We left my Grandma's house at 9PM Monday night. We had planned to leave around 5 or so, but the electrical job Ray was doing at a friends house took much longer than expected.
The drive home is 6 hours, so by leaving at 9 our ETA for getting home was going to be 3AM. Our hope by driving home at night was to a) get home a day earlier so Ray could work on Tuesday, and b) drive while the kids (Calvin specifically) were sleeping.
We stopped to refuel in Willits, the halfway point in our journey. Ray's eye was bothering him, so I offered to drive for a while. I don't like driving at night. It is scary, and hard to see. I was driving the speed limit and nothing more. Annoying to others, I know, but as my dad says "better safe than sorry."
The highway is mostly one lane in each direction with spots where it goes to two lanes for passing. On the way out of town there was a car driving pretty close behind me, obviously eager to get by. I was glad to finally get to a two lane stretch to let the car get around me. It was not the last we would see of it though.
After the railroad tracks and the passing lane section the road goes back to one lane and winds up a hill. By now Ray had settled in and, though he was not asleep, he had his eyes closed to rest the one that was bugging him.
As we crested the hill and started to pick up some speed on the other side Raymond sat up suddenly, pointed ahead of us and started yelling "Watch Out! Watch Out! Watch Out!" In a moment my mind flipped through the possibilities: deer, bolder, ice... Then I saw the brake lights of the car ahead of us. I saw some smoke or exhaust around it, and realized it must be stopping. The headlights seemed oddly placed and as I screamed and veered into the south bound lane to avoid the car I deduced it must have piled on top of another car.
Thank goodness no one was coming in the opposite lane. We swerved around the wreck and realized the car was sliding on it's roof. It had flipped over. No other cars were involved. We were safe. But what about the passengers in the wrecked vehicle?
Raymond was yelling to pull over. He handed me the cell phone, and immediately got out of the car and ran to the wreck to help. We were the only witnesses out in the middle of now-where. The wreck was on a curvy down hill stretch of road, and the wrecked vehicle was smack in the middle of the only north-bound lane.
Frantically I tried to turn on the cell phone to dial 911. I am not a cell phone owner myself, and with all the adrenalin I had pumping through me at that moment I could not remember how to turn it on. Luckily Ray has two cell phones (for two different jobs) and the second was already turned on. I called 911.
As the phone rang I debated whether to get out of the car and leave the kids, who were NOT asleep after the crazy driving and screaming. Calvin was crying hysterically, so I got out in order to hear the operator.
"911, what's your emergency?" The operator was amazing. I am so thankful for this service. I have never dialed 911 before, and boy, that woman knew all the questions to ask. I frantically told her about the wreck, that the car was upside-down in the middle of the road. I ran up toward the wreckage and saw a young woman walking around the car, talking on her cell. Ray called to me that she seemed alright and that there was no one else in the car. I relayed the info. The operator asked to talk to the girl, so I handed her the phone and told her it was 911. She said okay, and hung up her phone. She had been talking to her mom. She got on with the operator and told her she thought she okay, but would be needing a tow truck. Before she could say much more we lost reception. On this stretch of the 101 we were very 'lucky' to have had reception at all.
Our next concern after making sure the driver was not in need of medical attention was to make sure no other drivers hit the vehicle. Before our trip I had decided on a whim to put a flashlight in the car that also has a red strobe light in it. I dug out the flashlight and gave it to Ray. Ray stood up by the wreckage with the strobe going, waving his arms and the light as cars came over the hill. Our car was down hill from the wreck, and I had our headlights, interior lights, and emergency flashing lights going to alert drivers coming from the other direction.
At one point while we waited for the Highway Patrol to arrive a truck driver stopped and gave us a couple flares. This helped immensely. A guy with a flashlight waving is one thing, but when a driver sees flares, well that really got them to slow down.
A nurse on her way home from her job stopped to help at one point, but didn't stay. The boys were both crying. It was cold, and I was on high alert. My fear was that the car would be hit again. It was in a really bad spot. The girl in the crash didn't share our concern for the severity of the situation. She was walking around the car, talking on the phone to family, making light hearted statements. I think she was really nervous, and she seemed young.
It was probably at least a half hour later that the Highway patrol finally arrived. Again, I am so thankful for those who serve the public. Once they were there, I felt so much safer. The kids were not amused by the flashing lights though, and I was ready to get out of there! We had to stick around for Ray to give a statement. When he was done, he came back to the car and got in the driver seat. There was no way I was driving after all that!
Key in the ignition. Turn. Silence. "You've got to be kidding!" Dumb, I know, but in the frantic first moments of being at the scene it seemed to make sense to turn the car off. All the lights had drained our battery. The Highway Patrol man directing south bound traffic must have seen us slapping our foreheads in disgust, because he came over and asked if we needed help. Ray told him our battery had died, and he said no problem, someone would help us out.
We waited another ten minutes as we watched the tow truck driver skillfully flip the car upright. That's something I'd never seen. Soon the sheriff zipped down the hill to our car and gave us a jump. He thanked us for helping out the girl, who we never did learn a name. Off we went.
As we drove away, wide eyed as you can imagine, I told Ray that if he had not seen that car wrecking, we would have hit it. I did not see the crash as soon as he did. And when I did see it, I did not at first comprehend in the dark what was happening. I know, beyond a doubt that I would have reacted to late.
As we had talked here and there during the ordeal Ray had told me how he thought he had seen the rear lights of the car flip flop, but now he said to me, "Kim, I don't think I actually saw that crash with my eyes."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"I had my eyes closed."
Whoa. He loves us, doesn't He.
Be safe tonight, everyone.
Happy New Year!