After 20 years of providing New Year’s Eve revelers free rides home from the bar, A1 Recovering Towing owner Shane Swett and his partner Nicole Candelaria have some stories to tell.
“One year, we picked a kid up at the Ranger (Lounge), and took him to the Spanish Walk (Apartments) to take him home,” Candelaria said. “When he got to the Spanish Walk, he was looking around like he was in the wrong place, took a deep breath and said, ‘I moved.’”
As it turns out, the caller’s new residence was around the corner from the Ranger Lounge, she said.
“We had a girl once that kept saying, ‘You got to get me to the trailer, you got to get me to the trailer fast,’” Swett said. “I said, ‘I’m trying, but there’s speed bumps.’”
When Swett pulled up to the woman’s address, he said she jumped out, sighed and wet her pants.
“It was a near miss for the truck, but we got her home safe and she didn’t have to drive drunk,” he said.
Candelaria chimed in and said, “We’ve been lucky, though.
“And in 20 years, we’ve not had one person puke in the vehicles.”
While dealing with drunk people and their blundering mishaps isn’t most people’s idea of a good way to ring in the new year, Swett and Candelaria have spent the last two decades providing people a free ride or tow home from the bar on New Year’s Eve.
“(Candelaria’s) brother died in a drunk driving accident,” Swett explained. “So for us, doing this is of major importance.”
Dubbed the A1 Safe Ride Safe Tow Home, Swett said he uses A1 Recovery and Towing trucks to provide people who request the service a free tow and ride home in an attempt to prevent DUIs.
“Unless the kid looks 10, we don’t even ask their age,” he said. “We’d rather the 18- to 19-year-olds we know are out there drinking on New Year’s Eve give us a call and get a safe ride home instead of trying to risk it and drive.”
Candelaria said the goal of the event is to ensure Laramie law enforcement officers don’t have to issue a single DUI citation that night. Each New Year’s Day, she said she calls the Laramie Police Department to see how many they missed.
“We’ve gotten it down in recent years to between one and three, but our goal is zero,” she said. “We only reached it one year, and other years, we’ve had as many as 12, which I just don’t understand, because this is absolutely free. We’ll even come to your house and pick you up, just so you don’t have to drive.”
With help from volunteers such as off-duty Albany County Sheriff’s Office deputies and Laramie GM Auto Center drivers, Swett said they even pick up whole parties and transport them to their next destination.
“We have up to 12-15 volunteers each year, and they’ll bring vans or (SUVs),” he said. “I’ll buy them up to 20 gallons of gas for the night, so it’s truly no cost to them. And we have finger foods here (at the A1 Recovery and Towing office) and coffee to keep them awake.”
While the event’s advertised hours are 5 p.m.-3 a.m., Swett said the calls can come in much later.
“I’ve had people call me at 5:30 a.m. when I’m just getting to bed,” he said. “But I get up and go get them, because we really just want people to get home safe. This is our way of giving back.”
After 20 years of hosting the event, Swett and Candelaria said they are just getting started.
“I’ll continue to do this until the day I die,” Swett said. “Then, hopefully, my kids will continue this after. It’s just amazing to see the whole community come together for something like this. That doesn’t seem to happen much anymore.”
Call 760-1213 for more information about A1 Safe Ride Safe Tow Home on New Year’s Eve.