This Ain’t Australia Toto

Columbus, Ohio

Back in the saddle and straight into the storm.

Our three weeks in Australia were delightful, lolling around Byron Bay, visiting our friends in Umina north of Sydney and Culberra Beach south of Sydney.

This was an UNtypical holiday. We did relatively little sightseeing. I read five books, Greg played with his computer, we ate a ton of prawns. None of it while vibrating.

Our Hilton Diamond status paid off handsomely, three nights FREE in an executive room in the Hilton Sydney, which usually goes for $200 plus a night INCLUDING a fabulous breakfast on the executive floor with lattes, smoked salmon, premium cheeses, fruit, juices and pastries, daily afternoon tea and pastries and nightly open bar and hors d’oeuvres.

We are still adjusting back to our time zone. I used to say that going west was easy, east was the hard part. Now at 52 I know why? Going west I’m going on holidays, I can lay around, no big deal, nap, rest, be sleepy. Going east is back to work where I’m expected to perform because I’ve had THREE weeks off.

We were out of Los Angeles last Friday ahead of torrential rains to San Francisco, picked up a load bound for Atlanta. We traveled behind the first blizzard that pummeled the Mid-Atlantic, Atlanta north to New Jersey, through Virginia and we were on the leading edge of blizzard number two, in New Jersey a milk run through Allentown, Pennyslvania and Newburgh, New York with the snow bearing down on us.

Wednesday morning with three inches of snow on the ground in Newburgh I hooked  the trailer for our Columbus, Ohio load and headed across I-80 in Pennsylvania. It was horrible. Poor visibility, slippery roads and people driving way, way, way too fast.

The Interstate lowered the speed limit to 45. At mile marker 256 in Pennsylvania on the eastbound side I saw traffic stopped a half dozen tractor trailers slid into the ditch. But that was nothing compared to mile marker 117. On the eastbound side (I’m heading west to Ohio) through the trees on the median, I can see traffic stopped, then I see debris everywhere and trailers wrenched open, I realize the debris is freight. There must have been 20 or 30 tractors and trailers mangled together – like a kid picked up a bunch of toys and threw them – ripped open and sliding down the mountain side.

At mile marker 115 there is a SUV crunched to the size of a Toyota Yaris, I think, that person is dead. Five tractor trailers are crashed together in the median and a quarter of mile later a FedEx double is jack knifed in the median and another two miles along a tractor trailer is turned around on the eastbound side facing west and tow trucks are trying to move it.

The weather deteriorated, blowing slow, almost no visibility, roads unplowed and slippery, trucks and cars passing me going too fast. If they lose control next to me I’m toast. I remember that there’s a rest area at mile marker 86.

I remembered my Schneider million miler who told me, “if you think it’s bad, stop and stop when you think of it because you might not find a place later.”

I find one open spot and I grab it. We are going nowhere! We shut down for 12 hours. I was exhausted, my shoulders ached. I crawled into the bunk without dinner and slept until I heard the engine rumble to life in the wee hours of morning.

By 0300 the snow had stopped, the roads were plowed, Greg headed out.

Schneider taught us definite rules for staying safe in bad weather.

1. Stay out of the pack. Trucks and cars seem to run together. If one loses control, they will take out everything around them. Too many vehicles, back off.

2. Seven seconds following distance any time (not always possible, but let conditions dictate), 14 seconds in bad weather. Why cars pull up two or three feet behind me in a snowstorm when the trucks are running 14 seconds apart. Yes, there are cowboy drivers and it only takes a couple to create havoc, but most are wary of the weather.

3. If you’re freaked out, get off the road.

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