Slip Sliding Away
You know the nearer your destination,
the more you keep sliding away.
Ah, the wisdom of Paul Simon... Now you might think, living up in the mountains as I do, that driving in snow would be the biggest challenge. So far though, that hasn't proven true. When there's snow on Interstate 5, they shut it down - problem solved. No matter how big your plans, too bad.... just settle down and get cozy, because you're not going anywhere.
No, my most dangerous driving experiences here so far have been in the rain. Yesterday, we left the house at 8am, eager to get to Colburn Music School downtown for Grace's choir rehearsal and Charlotte's Opera workshop. Their performance is in a few weeks and with vacation next weekend for Thanksgiving, this was basically one of their last few rehearsals before the show.
Sure, it was raining when we left yesterday, but not terribly hard and I really didn't think much of it. The big winter storm warning after all, was for today, when all that rain would turn to snow and according to predictions gather by the foot outside my front door. By the time we got to the freeway, visibility had diminished substantially and the rain was coming down harder. I did think twice at that moment, having experienced some rather horrendous driving conditions in the rain before on that highway. But there we were: up, dressed, brushed and on our way. I hated to turn back.... and yet, in hindsight....
My first clue should've been that there were no big rigs on the freeway. Much as I hate riding next to those monsters, they generally know how to drive and when to avoid stupid weather situations. I say stupid, because this didn't have to be such a horrendous drive. Travel would have been reasonable, had motorists opted for reasonable speeds.
Question: Who would drive 80 mph in very low visibility, pounding rain and slick conditions?
Answer: A ridiculous number of idiots with me on the freeway yesterday!
I stayed at speeds I considered safe, generally between 40 and 50 mph, and I stayed in the slow lanes, which were eerily unoccupied by the aforementioned, worldly wise big rig truck drivers. We watched in horror (and frankly, terror) as car after car spun out. By the time we got to Castaic, I threw in the towel. We were heading toward a stretch of the 5 with far more traffic and I knew it would be next to impossible to keep a safe distance from other drivers. We stopped at a market, picked up a few groceries and headed back up the hill. Even though it was raining even harder, driving uphill seemed less dicey.
We didn't go far though before we saw it -- a multi-car pile up on the south side. The entire freeway was blocked and the back up already went on for miles. The ambulances were heading out by the time we got there and tow trucks were beginning to clear lanes, so I'm guessing it happened within minutes after we'd passed the same area. Cars were upside down, so it was clearly a horrible accident. We continued on our way, and I used the situation as an opportunity to discuss defensive driving with the girls. Charlotte is almost 12, so it won't be too long before she may find herself in similar situations. Both girls were completely flipped out anyway and discussing the small measure of control a driver can exert in such a situation seemed like a good way to calm them down. They weren't about to be easily distracted anyway.
We passed many more accidents before we got home. Local police, fire, ambulance and tow truck workers, definitely got a workout yesterday. When we got home, I collapsed in a chair, exhausted from the stress of the drive, but extremely grateful that we'd gotten home safely. And today, another decision to make. We have snow on the ground, more on the way and another full day of activities planned down south. The 5 is still open, but it probably has an inch or two of snow as well, since the snow levels for this storm were as low as 3500'. So, another question (and lyric) to ponder:
Should I stay or should I go?