Tow truck driver Troy Gerlach, 49, pulled up to a stranded sedan on Wednesday, puffed out his white-whiskered cheeks and chuckled.
“Do you see that?” he asked, grinning. “The keys are locked in. The car’s running, and it’s in reverse. That’s a good un’.”
Gerlach, a 21-year veteran at Allen’s Service and Towing on East Lexington Avenue, has seen everything from a van lodged inside a building to a pickup truck inches from entering a creek.
Every snowy day brings more tow-truck tales, and Wednesday was no exception. Early snow showers left roads particularly precarious in the morning as Gerlach transported a wrecked vehicle from Auto Mate along the Danville bypass to the lot at Allen’s.
“It’s slick out here today,” he said. “Most of the time, the roads are pretty clear by now, but not today ... This is one of the worst I’ve seen.”
With the radio rocking Aerosmith anthems and the Tazmanian Devil emblazoned on the floor mats, it’s easy to develop a sense of invincibility while riding in Gerlach’s truck.
Gerlach joked he felt like doing some doughnuts with his massive tow truck in the parking lot of Auto Mate.
But he also noted overly confident drivers in big, four-wheel-drive vehicles are the ones he finds most frequently stranded in snow and ice.
“They just think that they’ll go,” he said. “But they don’t. They slide.”
That’s when Gerlach comes to the rescue.
In his two-decade career, there’s only been one job he couldn’t pull.
In September, a van crashed through the walls of Farmers Tobacco Warehouse in Danville, and its front wheels smashed through the floor. Gerlach attempted to dislodge the van but failed. The fire department eventually had to bring in a bigger wrecker and a forklift to extricate the vehicle.
“I could move it, but I couldn’t get it out,” he said. “It makes you feel bad.”
Arriving at his first job Wednesday on Fox Harbor Drive, Gerlach found the marooned car, still on and in reverse, hanging off an icy curb. The car slid down a snow-covered, curved hill, jumped the curb and broke an axle on a front wheel.
Inconveniently, the keys were locked inside the vehicle.
Gerlach laughed off the challenge and successfully pulled the vehicle back onto the road.
“Doing a job like this, you have to love what you’re doing. You have to.”