Random ramblings of a mind damaged by years of disuse and abuse. Also a place to go to be bored to tears.
The Random Comic Strip
Words to live by...
"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."
(The right to looseness has been officially given)
"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."
Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.
Friday, November 5, 2010
Maybe next time...
A sensation of floating, helpless, the world spinning around me. A second or two, maybe three, of abject fear. Certainly, a few seconds of the knowledge that I had no control over my fate.
Ever had a premonition? A sense that something good or bad, usually the latter, was going to happen? I have these fairly often. And, yes, most of the time they never come true. And so I just ignore them. As I am sure most of you do. It's the rational thing, after all.
I left the house yesterday morning for a run to Sam's Club. We do not have one in Sebring, so I must travel either to Lakeland or to Bradenton. Bradenton is actually a few miles farther away but it takes less time to get there so it is my usual destination. It's almost a straight shot, only a few lights, most of them in, or near, Bradenton. A pleasant ride through farm and ranch land along a couple of two lane state highways. Traffic is always light to almost non-existent, the trip uneventful.
And it was. On the way out.
I had had one of those premonitions, so easily dismissed, because traveling on a two lane highway is seemingly more dangerous than a jaunt along a freeway. There is no median, no concrete barriers between you an any oncoming traffic. To pass a slower moving vehicle, you have to venture out only when any oncoming vehicle is far enough away to pose no real threat. I am adept at this, having grown up driving on two lane highways.
After spending too much money, I left the store to find it raining. Grumbling, I braved the rain to load up the car and headed back to Sebring. The rain persisted for 30 miles. Still, I moved along ok. Traveling at the speed limit of 60 MPH without a problem, finding even less traffic than the trip out.
And then it happened. I was hydroplaning and didn't know it. I saw a puddle ahead and moved to avoid catching it with my left wheels. It was like floating, I crossed the line into the oncoming lane and I suppose my wheels caught some dry pavement and I found myself coming back into my own lane but at a bad angle. I know enough to turn the wheel in the direction of a skid and did so. It didn't matter, the tires had no traction, not the back, not the front. I may as well have been on a frozen lake. The scenery spun by. I was sliding sideways now, the car perpendicular to the highway. A moment of panic hit me. I expected the left side tires to find dry enough pavement to grab and flip the car. But they didn't. Instead, the rear of the car continued to slew around until I was now facing the direction I was coming from and still moving seemingly as fast as I had been before this nightmare began. I slid off the road onto the shoulder, still hurtling backwards. I watched the fence of someone's ranch speeding past on my left. I was slowing but it didn't feel that way. I had no idea what was behind me.
I used the wheel to steer as if it was a rudder but I suspect I was fooling myself. I had no real control, my fate was completely out of my hands. The back of the car suddenly raised and the car bumped up onto the cemented section of a driveway and came to a stop. There I sat, across someone's driveway, in a state of semi-shock. The car's engine had shut off. The radio was still playing. I was surprisingly calm; thinking... I am stuck out here, great!
I re-started the engine, not expecting it to work but it did. I left it in Park and got out to inspect the damage. I found none. No scratches, no dents, tires still holding air, the engine sounded fine. Getting back in, I pulled the car into the driveway to find a place to turn around. And then pulled back out onto the highway.
No cars passed, in either direction, while I had sat there. There had been no cars visible anywhere near when the slide had started. No one else had been in danger.
Everything seemed fine, like it had never happened. I was hyper-sensitive to the handling but it seemed ok. Everything went well for 5 miles and then the tire sensor light came on. I was now 25 miles from anything remotely resembling a town. I continued on. And on. Handling didn't get worse for some time. I was within 6 miles when the pull to the left became noticeable. But I had no place to pull over. No safe place to change a tire. So I continued on.
After what seemed like forever, I came to the town of Zolpho Springs. I pulled into a BP station and near the air and vacuum machine. Getting out, I found the left front tire was completely flat. It must have been that way for close to a mile. I was surprised that it hadn't tore itself apart.
I have one of those little donut tire spares. I got it and the jack out of the trunk, jacked up the car and proceeded to change out the flat. As luck would have it, the spare was flat (who checks these things?). I got some quarters from the station so I could pump it up, hoping that it would hold air. I noticed the right front was also very low but not flat. Great! I thought. I am going to have to call for a tow if this one is no good either.
Because nothing ever goes right, as I filled the spare, the rain began. I got soaked and eventually had to retreat to shelter. While I waited for the rain to ease up, I called Faye to let her know I would be late getting back and that I had a flat. I pumped up the right front tire once the rain eased. It seemed to hold but I wouldn't know until I was back on the road.
My luck held and I traveled at a safe speed of 49 MPH the rest of the way home. Today, I replaced all four tires. Had I done that a few weeks ago, I might not have hydroplaned, I might not have slid though that ditch on the shoulder, I might have a few less gray hairs today.