Thursday, November 25, 2010

Car vs bus = car loses

We tried to wait out the stormy weather in the Pacific Northwest and it looked like we had succeeded on Monday so we set out to return our rental car and head east across Snoqualmie and whatever other passes lay between us and Montana. It was a pretty decent day when we left La Conner but by the time we hit I-5 there was snow on the road and it kept falling as we headed south toward Seattle. 

We got the car returned and we southbound again in fairly heavy traffic, probably at the tail end of the morning rush hour.  We were in the 2nd lane out from the right in four lanes of traffic.  I became aware of a car coming up on the left and watched as he all of a sudden went out of control.  I assume he was probably yapping on a cell phone, made a fast move on the wheel and then things went bad for him.  At first I thought he would smack us right under the ticket window but then he got crosswise headed toward the shoulder.  I couldn’t go anywhere so I kept looking ahead and checking him occasionally as he drifted broadside down the highway.  Eventually he got going broadside with his nose pointed back at us.  By that time he was likely about even with the middle of the bus and I noticed at that point that he was steering into the skid – funny the things you focus on in those situations.  I looked ahead and then checked the mirror in time to see him arrive in the side of the bus.

There was an explosion of red plastic as he hit and it was a pretty hard hit.  Hard enough to knock a corning ware casserole off the counter onto the hardwood where it shattered into a million shards of glass.  As he hit I could see another vehicle bearing down on his passenger side and then I had to stay focused on getting us safely over to the shoulder and stopped.

When I got out to survey the damage I couldn’t believe how little there really was.  We’ve got a mangled piece of stainless steel on the back wheelwell trim but that’s really the only visible damage.  He must have hit the driver’s corner of his front bumper squarely on the end of the tag axle.  That punched out the chrome hubcap on the tag as well as the plastic site gauge on the oil bath cap.  That was all I could see for damage at the time and 3 days later that’s still all I know of.

I didn’t want to chance walking across the interstate to get back to the scene of the crime and I also didn’t want to sit on the side of the busy highway because we almost certainly would have been hit again.  But my alternatives weren’t great either.  I could leave the scene but that didn’t seem wise.  There was an onramp from the weigh scale just ahead of me so I elected to pull ahead to the onramp and then illegally back up the ramp.  I had to wait a while for a break in the truck traffic across the scale but when I got my chance that is what I did.  One truck waited on the scale for maybe an extra minute to hold up the traffic behind him and we were back in the scale parking lot. 

Johnny G-Man the scale operator was not impressed.  I could see him come storming out of his little cage so I waited for him to come up beside the bus.  He proceeded to read me the riot act about how what I had done was an automatic $550 fine and yadyadayada.  When he finally ran down I apologized but pointed out that I didn’t really have any good options.  He may not have realized that we had been hit.  He muttered something about how we should have pulled to the side of the interstate but I didn’t let that lie unchallenged and then he told me to wait where I was until the trooper arrived.  Since that had been my plan all along I didn’t argue.

When the trooper arrived, after driving the wrong way up the same ramp with his lights off he seemed genuinely puzzled as to why I was apologizing for doing what I had done.  He did his report as best he could.  His computer didn’t have any province codes for Canada other than BC so our addresses showed up on the report as Buchanan, BC.  Canada Post should have fun with that if they ever try to mail us anything.  Since our damage was so insignificant I didn’t sweat it.

The trooper said that both of the other drivers were charged but we were just innocent bystanders.  That seemed a little harsh for the poor sap who plowed into the side of the jackass that started the whole mess but I didn’t argue with him.  The car that hit us would no doubt have been a total loss.  There was at least $2000 of plastic flew off it when it hit us and then it got seriously damaged.  I estimate our damage at maybe $200 total.

We found a nearby campground in Everett and pulled in there while we figured out what to do next.  When I checked the weather the passes appeared to have gone completely to hell again.  I-90 was back to chainup in a couple of locations.  Apparently I am 52 years old, although I find that hard to believe.  In those 52 years I have never hung chains on a vehicle and I don’t see any reason to learn now.  I carry chains in the micro-truck just to keep us legal but of course we forgot to take them out when we left the truck in Billings. 

Eventually we decided that we would head north rather than east.  We crossed the border back into Canada at Sumas around noon on Tuesday and then headed east along Highway #3.  That’s not a great way to get across the rockies but it appeared to be a warmer route than going up through Banff.  It also dumped us out in Alberta right at our Holiday Trails campground in Lethbridge which is where we are now, plugged into 50 amp service waiting for the bus to thaw out again.  There’s a howling blizzard blowing outside as the chinook wind blows into Alberta but its not all that cold anymore.  We had intended to rent a car and go to Billings today but the road conditions sound like it will be best to postpone that plan. 


Mark said...

Glad you are OK,.and fared no worse than some bent metal.

We are weathering a storm here as I type....another 4-5 inches and blowing.

January can't come soon enough.....

Mark and Donna

Singing Land Cruiser said...

Wow Bob, we are glad you all are safe. The damage looks bad to me, but thats me. Any chance you are drifting over to St. George, Utah?
Happy Thanksgiving to you, M&C