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Archive for the ‘Crashes’ Category

Correction

Several people have expressed concern about the van rolling during the accident. It didn’t. I was trying to explain how the whole thing went from my perspective, how in my head I was fully expecting the van to roll, so much so that I was already preparing for it, but I wasn’t explicit enough about how the van hadn’t actually rolled. To me it seems miraculous, but C says that given the weight distribution in the van, it’s not surprising at all.

I fixed the story so it should be more clear now.

I still keep thinking about how lucky we were that we slid directly onto the shoulder instead of stopping in the right lane, directly in front of the pickup and semi. I’m getting over it — it’s not in my head all the time — but I’d really like this memory to fade soon.

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Deer.

I had just taken the wheel at about 4:30 am, maybe 5. Charles had been driving but was getting a little sleepy, so I was going to drive while he took a little 20-minute nap to refresh himself till the sun came up. We got back on Interstate 80 with a pickup in front of and a semi behind us. The pickup was just under the limit so I passed in the left lane, and if I’d been looking in front rather than in my rearview as I was getting back in the right lane, I’d’ve seen the deer just a quarter-second sooner…not that it would have mattered.

I saw it just as Charles shouted; took in the adolescent size, the lack of antlers, the direction of motion. Horror filled me as I stood on the brake, every cell in my body screaming denial of the impending impact I could not avoid; it sent us just enough to the left to begin a skid. My hands reacted on the steering wheel before I consciously knew what was happening, trying to hold it straight against the pull (I realized I was screaming) — but seeing that the van was about to go into the median, instinct took over: cars must stay on the road! I over-corrected just slightly and the van suddenly magnified the turn a hundredfold, pulling hard to the right. Still screaming, harder now, in my mind I saw the world turning upside down, felt and heard the ground on the top of the van above our heads, wondered how badly we’d be hurt…but the van stayed upright. My hands continued to straighten the wheel as my eyes and body fed reality into my brain, bringing the van almost to a stop right on the shoulder of the road, facing the wrong direction. We were not quite on the shoulder; I let my foot off the brake to get the rear of the van out of the lane — and jumped as the pickup and semi shrieked past us, missing us by mere feet.

I was no longer screaming, but still crying out in horror and absolute terror, a part of me still rejecting the possibility of what had just happened and what had almost happened. Charles’s arms were around me the best he could reach, pulling me toward him. He reached over and turned off the engine. One of us, maybe both of us, pressed the button to turn on the hazards. We sat close together for a moment, Charles repeating that it was over, that we were okay. But I was agitated, twitchy, my mind churning with what should be done now. I pulled away and tried to open my door, thinking of the deer, the van, as if I could do anything to help either one; but Charles pulled me back, took my face in his hands, forcing me to look at him. “Say it! ‘We’re okay’!”

I located the words deep within me. “We’re okay,” I said, so that he would let me go and I could go do…what? I didn’t reach for the door again. He pulled me to him across the armrests and the gap between the seats, and we sat together for a moment, quieting. I began to grasp that the immediate danger had passed. We were okay. We were not hurt. At 75 mph (that’s the interstate speed limit in Nebraska, a speed I will never go at night ever again), the deer had to be dead, but it was quick. There was nothing to be done for it. There was nothing that had to be done right now for the van, or for us, except we should take a few moments to calm down.

I don’t remember many specifics after that — really after the pickup and semi passed us, very obviously going the opposite direction, most of it is blurry. He waited for no traffic coming and tried to get out the passenger side to look at the damage, but the door would open only enough to get an arm out.

That was our first indication of the damage done to the van.

Then we saw the smoke rising up from…where? I assumed at the time it was the engine, because I’ve never seen anything but the engine smoke on a vehicle, but now I’m sure it was the tires (and possibly the brakes?). The engine wouldn’t have been doing any more work than usual, but the tires laid down a fair amount of tread. The smoke did stop eventually, and I never noticed a smell, but then I wasn’t trying to.

