Archives for category: driving

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I had to stay in town last night. My youngest had a doctor’s appointment, and my oldest was working the will call booth for the Def Leppard concert at the John Paul Jones Arena.

So, younger daughter and I poked about town and then went to a movie, trying to kill time before oldest daughter’s shift was over. She was hungry, so we stopped by Mickey D’s for a few dollar menu items for her and her dad, who had called and said he was hungry as well.

Upon heading home, we were traveling up a narrow, winding portion of Route 53 that passes both Historic Michie Tavern, and Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson. The land on either side of the road between both of these attractions has a steep slope, with many large, old that fight to keep their purchase in the Virginia clay year after year.

That night there was a strange thing in the sky…most likely a drone, with flashing red & green lights, and we were sort of fixated on it. As my girls were commenting on it, and I was grumbling about having to keep my eyes on the road, I heard a very loud crash, and exclaimed to my daughters “What the f#ck was that?”

Seconds later my headlights fixed upon the scene above. A very large tree completely blocking the highway.

We stopped, and sat dumfounded for a minute or two. Then a small commercial truck lumbered up behind me, his headlights fairly blinding me, and so close that I found it hard to try and turn around.

A man in a tuxedo walked up to the tree and began taking photos. He asked if we were okay, and I asked him if he got hit. His car was the last one to make it past the fallen tree from the other direction, and he said, “Yeah, we got hit.”

I did an Austin Powers 15 point turn…this road is very narrow, and even with my small Kia, I wasn’t taking any chances. Once turned around, I stopped behind the tuxedo clad man’s car and got out to look.

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The entire back of his car was squashed…the tree had caught the very rear of his car. Talk about lucky…this guy and his wife/girlfriend/date literally escaped death by split seconds.

And then I realized…my girls and I had been pretty lucky as well. You see, leading up to this incident, there were several things that slowed us up, perhaps keeping us from meeting our demise, or bad injury resulting in our car being under that fallen tree.

  1. Stopping at McDonalds. Our total was 7.06 and it took me a ridiculous amount of time to fish out the 6 cents from my wallet.
  2. Red Lights. We hit no less than 4 on the way to my husband’s work.
  3. Hubby himself. He was slow to meet us to grab his burger, and some time talking to the girls about their night while I was like, “come on, let’s go!”

But all that was nothing compared to the last delay. Because I am sure that had this not happened, I’d be blogging from a hospital bed, or not at all, ever.

As we were approaching Michie Tavern, there was a medium sized commercial truck trying to make a U-Turn. This caused the car in front of me to stop, and for me to have to hurriedly stop as well. The car in front of me slid past the truck, and after making sure it would be safe, I crept by too.

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The next thing I know, less than a quarter mile up the road, a mere 45 seconds later, there is a tree blocking my path… the car in front of me was the last car to make it past before it fell. That’s how close we were to getting crushed. I’m fairly certain if that truck hadn’t been trying to make a U-Turn, thus slowing us up for just a moment, my girls and I may have been in a much different situation today.

The cause? We had some torrential rain that morning, which most likely caused some serious erosion. I guess that old tree just couldn’t hang on anymore.

It’s sobering. I remember looking at the fallen tree, seeing cars stopped on the other side, and thinking like that tree separated two worlds. Quite frankly, I’m amazed that nobody was hurt. I mean, tuxedo dude has some serious car damage, but that’s peanuts compared to personal injury.

Yeah, I’m feeling pretty lucky, and pretty glad to be alive today.

 

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St. Patrick’s Day 2017.

It was a cold, clear morning, and I left for work early so I could stop at the Dollar Tree to pick up some Luck o’ the Irish beads and accessories. We were having a party at work that afternoon (yes, my office is super fun), and I wanted to look festive.

My community is gated, and the gate I leave from everyday is on a hill. It’s not super-steep, but if the weather is dicey they will leave those gates open so drivers don’t have to wait for the gate to rise and possibly lose traction.

So, on this cold, crisp morning, I drove through the gate and hit my brakes as I descended down the little hill, because there was a car stopped at the intersection waiting to turn right. No extraordinary circumstances…just another morning leaving Lake Monticello.

As I pushed down on the brake pedal, the car wasn’t coming to a complete stop, and then I felt them give a little, so I pushed down even harder on the brake and then there was a whirring sound, and the car just kept rolling. I tried and tried to steer clear of the car in front of me, but there just wasn’t enough room, and I smashed into his rear bumper.

Fuck.

