Third time not so lucky

August  20, 2011

Day three of our road trip from Edmonton, Alberta, to Victoria, B.C., started out peaceful enough. Little did I know what was waiting for us at the curve of the road.

We left the Vancouver area Saturday morning and headed for the ferry terminal in Tsawwassen. The drive was uneventful, except for a slight detour into Surrey to fill up with gas. We made it to the ferry terminal before noon. Not surprisingly, the noon ferry was full when we arrived. I had anticipated our having to wait through a couple of sailings due to summer traffic. Luck was with us though, as we were amongst the first in line for the 1:00p.m. ferry.

We had limited internet access on this road trip. So I took full advantage of the free WiFi on the ferry to upload yesterday’s blog and catch up on emails. I was not finished when I heard the call for passengers to return to their vehicles. As soon as we disembarked, we headed straight for Victoria.

I was looking for a place where we could eat the lunch we had packed, and access WiFi to complete my work. Quite by accident, we stumbled onto a public library. The perfect place to rest in the sun, eat our lunches, use the Internet, and relax. We had time as my daughter’s program did not start until after supper.

At 5:00p.m., it was time to go. We headed down the highway for the last few miles of our journey. The sun was shining brightly and we were all relaxed from our easy day. My daughter was excited about what was going to happen at her program.

The road to the campus was a familiar one for me. I knew there were signs showing me where to turn. I was confident we would be at the location in plenty of time for my daughter to get settled before the program started. But the road of life always has a way of interrupting one’s plans. The curves that appear suddenly often take us in new directions.

As I negotiated the tight curves in the windy road along the south shore of Shawnigan Lake, my teens talked about the near misses we had experienced while driving along the Coquihalla Highway through the mountains. The first incident involved a semi truck straddling two lanes.

I was in the far left, the lane reserved for the faster vehicles, when I came upon the semi truck, pulling a trailer and straddling both his lane and my lane. I pumped my brakes, hoping the vehicle behind me would realize something was wrong and slow down. I moved over in my lane, straddling the lane and the shoulder. I was slowing down as quickly as I could to avoid having to squeeze between the truck and the cement wall on my left. All the while watching my rear view mirror to ensure the fast traffic behind me was not going to run me over. Fortunately, the driver of the semi truck realized his error and moved over just in time. We passed without incident.

The second incident occurred further along the highway. We were passing another semi truck when all of a sudden, the driver temporarily lost control and the truck veered into my lane. I slammed on the brakes. Without losing control, I moved over as far as I could. Once again, I was too close to the cement wall on my left. Not a place I wanted to be at highway speeds. For the second time, we were lucky. The driver regained control and I passed by him as quickly as I could. After that, I was leery about coming up beside semi trucks.

Just as we finished talking about this second near-miss, I came around a corner. As the road straightened out, the driver ahead of me put on his signal to turn left and stopped. I slowed and stopped behind him. There was only a short line of cars coming towards us. It would not be long to wait and I casually glanced in my rear view mirror. And watched in horror as a car hurtled its way towards us. I knew that we were not going to get lucky this time.

Remembering that it would be better to have a relaxed body, I forced myself not to grip the steering wheel tightly and not to brace my arms for the impact. I caught myself, and the warning of “hang on!” was replaced with “Oh, oh, oh!” I didn’t want my teens bracing themselves either. My son noticed I was looking in the rear view mirror and he knew something was up. As he turned to look behind, the car hit us. He saw his sister, who was sitting in the back seat, be thrown forward, her glasses falling off, while the sound of brakes squealing filled the air.

My car lurched forward against my best intentions, hitting the driver in front of us. Fortunately, there was enough of a gap between us that the damage to the front of my car and the rear of his was minimal. My first thought was of anger. The last thing I needed was another insurance claim. Now I would have to deal with this.

I looked behind me. The car that hit us was definitely a write-off. Its front end smashed right in. Something leaking all over the road. The driver was okay, but shaken. She felt badly and was stricken with the responsibility of what had happened.

I looked at the back of my car. The trunk was pushed up and squashed out. I could not open it. The back lights were destroyed. A side panel was torn in half by the impact. The back passenger door could not be closed. I was not sure if the car was a write-off. But I definitely knew I would not be driving it home.

Another disaster to deal with. Another chance to be grateful that my family was safe. Once again, I am reminded that the stuff we own is easily taken from us. Once again, I am given the opportunity to remember what is truly important.

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