Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride

I spent a wonderful 2+ weeks in Texas staying in friends’ driveways. It was great to have minimum travel and maximum time with my people! Today is travel day and travel days are generally “work” days – hitch up, get the Airstream ready for travel, wash dishes, get water, dump tanks, all the fun of travel trailer life 🙂 Then I drive and maybe there will be some interesting scenery, quick stops for gas, but “keep moving” is my motto. I’m on my way to Florida in time for a weekend Gator game, so let’s go!

On my way to Houston, I saw an eagle. Totally random sighting – large bird circling near the road; really large bird. Then the white head and white tail feathers came into view and wide wingspan. Wow!!  I figured – it will bring me luck today.

As I hit eastern Texas, the weather got bad – rain, fast moving clouds, and then I spied…a tornado! It was in the distance off to my left as I drove on I-10. I kinda freaked out! What do I do if it comes my way? Can I outrun it? Are people getting off the road? Luckily, though it was fully formed, it was small and within a few minutes was gone. Apparently, it was a dipper.

Ok. Now the rain is getting really bad. I have a radar app that constantly refreshes so I see real time radar where I am. I need to get off the road and wait this out. So I did. I got on a frontage road that had a wide shoulder and sat with hazard lights on. Other people did the same. In 10 minutes or so, the rain had lifted considerably. Whew. Back on the road.

I-10 in East Texas is really crappy. There’s construction going on, but meanwhile the road condition is pretty bumpy. Consequently, there was water on the road and I felt a second of hydroplaning, so I backed off my speed. A few miles later the road had a construction wall on the left and a pick up truck ahead of me in the left lane (I was in the far right lane), hydroplaned right into that wall. It then proceeded to bounce off the wall, spin sideways and the force of the bounce spun it backwards into the right lane, my lane. A pick up truck directly in front of me was hit on the driver side and the force pushed that truck right off the road into the right-side ditch. The first truck then spun full around from the force of hitting the second truck, and then it came to rest in the middle lane. By the grace of that eagle, my lane was clear.

I had slammed on my breaks, and luckily, I was going considerably slower than these trucks. Fortunately, no one rear-ended the Airstream. It was a slow motion metal ballet. I don’t remember hearing the noise of the crashes. As I slowly dove through the area, I pulled onto the shoulder. I could see the traffic behind me had slowed and stopped, while first truck made its way to the shoulder. The truck that went into the ditch had driven out and onto a frontage road. Seeing that both drivers were mobile and out of traffic, I pulled back onto the highway and drove on. Maybe I was supposed to stay as a witness? It was clearly an accident. I don’t know if I mismanaged any responsibility. I was pretty shook up. Really shook up. Like, sobbing and shaking shook up.

I got to an exit that had a Love’s truck stop so I could park and collect myself. The whole afternoon was terrifying and somehow, I had survived unscathed, save for my emotional state. The roil of adrenaline was still present. My first thought after the crashes was, “this life is too hard! I can’t do this!” That is my hard-wired response to danger. It stems from a situation that happened when I was 4 and that was my reaction. Whenever that reaction appears, I feel a fear that comes from my core and I have the epochal flight response. The thoughts were fleeting because as I recognized them I could put them aside. But I still cried.

I decided to stop at Sam Houston Jones state park in Lake Charles, LA. It was mid afternoon and I needed to get off the road. I had a back-in spot in a tight site and was not making very good progress in backing the Airstream into said spot. In fact, I knocked over my site number sign. Ugh. Neighbors came to the rescue. A young man and an older couple, she walking her dog. They slowed everything down, got me to turn the wheel correctly and easily, and had me drive far enough forward to get plenty of lead-in. If you’ve never backed a trailer into a space, it’s tricky. If I have enough room, I can do it. Tight spaces are more vexing. These folks were so wonderful. The young guy got me to the back of the space. The older guy gave me directions for wheel turn and where the cab should be. The woman was the cheerleader – “you’re doin’ great, honey!” The guys even put the site sign right. Bless you gracious, friendly, warm-hearted neighbors.

So, my day on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride had great bookends – an eagle and wonderful helping neighbors. It helps me keep the stress of what goes on during the day in perspective. Though I would prefer not to experience those stressful situations, I can get though them by realizing there are good things too.

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