This post by Wil Wheaton reminded me of an incident that happened a few years ago, back when we were still living in California.
Sarah and I had booked a place up in Tahoe for our anniversary, and were on our way up that way from our house in Tracy. I was driving her pickup truck (which at the time was the vehicle we had that would best handle potentially ugly weather conditions up in the mountains), and we were on Interstate 5, driving north, just maybe 10 minutes out of home, when we saw there were some cars parked on the grass in the median and a fire truck parked along the right side of the freeway.
There wasn’t much activity going on, and traffic wasn’t slowing down, so I kept in the left-hand lane, which is where I was, and maintained my speed, keeping an eye on the cars in the median to make sure nobody did anything nuts like leap out onto the pavement.
Suddenly, without warning, the fire truck whipped off the right shoulder and lurched across the freeway, almost entirely perpendicular to the roadway, and essentially stopped in the middle of the road, blocking both the left and center lanes of the three-lane surface.
There was a car to my right, so I couldn’t pull over that way, and there was certainly no time to stop, so I hit the brakes — as much as I dared — and whipped the steering wheel to the left, surging off the pavement and onto the median.
This is where things got even hairier — fortunately, everything felt like it was happening in slow motion, because I needed it! Now I’m dodging the fire truck on my right, which while moving slowly is still trying to cross the freeway, as well as the cars and people hanging out in the median.
I managed not to hit anything, although I’m pretty sure we went up on two wheels as we skidded at a disturbing angle along the gravel shoulder and onto the grass, before I managed to angle us back onto the freeway after we passed the fire truck.
Back on the freeway, I eased us over to the slow lane and we were very quiet while I drove to the next exit, got off the freeway, parked behind an Exxon station, and then proceeded to shake violently for about 15 minutes before I finally was able to collect myself enough to resume driving.
The rest of the trip passed uneventfully.
It was… extremely scary. Gives me the heebie-jeebies to think about it even now, something like 7 years later.