in Kerrville, Texas. Out of the shattered remains of a dependable old car.

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