We pulled over, and I apologized over and over, not sure why my brakes decided not to work. It took him a good 5 minutes of digging through a pile of papers in his glove box to find his insurance info, and amidst a flurry of apologies, we exchanged info and parted ways.

The damage to both cars were mainly cosmetic, but it sucked none the less. I cautiously made my way into town and made an appointment to have my brakes checked, pronto.

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And my Kia dealership? They found NOTHING wrong with them. I asked how this could be…they had failed to work causing me to have this accident. Then they walked me through the workings of the ABS braking system.

They assumed that the ground where I attempted to apply my brakes must have been slick somehow…even though is was cold and dry that morning. When I described the accident to them, the whirring sound I heard was the ABS kicking in, causing my brakes to switch from the kind of braking that results in my car to STOPPING to the kind of braking that keeps my car from skidding.

I don’t like this system. I don’t like it because it has proven to me that when I go to STOP, my brakes might have another, brighter idea. An idea that causes me to crash into the car in front of me. An idea that causes $1500 worth of damage to my car.

ABS? I call BS.

This is a repost from 3 years ago… it’s the anniversary of when I got stuck in the snow. A horrible thing I never want to repeat.

Bad-Roads

Let me start this post by saying I like snow. I enjoy the prospect of a storm blowing in, and me all safe and snug at home, with enough bread, milk and wine. I even like to shovel, and am usually out clearing our driveway before the flakes have stopped wafting to the ground.

Wednesday I had to endure one of the most harrowing experiences of my life. Bad timing coupled with bad weather had me at the mercy of mother nature and perhaps even fate – it was 3+ hours of sheer torture.

I knew a bad storm was coming in, but it wasn’t supposed to start until the evening – 5 or 6 pm. I get out of work at 6, but there was no way I was staying that late with the forecast they were predicting. Usually you can waive a dismissive hand at our weather folk, but this was different. Even the weather channel was on board with the predictions, so I worked through lunch and left at 5.

By then the snow had just started in town. Hubby had called and said snow at home had started a half an hour earlier. I wasn’t worried…it’s only a 25 minute commute and I was confident that I could get home with no trouble. After all, the snow had just started!

There was some traffic getting out of town, which was to be expected, and before long I was on the long and winding way home. When I was around 3 miles from pulling into my driveway traffic came to a dead halt. I was right at the base of a long and fairly steep hill that I have to travel up in order to make it home. I turned on the radio and discovered that there was an accident about a mile up the road and both lanes were closed.

Now I had to make a decision…stay here and wait or turn around and find another way home. At this point reader, you need to understand something – there are only 2 or 3 ways to get to my development, buried deep in the sticks of central Virginia. Making the decision to turn around meant traveling 5-8 miles just to get to the closest cross road that I could turn onto.

But, I figured that if I waited where I was, the snow (which was getting heavier and sticking) might make getting my car up that steep hill impossible. Besides, I had no water and I knew I’d have to pee within the next hour or so. That being said, I turned my car around and made the slow drive back, all the while figuring which way I should take.

The first route I took was a huge waste of time. I didn’t get more than 1/4 mile down the road before I was told the road up ahead was closed and we all had to turn around. When I got back to the crossroads I skidded on the snow and almost crashed into another car. My heart was pounding,  my knees were shaking, and I just wanted to go home.

The next road I took taxed me to my very core. On a sunny day this road is a pain in the ass…windy as hell…the girls always get carsick on it unless I travel at 20 mph or so. But, this road is the quickest way to get to where I needed to go, so I took it.

I was only driving at around 6 mph down steep hills and twisty turns. At one point I had to drive up a fairly steep S-curve. Letting the car just roll, and barely giving it any gas, I fish-tailed my way up that hill very slowly the whole while chanting “help me God, help me God, help me God.” When I made it to the top without landing in a ditch or hitting another car, I breathed an audible sigh of relief. It was mostly down hill from here.

As I was heading down the next hill at a record speed of 4 mph, a car in the opposite direction came zipping up the road, went to make the turn and ran straight into a rather deep ditch. Although I’m sure the driver turned their wheels, the car just didn’t respond on the slick roads and just rolled right off the road. The car was now at a 30 degree angle, half of it on the road, half of it in the ditch. I thought to myself,  that person is totally fucked – and that could be me very easily if I’m not super careful.

As if just driving wasn’t tense enough, my windshield wipers decided to start icing up at this point. I had the defroster blasted so hot and hard that I was sweating bullets all bundled up in my coat, but it was no match for the weather outside. Rather than wiping the snow off my windshield, my wipers were just smearing the snow and ice – I had about a 2 inch field of semi-clear vision.

