Florida Trip, Part II - forget the alligators, it is Mother Nature you need to watch out for…
Oh yeah, and tires laying in the middle of the highway too.
Heuer and I just got back from a trip to Florida, and after two freakish (one almost deadly) experiences, I have to tell you….I am happy to be home – in one piece, with all of my body parts.
The first little ditty happened this past Friday night. Heuer and I were driving to the BlogOrlando after party with our buddy Jake McKee right behind us, when a huge thunderstorm unleashed on us.
I was marveling at the size of the rain drops hitting the windshield when a flash of light bounced off the ground to the right of us, seemingly less than 10 feet away. A massive rumble followed, shaking the car and our bodies alike. Holy crap. That felt close. And I guess close it was, as just then Heuer’s cell phone rings and it is Jake, wondering if we were all still alive (himself included)? Craziness.
Never been that close to lightning before, and let’s just say I don’t ever want to be again. Retelling the story at the bar, I learn Orlando is known as the 'lightning capital of the world'. Sure, now, they tell me.
Fast forward to Sunday - Heuer and I hit the turnpike and headed to Miami to love on gramps a bit since ‘we were in the neighborhood’ (albeit, a neighborhood 3 hours away). We had a wonderful afternoon with him and even got a chance to capture a bit of his life history on video (coming soon), which is something we have been talking about for a while (and something we need to do a lot more of).
After dinner, Heuer and I jumped back in the car and headed North to hang with Beck for the night. Rain had been coming down most of the day so the roads were slick, visibility sucked, and I was surrounded by Miami drivers who tend to tailgate (and hit their brakes for no reason) more than any other city I have driven in. Needless to say, the road conditions were a bit tough.
I had managed to put some distance between us and a pack of cars (which will end up being the thing that saves us)…when it happened. We were getting close to Beck’s exit, so I started to move into the far right lane – focusing my attention beside and behind us making sure I had a clear path - when Heuer noticed the tire on the road. And I was steering us directly into it.
I overreacted, turning the wheel too fast to the left, especially at 65mph. This might have been ok on dry ground, but on a slick roadway it caused the car to fishtail while sliding us two lanes to the left, towards the guardrail. Thoughts of the cars behind us, striking us one after the other, ran through my head for a second or two - at the same time, I find myself in high school auto shop and my teacher explaining the process of turning the wheel towards the tail to recover. God. Felt like I lived a lifetime in that first 3-4 seconds.
Following both the teacher in my head, and Heuer (who is amazingly calm, talking me through the slide), I tried to correct the steering which then sent us skidding four lanes to the right. The next thing I know, we are in the far right lane, sliding backwards and facing the cars that were once behind us. I turn the wheel to the right - trying to get us forward again. The car reacts, but it seems the engine has stalled during the fishtail so I don’t have much control. We slide across four lanes again, ending up a mere foot away from the guardrail. Fuck me. The car has finally come to a stop and I am acutely aware of the cars coming up behind us. I can’t imagine what our little ‘freeway dance’ must have looked like. I know what it felt like, but to see us skidding left two lanes – then right four lanes – then backwards – then left four lanes again, must have been quite the show.
They cars behind us had all slowed to a crawl, not wanting to pass us, and were now almost at a complete stop - waiting for us to do something. So something I did. I turned the engine on and drove us to Beck’s exit (less than a mile), and got off that fucking freeway.
I know I said it already, but fuck me.
I had put my husband’s life in danger. We could have been seriously injured. We could have been killed. I was driving faster than I should have been. I was not completely aware of our surroundings. I did not operate the vehicle well.
How we avoided to hit the guardrail the first time, I don’t know. Missing it a second time is just pure friggin luck. Add in the fact that we were not hit by a single car (and there was 20+ around/behind us), and there is no doubt in my mind there is a guardian angel looking after both of us.
To that guardian angel, I wish to say ‘thank you’. Thank you for watching over my family. Thank you for protecting Heuer. Thank you for protecting me.
Photo by Dark Matter