I like a little excitement as much as the next guy but being knocked off the highway onto the grassy median at 50 MPH, careening in the direction of opposing traffic with a head-on collision appearing more and more likely every moment… well, that’s not my kind of excitement. Yet, such was the scene yesterday as I drove my RV Charlene with PeeWee my motorcycle on back toward the parking facility where I’d planned to store them for a couple weeks while I flew to the San Francisco bay area for a visit.
Just a mile, or maybe less from AAA Storage where I was to park, with the location in view on a nearby hill top, an idiot driving a dark blue pickup truck was entering the highway from an on ramp on the right side. Like many on ramps it merges with traffic in the right lane of the highway. I was in that right lane. Everyone knows, or they’re supposed to, that drivers entering the highway need to pace themselves with the speed of traffic on the highway and yield to it as they merge into the traffic flow. The driver of the pickup had other ideas however. He tried to overtake me from behind but found out that he didn’t have enough on ramp in front of him before it ended in order to do so. Instead of backing off he accelerated and veered to the left in a vain attempt to get into my lane in front of me and when he did the rear left of his truck introduced itself rather rudely to my sweet Charlene. This caused her front right tire to blow and tie rod to snap while sending me out of control to the left. I veered across the lane of traffic on my left side and onto the grassy median separating eastbound from westbound traffic where I kept traveling to the left from the force of the impact, the lack of control from the blown tire, and the median itself which sloped downward. As I continued traveling left I came closer and closer to finding myself on the opposite side of the highway where a head-on collision with opposing traffic traveling at highway speed would have been pretty much a certainty, and perhaps a life ending one. This thought became all of a sudden crystalized in my mind. All I could do was hope that it wouldn’t turn out that way. Fortunately, it didn’t.
As I rolled forward on the grassy median the soft earth helped to slow my progress down from 50 MPH, to 45. I knew enough not to slam on the brakes or steer hard as either action might throw me into an uncontrollable slide. 45 became 40. As I applied the brakes gently I slowed from 40 to 35 and caught a break in that the median was sloped in the opposite direction on the far side. The median was like a U, or a valley where the center was the lowest point and the sides sloped up toward the pavement, the eastbound highway on one side and westbound on the other. Once I’d crossed the center point and began working my way up the opposite side toward the oncoming traffic the slope began to work in my favor predisposing my direction of travel to the right, back down toward the center of the valley and away from oncoming traffic. With a little more brake, some more distance traveled on the soft earth of the median, and some gentle nudging to the right of the steering wheel I came to rest, Charlene listing heavily to the right, things strewn all about inside her. Nothing about this was a smooth ride. I was a bit shaken, but otherwise unscathed. You can see in the photo that I wasn’t all that far from a head-on with opposing traffic. As to the other guy? He just kept right on going. F*&^ing moron!
I called 911 to report the incident and in a few minutes an officer from the Sheriff’s Dept. arrived to take my report. From there it was a whirlwind of phone calls to my roadside assistance company, insurance agent, the airline, my brother, house sitter, towing companies, repair shops and the AAA Storage where I was supposed to be parking. Not just one call to each but in most cases several and at times I was on the phone with one while another was calling me back on call waiting.
It was a mad frenzy for several hours but in the end I made a flight just a few hours later than originally planned. I got it and a connecting flight both on standby so there was no ticket change fee, which, had I delayed to the following day would have been $200. The repair shop to which I was towed agreed to let me keep my RV there until I return from my trip Xmas day and also arranged for me to gain access to pick up my rig since they would be closed. They even gave me a ride to the airport so I wouldn’t have to spring for a cab. AAA Storage volunteered to refund me in full for the parking spot I’d no longer need and my insurance company informed me they’d cover the damages except for my deductibles which I think total $150. The smoke hasn’t cleared yet completely but it seems the turmoil of the day has passed. I’m just hoping that when Charlene gets out of the truck hospital that she has no lasting damage. Sometimes when front ends are damaged they’re never quite right again and vehicles have a tendency pull to the side when driven.
It wasn’t the worst day of my life, but as I said, wasn’t my kind of excitement.