December 7, 2013

Black ice, tractor-trailers and a guardian angel helps out

FAIRFIELD INN, Tehachapi, California - Admiral Sylvia Fox and I were breezing along in our Prius on California Highway 58, crossing through the Tehachapi Mountains on our way from Flagstaff to San Francisco, when we ran into a weather phenomenon I haven't seen in years.

A snow whiteout.

10 minutes before the whiteout
We were driving about 15 miles per hour and within a few miles of the summit in blowing snow when suddenly the tractor trailer 100 feet in front of us disappeared in the snowstorm.

Disappeared.

And when I glanced in my rear-view mirror, the tractor trailer who was tailgating us disappeared also.

We will get back to that tailgating in a minute.

In maybe 15-20 seconds, the visibility cleared slightly, then lifted more, revealing a freeway littered with cars that had probably slammed on their brakes when the visibility went to zero.

And they were on black ice.

I am sure about that black ice because as soon as I saw the cars in the ditch, cars off the side of the road, cars in the median and lots of people with totally stunned looks on their faces, I gently tapped my brakes to avoid colliding with the semi in front which was shuddering to a stop.

We did a really neat skid, but stayed straight. And I thanked all those years of skidding and sliding in upstate New York growing up.

Then I looked in the rear view mirror and saw that the semi behind me - the one tailgating, remember? - had gone into a locked-wheel skid and his trailer was starting to pass him, very slowly, but definitely swinging around.


I don't think I would have been more terrified to see a platoon of zombies from World War Z closing in.

I didn't mention this little problem to Adm. Fox who was marveling at all the people in their cars and commenting on how fast some people were still driving.

But the guardian angel who travels with me most days decided to goose the semi in front of us just enough forward  so I could give our Prius gas to keep the semi behind from turning us into a Prius pancake.

It was close, but we proceeded on the black ice, making between 5-10 mph between skids.

We got off at the Tehachapi exit just as the California Highway Patrol was closing the highway's west bound land, a sure sign that things were unraveling. Within a half-hour they closed highway completely.

And as I write this, we are ensconced in a comfortable suite at the Fairfield Inn with quite a few other pilgrims who decided that with the sun going down and snow blowing hard a warm bed and cold wine was good alternative to black ice and cars in the ditch.
Pool at the Fairfield Inn

Oh! And this Fairfield Inn has a nice Jacuzzi and swimming pool which we have already tested out.

And the wine is chilling in the ice bucket.

1 comment:

Randy Crutcher, Ed.D. said...

As they say in Battle Star Galactica, "Thank the Gods!"