The Debacle On Our Christmas Trip Home
Traveling has it’s ups and downs. Mostly ups to be sure, but sometimes – and of course when you least expect it – you get thrown a curveball in the adventure that is life. As a retired school-teacher and one-half of a traveling duo, my sister Joanne and I have more time than most to explore the nooks and crannies of our wonderful world. And while it’s not a life I would give up for a truckload of greenbacks, we certainly have more opportunities for travel-related “incidents”.
Today I wanted to talk about one of these incidents that happened recently on a trip back home to Raleigh, NC, and also wanted to share some lessons learn and common-sense actions that you as readers can do ahead of time to be prepared.
Our Annual Trip Home To Raleigh
I simply love North Carolina and its many moods. It’s a land full of assorted trees, mountain-views, and seascapes, and adorable towns and people sprinkled throughout. On our annual return home to Raleigh NC for Christmas, we always try to take the back roads and byways if time allows to spice up the views from the same-ol’ boring interstate. Highway 64 is one of those relatively uncongested sections of roadway that seems to move traffic along at a steady clip while somehow managing to bring you within ear-shot of just about every little town we love in the Appalachians and foothills. It was on this last trip home that we ran into a bit of trouble.
Now I don’t know about you, but the closer I get to home, the more I want to just GET home. Traveling is what I love, but come Christmas, I just got to be next to a cracklin’ fire, knee deep in a warm spicy drink, and chatting it up with my next of kins.
When I get in one of these moods, there ain’t rain, snow, or high-water that can keep me from this vision.
Well, as far as I can tell, God in his infinite wisdom seems to have made it a point to test me in these times. It was about 5 hours into our drive, and 25 minutes out of Raleigh when the sky seemed to completely open up with a torrent of rain and sleet.
And I mean a complete deluge. To the point where I could scarcely see past my own windshield save for the faint red of brake lights up ahead.
Under normal circumstances I would have pulled our car over right there and then until the storm passed, but seeing as I had a pressing date with a cracklin’ fire, I soldiered on.
The next thing I heard before the crunching of metal and a dreadful splashing sound, was an “Oh Dear! Linda, STOP!” from Joanne.
After The Accident
I remember blacking out for a moment and when I came to, I realized that a) we had gotten into an accident, b) we we’re upright, and c) my nose hurt. I quickly surmised that my nose was hurting for the airbag deployment and we had not crashed into another car, but rather plunged into off an embankment on the right side of the road.
After wrestling myself free from an airbag and after checking on Linda, who seemed fine if not shaken up, I tried opening the door but found out that I could not, that’s when I noticed water leaking in through the door. Linda rolled down her window to take a look around and said, “We’ve got to get out of this car now. We’re in a stream or something and water is rising!”
I am no spring chicken, and neither is Linda, but I surprised myself with how quickly we were able to navigate our middle-aged bodies out of that car. Luckily for us the rain had subsided somewhat, and Linda had enough sense to grab her phone from the car.
At this point very clear that we were lucky to be alive and we needed help. My precious Volvo C30 was a complete wreck and about ½ way under water, we were in a steady rain, and shaking from cold and the rush of adrenaline. I was informed by my sister of a gash on my nose, and in turn told her she had a lump developing on her forehead, to which we both laughed.
I remembered we had a small umbrella in the front door, so I went back to the car, and surgically removed it so at least we could be somewhat dry and less miserable while we called for help.
Our first call was to the AAA service we pay for monthly, where the nice gentleman informed me after a 10-minute wait that a vehicle could be there in no less than 2 hours. He said they understood me predicament, but all their towing service personnel were tied up for the time being. I then politely told the nice gentleman to go screw himself.
Next calls were to about 5 other towing and roadside assistance services who basically told me the same darn thing.
Saved By A Towing Service
Now the very next thing that happened was like something out of a penny novel. As I hung up the phone and looked up drearily at the embankment towards the road the rain suddenly stopped altogether. Just as the clouds parted, some blue sky, and spot of sun, I saw some flickering lights, and squinting further I realized it was in fact – the yellow hazard light atop a tow truck!
Lord have mercy!
Ambling down the hill on a crooked leg, the tow truck driver / angel-from-heaven introduced himself as Tony from Straight-Away Towing Service in Raleigh NC, asked us if we were okay, and then told us we were lucky we escaped the car with only a few scrapes.
He helped us up the hill and let Linda and I sit in the warm cab while he called the police.
After that things were a bit of a blur, likely because – as we found out later – I was suffering from a minor concussion, but I do recall watching in awe as a much larger tow truck was using a crane and a winch to hoist our Volvo out of the ditch. When the car was placed by the side of the road it looked amazingly intact – a testament to the experience of these towing technicians. I can only imagine the skill in maneuvering the vehicle from the ditch 15 feet downhill to the side of the road without nary a scratch.
After a few days of recovering at home for the holidays I had time to reflect on the situation, and I’ve come away with a few lessons I will take with me through the rest of my life.
First lesson is: be prepared. If Tony’s Raleigh Towing Service hadn’t showed up I am not exactly sure what we would have done. Despite being traveling for a better part of the past year, we didn’t have an emergency roadside kit with flares. If we had flares, or a lighted orange triangle, we could have alerted authorities and passerby’s of our location to speed up our rescue. We also didn’t have a trusted towing company on call in case we needed immediate help in Raleigh. Sure we had AAA, but as I found out later, most of the companies they use are contracted out the lowest cost provider. That means you’re getting the worst service for your dollar.
Second lesson is this: take your time. It could be your hiking a trail in the mountains, or perhaps swimming in the wide ocean, or maybe your rushing home for the holidays, but take your time to fully process what is going on around you without distraction. Being so close to home, I was totally preoccupied with my plans for the next week and a half, for gifts I needed to buy, for recipes I was going to make, that I failed to process the reality that was in front of me. If I had been present more, I perhaps may have stopped on the side of the road until the storm passed. This lesson is so important – so I’ll repeat it – take your time. It makes life a much more savory adventure, and who knows – it might end up saving your life!