Finally I made it to the next crossroad, which thankfully had a gas station. I got out to go inside and my legs were actually wobbly. The past hour and half of driving in the snow in beyond shitty conditions had exhausted me. I went to the bathroom, bought a couple of waters, called hubby and got back in the car to make my 3rd attempt at getting home.

I began to get hopeful…If I took it slow, driving wasn’t really that bad along roads that were fairly straight. I made the turn that takes me to my development and about a mile down the road, more tail lights. Hells bells, not again. One call to hubby confirmed it. There was an accident at least 7 miles up the road – all these people were just sitting there – along 7 miles of road just waiting for it to be cleared. So, once again, I turned around.

My only option at this point was to get on the highway and head East. This would take me past my house, but bring me to a pretty major intersection where there was a hotel, a Walmart and a few fast food joints. The highway was pretty good if you went slow. I don’t think I broke the 25 mph mark, but folks in 4 wheel drive vehicles were zipping past me. I also saw at least 4 cars off the shoulder with their 4 ways blinking. Again, I thought to myself, slow and steady and super careful. I was determined not to be a VDOT statistic.

25 minutes later I made it to Zion Crossroads and  headed straight for the Best Western. In the lobby I called hubby and asked if I should just get a room. It’s stupid because I was only 15 minutes from home now (in good traveling weather) but it would probably take me at least another hour of driving to get  home and I just didn’t think I had the strength. I had left my office two and a half hours before, and had been driving in blinding snow ever since. I was done.

As luck would have it, she had one room left and I took it. But before I went up, I got back in my car and drove across the road to the Walmart where I picked up some food, a toothbrush and a night gown. By the time I got back and in my room (thanks to a ridiculously slow cashier) it was 8:30. I called my family who were relieved that I was safe for the night, but bummed that I was not home.

They weren’t the only ones. But before I went to bed that night, I took a moment to thank God for getting me somewhere safe and warm for the night. I could have easily been in my car in a ditch, spending the night rationing my water and peeing in a snow drift. I decided I was one lucky gal.

The next morning I awoke with a sense of dread. One look out the window made me realize my morning drive home wasn’t going to be fun. About a foot of snow had fallen, but on the bright side the roads I was taking home were primary roads, and had most likely been plowed. After breakfast I dug out the foot high snow drift from around my car, cleared off the ice with the side of a ball point pen, and began my drive home.

The road from the hotel to the main road was horrible, and filled me with a sense of dread. But once I reached the main road I saw blacktop and my spirits lifted. This might not be so bad.

And it wasn’t. It was slow going, that’s for sure, but the roads were drivable if you were careful. The one part of my drive I was dreading the most was getting into the gate of my development. The one closest to my house is up a pretty steep hill. There were abandoned cars piled up at the base of the gate – they obviously couldn’t get up the hill and opted to leave their cars and walk home.

I made it up the hill fine, but got stuck at the top in a huge pile of slushy snow that the plow failed to remove. Ugh. Here I was a  mile from home and I finally got stuck. But not for long. Two very nice fellas came to my rescue and helped push my car out of the slush. Hooray! I was almost home!

When I reached my house hubby was there and had shoveled out a nice spot for me at the base of the driveway. I was never so happy to pull into that narrow driveway – I’d finally made it home.

After many hugs, and a hot cup of tea I took a much needed shower, put on some sweatpants and just flopped on the couch. It had been a long night and a long morning. Even though it was only 9:30 in the morning, I felt like it should be noon.

Do you know I fell asleep before 8:00 that night? I guess my body needed the rest.

I’ve come to a conclusion…I’m never taking a chance when it comes to the weather again. If my boss doesn’t like me leaving early…fire me. I don’t ever want to go through that again. Ever. Especially since I have the capacity to work fully from home. The only task I can’t do remotely is answer the phone…but really, who’s going to be calling during a blizzard?

Nope… from now on if they’re calling for bad weather I’ll just tap my snow boots together three times and say, “There’s no place like home.”

This is going to be an odd story to tell, because while I remember certain key elements about this particular weekend, I don’t remember a lot of the connective details. Stuff like eating dinner or who I roomed with, or actually studying the Bible – these points are really nothing but shadows.

When I was in my teens a few friends of mine asked me to come to a Friday night youth group at this church that was just a few blocks from my house. We were not a religious family at all – I believed in God, but had not attended church or even read the Bible.

I will fully admit that my desire to attend this youth group was more social than spiritual. However, there were worse places a teenage girl could be spending a Friday night. And who knows? Perhaps the Holy Book might really make an impression on me.

