Thursday, September 9, 2010

Slip sliding away ... into the mountainside

I had another first time experience this Winter. One morning while driving to appointments in the towns of Clyde and Alexandra, my car hit black ice on the road going through Kawarau Gorge. I'd never had an experience on black ice. It reminded me of my friend, Steve, who a few years ago had offered to drive as we carpooled to a work event after seeing that I'd walked through black ice while wearing high heeled boots in North Carolina.

I'd often driven in the Sierra Mountains of California during Winter, through snow, sleet, hail. However, I'd never encountered black ice. There really doesn't seem to be much you can do when you start sliding. The conditions that morning didn't look anything like I'd ever seen them before when driving through the Gorge. For that reason, I was driving under the speed limit. And I remember thinking as cars drove past me, "you'd better slow down". Ironically, it was me, not those speeding past me that had the accident.

It was on a curvy part of the road. I remember the back of the car sliding first, but then it seemed to recover. Unfortunately, all was not it seemed. The car began to slide again ... so long in fact, that I had time to think of all the things they say you should and shouldn't do when you hit black ice. I did what I'd always heard was the thing to do ... don't grip the steering wheel hard, don't hit the brakes, and look in the direction you actually want to go. It didn't seem to work. I could feel the car sliding wider and wider across the road into the oncoming traffic lane. I think I was quite fortunate at that time in the way the road curved, because rather than hitting the guard rail and going down the cliff edge into the river, my car slid towards my side of the road and into a ditch before hitting the mountainside. Whew! At that point, I was just happy that my car stopped.

A few hours later, my car was towed and I was home. I have to say that my car insurance was great! And everyone I encountered during the ordeal was really nice. But I have to say that for weeks afterwards, I was driving VERY slow and really paranoid about driving. Oh, and I had a sore neck ... a sort of whiplash I think. Maybe that is part of the reason why I'm kind of over the Winter thing. Bring on the warmer weather!

And thankfully, now Spring has arrived! Bring on the warmer weather! Hopefully no more ice for a while. In the meantime, daffodils are starting to bloom, lambs and baby goats are showing up in paddocks, and I have a new vehicle that has been really fun to drive around. (Well, new to me. I bought it from a friend who was returning home to Scotland.) Here is photo of my new Toyota Rav4 at Lakes Hayes, just outside of Queenstown.

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