We called 911 to get a sheriff out to us (trying to figure out how to tell them where we were — GPS coordinates were not useful to them), and waited on hold for freaking ever with Verizon’s roadside assistance, finally giving up. We looked at the damage, took pictures. With us in the car — the bugs were overwhelming so he let us sit in his car — the sheriff backed up along the shoulder to measure the distance from the mile marker to the site of the accident, which is when I noticed the track of the poor deer’s body from the shoulder far into the (blessedly un-mowed) grass. The sheriff got out and confirmed that the deer was dead (he’d’ve put it out of its misery if it wasn’t), though it took him a minute or two to find it in the grass. Neither of us went to look.

The body shop that the tow truck took us to got a radiator, fan, blinker, and headlight from a Town & Country in the salvage yard down the street from them, and informed us that it could be today or it might be Monday when they’d have it done. At around 2:30 pm, they called to let us know that the van has been repaired enough to get us home (they’ve been working overtime on Saturdays to begin with, but they still put us ahead of local customers to get us back on the road — we are very grateful). They even pounded out the major dents in the body, and the passenger door seems to move just fine. We’re resting up tonight, and we’ll head home tomorrow morning, driving considerably under the 75-mph speed limit, watching carefully for deer. Barring any further incidents, we should be home in the evening.

I feel terrible about it. There was nothing we could have done, with the knowledge we had, to avoid the accident, except possibly going under the speed limit (many, many vehicles in Nebraska go 5 or 10 under the limit on the Interstates). But I didn’t know what a vehicle that hit a deer might do — call me stupid, but it never occurred to me that it might send the vehicle into skids like that. And they tell you in driver’s ed not to overdrive your headlights, but then you go and drive the Interstates for 13 years without hitting any animals, and you forget.

It’s unlikely that you’ll hit an animal at any given time, or even on any given trip. But when you add up all your highway miles, it’s pretty much bound to happen sometime. I look at unlikely incidents like that after they happen (odds are it would happen to somebody…) but I should look at it like that before they happen, so that I’ll take precautions like an intelligent adult.

We have both agreed that, for our next vacation, we’re going to fly somewhere and stay there for the whole trip. No driving.

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Death machines and bicycles

Today was the second time a driver looked RIGHT FREAKING THROUGH ME and did not see me. She HAD to have looked through me, because the car that was passing me passed her when I was just going into the “intersection” (it would be an intersection if it were a street). It was on Devonshire at the westmost entrance to the bank parking lot (not the entrance you take to get to Spherion most directly, the other one). She didn’t stop at the stop sign, just kept right on going into my path, and if she hadn’t been cutting the corner short, she would have sent my bike flying and me tumbling over her hood at the speed she was going. As it was I’m pretty sure she bumped one of my stays (no damage as far as I can see), and I hope she has a little dot of silver on her expensive black car to remind her to look where she’s fucking going. She’s lucky I didn’t start pounding on her car, which occurred to me, but I didn’t think I had balance to spare. Probably better that way; she might have startled and lost her grip on the steering wheel.

It was dusk, about 4:45, so I had my 30 white Christmas LEDs blinking on my silver bike, my headlight on, and (not that she could have seen it but) my rear blinky dancing merrily. I’m gonna start wrapping my torso in five or six strings of Christmas lights, I swear.

Given that the first time somebody looked right through me was in broad freaking daylight, when I was in the middle of the lane, sitting up as straight as I could, with my left arm outstretched in a signal for the left-hand turn I was planning on making, maybe my paranoia about not being seen is understandable.

If this keeps up I may have to name this blog “Evolution of a car-hater”.

The thing that pisses me off the most is not that she could have seriously injured me, because yeah she could have but so could every driver who doesn’t give me six feet of space on an icy road (I’m unhappy about that, sure, but I’m used to it). What pisses me off is that she kind of slowed down — I saw brake lights — but she didn’t stop. I did…she didn’t. Granted, my shrieks of “Hey! HEY! WHAT THE FUCK!” (I couldn’t think of anything else) while she was NOT STOPPING as she drove into my path probably didn’t encourage her to do so, but that’s not an excuse for not stopping to make sure that the cyclist you just ran into traffic is okay.

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First Crash

…and hopefully the last (yeah right). Note to self: even if you think it’s water, act like it’s ice. Don’t try and turn on it.

It was very strange, though — now I know what they mean when they say “one minute I was riding along, the next I was on the ground.”

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