What made an impression on me instead was this kid Jeff from Tenafly. He was ADORABLE – curly hair and a crooked smile. Uff da. While he has absolutely nothing to do with this story, I feel compelled to mention him because it was my crush on him that pretty much kept me coming back to the youth group week after week.

It’s a cringe-worthy admission.

That winter the youth group was sponsoring a Bible study weekend up in Vermont. I begged my parents to go, and I still can’t believe I was given permission, but on a cold Friday night I was picked up, put in the very back of a station wagon, and carted up to some resort in Vermont.

MEMORY #1 – The Car Ride

When I say “the back of a station wagon” do you remember the ones that had the seat that faced backwards? Yeah, that’s where they stuck me. I was bundled up for the cold, but the car had the heat blasting, and it also had roughly 7 people sitting in it. I got very hot very fast. And I was riding backwards.

I think we were somewhere in Connecticut when I threw up.

I had complained of feeling sick, so they moved me into the back seat, but it was too little too late. While I did manage to get a majority of it out the window, we still needed to stop at a gas station to a) clean me up and b) de-funk the back seat of the wagon. Shortly thereafter they stopped for dinner, where I stayed in the car both too sick and too mortified to do anything more than sleep.

MEMORY #2 – Horseback Riding

The first morning of our retreat we went horseback riding. I was thrilled to be doing this, having never been on a horse other than your average pony ride. The handlers had asked if anyone had riding experience, and my girlfriend Pam raised her hand, and also offered that she could ride an English saddle.

“Hmmm” said my brain – Pam lived in a tiny apartment with her divorced mom and older brother – where the hell did she learn how to ride an English saddle?

This would prove to be troublesome for me down the line.

The handlers let us know that the horses had to be kept in a certain order – horse A (my horse) did not like horse F (Pam’s horse), so they should be kept apart. Fine. Off we went down the trail.

All was fine n’ dandy until I heard a ruckus kicking up behind me. Pam, with her crackerjack English riding skills, was having trouble controlling her horse. It was moving out of its place in line and making its way towards me. Me, as in the gal who is currently riding the horse that hates Pam’s horse. Do you see where this is going?

Once my horse caught sight of Pam’s horse, they both started to run…slowly at first, but before long we were pretty much at a full blown gallop. Now this is where the day really got fun.

My saddle broke.

All I know is that while we were wildly galloping across the field, my body started to slide to the left. The saddle was slipping, and my whole body listed – I only had one leg over the back of the horse and I was frantically attempting to hold on to anything. We were approaching a line of fence, and I thought I was a goner. If the horse tried to jump it, I was fairly certain my head would not clear. Eating barbed wire was not part of my plans when I woke up that morning.

Thankfully one of the handlers caught up to us and was able to stop the horse. Once my feet were out of those stirrups and set firmly on the frozen ground there was no getting back on. After shooting Pam a glaring look, I marched back to the stables on foot.

MEMORY #3 – The Song

My last memory of this weekend actually isn’t a bad one at all. It was Saturday night and we were having a Bible jamboree in the big hall. There were tons of other youth groups from all around the area, and it was a huge crowd. Again, I don’t quite remember how push came to shove, but somehow my friend Carol and I volunteered to sing as part of the evening’s festivities.

The musical director suggested we sing “You Light Up My Life,” a song that was hugely popular at the time. While it was a #1 song, I didn’t know all the words, and I have to say, it made me a little nervous – could I learn them all in the span of a half an hour? We practiced a few times, and then the show began. I was scared, but I had Carol to go out there with me – a partner in crime so to speak.

Ha.

Right before it was our turn she chickened out. I was left with the decision to cut and run with her, or go out there alone and quite literally face the music. I thought of the time the musical director had spent with us rehearsing, and thought it would be a douche move to bail on him.

So I walked out there alone. Me, in my Dorothy Hamill haircut, and sensible Sears clothing. I stood on the stage next to the piano and whispered to him “it’s just me…is that okay? Are you sure I can do this?”

He nodded and smiled and began to play. I got through the song – I remember being too afraid to look out into the audience, which was, in my mind, massive – like Carnegie Hall massive. Instead I just looked at the Musical Director and plodded my way through the song. I’m pretty sure I fucked up the lyrics at one point, but it didn’t matter.

When I finished, he smiled and winked at me, and said “Great job.” And then there was the applause. I remember it being loud, and I remember that it was the only time I could look out into the very large audience. Wow. I’d done it.

When I left the stage, there were lots of pats on the back and congratulatory comments from both friends and strangers. I’ll admit, it felt awesome – I was really glad I hadn’t bailed. And Carol? She was a little envious – and perhaps a bit regretful.

