Thursday, March 22, 2007

Divine Hauler of Cargo

Woke up this morning with this name for a new rocket buzzing in my brain, and I will probably throw a number like seventeen after it (or perhaps a number like seventeen, or "No. Many Many"). It would transform the piece from a raku rocket to being a revered object of worship (in the rights circles, the extraterrestrial ones that believe in Cargo.)

Balticon is approaching.

We went to Lunacon this last weekend. The grand scheme was to drive up Friday, set up, and drive home Friday night. The reality is that our two hour drive was turned into a five hour drive by the worst sleet storm I have ever seen. We had three to four inches of accumulation that looked like snow, but was actually ice pellets that fused together.

We drove up via the turnpike. The speed rarely exceeded thirty miles an hour. The safest thing to do (besides staying home) was to drive in the ruts of the car in front of you. If a vehicle in the next lane went out of their ruts, they threw up a rooster tail of muddy slush that hit your windshield, and visibility would drop to zero for a few seconds. Many drivers would swerve a bit when their windshields got hit, whether from flinching or in an attempt to shake something loose. The best practice was to be ready to flip your wipers to maximum at all times.

Julie reminded me not to trust the brakes to stop the van, meaning that it was going to take a lot longer to stop in those conditions. We had to make sure that there was additional space between us and the car in front to allow for sliding.

We were to the west of New York City, in the leftmost lane, when the car in front of us slowed down suddenly.

I hit the brakes, which quickly reverted to anti-lock mode as they tried to bite in. It was obvious that we wouldn't be able to stop in time, and Julie's last wincing words to me were "I told you not to rely on the brakes."

I had been thinking about what to do in this kind of situation for part of the drive.

I threw the steering wheel hard to port. The nose of the car started to come about, and we started a hard swerve to the left; enough snow, sleet, and slush was hitting the turned front wheels that it was helping us turn.

Once I judged our direction would miss the car in front (I think it was a white, high-end, SUV), I straitened out. We were now safely headed towards the concrete barrier that divided the two directions of the turnpike, moving into the deeper sleet and slush of the shoulder, one wide enough to take a whole van.

Julie says we missed the car's bumper by about an inch. I was too busy swinging the wheel hard a starboard , to miss the barrier, to notice.

We slowed down enough that we had enough room to merge back in traffic, which I carefully executed.

Julie and I laughed about the incident. We kidded that the combined karma of our cargo of little dragons, jewelry, and rockets saved us. All of the dragons came to life, and furiously flapped their wings, while the rockets all blasted at emergency power to help the car swerve. Just enough to keep things from turning ugly.

We arrived at the show late, and ended up getting a room at a nearby hotel for the night. The next day, it took about two and a half hours to drive home.


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