Saturday, September 15, 2007
Road Trip: The End
Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Crash!
We ended with a bang. Then a whimper.
First off, we are all OK, no one was hurt, except the car.
We started out from Iowa into Illinois a little after nine. It was another long day of driving, we just pushed through, listening to our book on CD, Fernanda driving first, through Illinois (turns out we probably would have found OK and reasonably priced motels, oh well), Indiana (we lost another hour entering the Eastern Time Zone, not that they bothered to mark it), switching in Indiana, and through Ohio before switching back with me; she did over 1000 km today! We had quick sandwiches when we switched, otherwise just snacked in the car. Ohio is an anomaly: it seems like it should be way further west with its lack of gas stations and little back-water towns. That it is practically on the East Coast is hard to believe. I thought for sure we'd get some free wifi at the rest area, but even the one with a Panera only had some crappy AT&T pay per use wifi. Pfft!
Leaving Ohio behind us, we entered Pennsylvania. Our estimates had us getting home around 11:30 or midnight, but the Pennsylvania Turnpike sucks, it's small and narrow, and only has a maximum speed of 65. Just past Pittsburgh, we stopped at a Wendy's for the first time this trip; by the time we got through the drive-through, we may as well have gone inside. We switched again so I was driving. We were pushing on for home (my parents' home that is, where we started from). It was raining on and off, the PA Turnpike is a crappy little narrow road, and they have the audacity to charge you for it.
Then, just after 10:30, just outside Harrisburg, just before we would have gotten off the Turnpike, after around 775 miles safely behind us for the day, a car just in front of me started hydroplaning and lost control, first swerving to the right, and then veering out perpendicularly right in front of me. There was nothing I could do, nowhere to go (concrete barrier on the left and right), and no way to stop in time. You brace with that helpless sick feeling that you know you are going to crash, and then...
Pow! Everything goes white and silent, like a cut in a movie. Then suddenly it comes back, there's a ringing, and slowly the sound comes back up. Both airbags had gone off, we both had the wind knocked out of us, and are now sitting in a stopped, wrecked car on the left lane of the Turnpike. The book on tape continues to play. I'm vaguely aware of people shouting from the other car, getting out. My door is bent, doesn't open all the way. But my side is the better side to get out of because at least you won't be stepping into oncoming traffic. There is of course the imminent danger of someone running into the car. I turn off the motor, force the door open, crawl out. Fernanda crawls out behind me. Traffic is stopped behind me for the moment, so Fernanda grabs a couple sweaters, I take the camera and take a couple pictures. We then go to the side of the road. It is narrow. It is raining. The two other people from the other car have gotten out, they are both OK, they have called 911.
We are all in various states of shock, breaking down suddenly as the adrenaline and shock hit us. Various people drive by, stop, asking if we are OK, offering to call 911. Some of them stop in very bad places, blocking off the only open lane slightly behind the two wrecked vehicles, just asking for someone to crash into them.
We wait in the rain at the side of the road (we can't even duck under the bridge right by us because it is so narrow it has no shoulder whatsoever). We wait nearly 40 minutes before anyone shows up, and even longer for the police. We are all in fear that someone else will crash into the wrecked cars, and that the amateur efforts by other motorists at traffic warning are more dangerous than nothing at all. When the #@$! are the cops going to get here?!
Every other day I've had doings with the police now, since California. I will only say that the PA police do not compare favorably, and that's all that I have to say about that, for now.
Eventually after the cars have been loaded up and all the paperwork taken care of, the highway people take us and the cars to a motel. The Budget roadside assistance has proven totally worthless yet again -- I called twice, first they connected me to the police (who put me on hold) even though we'd already contacted the police, then a real anal guy was telling me about the importance of keeping my rental contract and getting a copy of the police report, when what I needed from him was to know if Budget could get a replacement car out to me tonight or if we'd have to wait till tomorrow, which would mean having to stay at a hotel; he told me the local Budget office was closed (and this wasn't even true -- this was at 11:30, and they didn't close till midnight!)!
The motel, a Days Inn, was the flea-baggiest we've stayed at so far, the place in Prescott, AZ above the tattoo parlor included. We were sore, wet, shaken, and I felt particularly abused by my treatment from certain of our public servants. The highway people were real helpful however, they drove the truck with our wrecked car right up to our motel room, and we spent like half an hour emptying the car out before he could finally drive the car away to where ever it is they take them.
Next morning we called Budget bright and early, they had to first find the car and confirm our story, but then we went out to the Harrisburg Airport location and got a replacement car (same car but with shiny chrome and spoiler and an over-powered engine and speakers), drove it back to the motel, loaded it up with all our stuff, and I slowly drove the remaining 70 or so miles home. It was a beautiful day to drive through Amish country, but it was kind of wasted on us.
And so. We spent the night at my parents' place, drove early the next morning to return the car (I got horribly lost in Delaware getting to the agency), and then in the afternoon drove back to NJ with our car, Fernanda driving. So here we are, almost unpacked, still hurting and sore around our chests and necks.
Our New Bathroom Saga
Road Trip South
Our Trip to Ireland
Google Map of our Trip
Road Trip, Day 27
Road Trip, Day 26
Road Trip, Day 25
Road Trip, Day 24
Road Trip, Day 23
Road Trip, Day 22
Road Trip, Day 21
Road Trip, Day 20
Road Trip, Day 19
Road Trip, Day 18
Road Trip, Day 17
Road Trip, Day 16
Road Trip, Day 15
Road Trip, Day 14
Road Trip, Day 13
Road Trip, Day 12
Road Trip, Day 11
Road Trip, Day 10
Road Trip, Day 9
Road Trip, Day 8
Road Trip, Day 7