Those are the three big memories from that weekend. We might have gone skiing, but I don’t really remember. I also remember I made the trip home without throwing up, which was a personal victory for me.

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This morning I was taking my usual 2.25 mile walk around my neighborhood. The street I predominantly walk on is somewhat busy, especially in the morning with folks heading to work and school buses picking up kids. So even though I am usually listening to a podcast or an audio book, I keep my eyes and ears open to what is going on around me.

I was coming up to an intersection and noticed a car was approaching but wasn’t concerned because she has a stop sign and I was pretty much already 1/3 of the way across the street. She’s rolling up, and rolling up, and her car begins to turn (towards me) and turn and she’s still coming, and I’m still walking and she’s still coming.

I pretty much had to stop dead in my tracks to avoid being hit. As I peered into her driver’s side window to be sure a zombie wasn’t behind the wheel, I see a woman, head down, fiddling with stuff in her middle console.

Her head was down. And she was making a left hand turn onto a busy street. She never even stopped.

I began to yell things like, “Hey watch it!” and  “You almost hit me!” as her car moved on down the road. I was pissed, and I felt the need to tell her so. I raised my bright green gloved hands and gave her the double middle finger.

As I began to turn back around, I noticed her put on her brakes and pull to the side. So I stopped, took off my headphones and watched as she made a U-Turn and came back my way.

She pulled up along side me, lowered her window and began to apologize. The first thing she said? “I wasn’t texting.”

Apparently she had spilled her coffee and was too preoccupied with that to notice me. Okay, I guess that can happen. We’ve all been distracted while driving from time to time, and luckily nobody got hurt. Then she volunteered the information that she was breast pumping – I am assuming it was an automated thing – but I guess she needed it to add validity to the fact that she blew through a stop sign and almost killed me.

Being a naturally forgiving person, I was telling her that all was okay when she said, “But I have to tell you, it was very inappropriate for you to give me the double finger when I have kids in the car.”

Um….what?

For a split second, I felt a pang of shame, but then my rage took over. The rest of the coversation went something like this…

ME: Are you kidding me? You almost ran me over!

IDIOTIC DRIVER: But I have a four year old and a baby in the car – that was very rude.

ME: Well gee, maybe you would’ve been happier if you had actually hit me. Then your kids wouldn’t have been subject to seeing the middle finger. Instead they’d get to see a mother of two put into an ambulance because their mom doesn’t know how to pay attention.

IDIOTIC DRIVER: Yes, I was wrong to not be looking, but you were wrong to give me the finger.

ME: I had every right to do that! YOU ALMOST HIT ME! Besides, how am I supposed to know you have kids in the car? I was too busy watching my life pass before my eyes to take note of how many passengers you had in your car and the ages of each!

IDIOTIC DRIVER: You should ALWAYS assume there are kids in the car and never gesture like that.

ME: Why would I ever assume you had kids in your car WHEN YOU ARE MAKING A LEFT HAND TURN WHILE LOOKING AT YOUR LAP? What lunatic drives like that with KIDS IN THE CAR?

Inner dialogue: Ok moron – here are a few things I can assume.

  1. I can assume that when you come to a stop sign, you are actually going to stop, especially if there is a person in front of you.
  2. I can assume that if you did spill your coffee, the responsible thing to do is to put your fucking car in park and take care of it. NOT to just keep on truckin’ while you mop up your shit.

If I can’t assume those things, I should not feel the need to assume that your precious kids are in the car. Kids that you are so fearful of maybe knowing what the middle finger means rather than a mom who drives distracted.

She was apologizing over and over, but she was asking me to do the same and I just would not. In the end I might have said something like “Fine Sorry. Whatever. Keep your eyes on the road.”

Bottom line was, she was wrong. Dead wrong. Yet somehow she was incenced that I had flipped her the bird. I’ve been in her shoes – but when I make a boneheaded driving mistake I beg forgiveness and take whatever crap the other guys throws at me. I have it coming.

Because after she almost hit me I was not going to let this lady continue on with her busy toddler toting, breast pumping day without letting her know just what I thought of her. And short of chasing her down, which I could not do, I resorted to the international sign for go fuck yourself. Sue me if you disagree, but in my book I had the absolute right.

And as I walked back home, it dawned on me that her kids couldn’t possibly have seen me flip the bird. They were driving away; the kid’s backs to me. Unless her kids are owls, or Linda Blair, there is no way they could’ve seen it. But I failed to think of it when I could have used it to shut her big trap.

And that is so Typical of me.