Monday, November 14, 2005

Have you ever seen an SUV do cartwheels?

I have. It happened last Thursday night. Due to the 3 day holiday coinciding with my girlfriend's father's and aunt's birthdays (I'll give you a second to parse that), we decided to take a trip to Las Vegas. Since it would cost about $1500 for the six of us to fly, we decided to drive. We live in the Bay Area. Las Vegas is about 530 miles from where I live, so it is an 8 to 9 hour drive. In our brilliant attempt to maximize our vacation, we opted to rent the van and then leave at about 9pm Thursday night, so we would arrive in Vegas early Friday morning. That is how this adventure started.

We ended up leaving at 11pm, so traffic was very light. About 20 minutes into the drive, just south of San Jose, it happened. I was in the left lane (out of 4) driving about 10mph over the speed limit. I looked in my rear view mirror as I often do, and noticed 2 pairs of headlights approaching very quickly; one in my lane, one in the #2 lane. Normally when this happens, it means two idiots are racing. Typically I veer left part way into the emergency lane, to give the guy coming up on me a little extra room when his friend finally lets him in. So, I started moving left. But the guy's 'friend' did not move. And the guy came up on me very quickly. I noticed he even started going left to try to pass me in the emergency lane. Well, since I was in a minivan that had the handling of a sofa, and was already going left, I had no choice but to go further left, in the hopes that he could straighten himself out. So here I am driving fully in the emergency lane, with an SUV now passing me on the right at over 100mph, and his idiot buddy in the lane next to him. On my left is the dirt median strip, and then one of those concrete walls, and then the carpool lane of the opposite side of the freeway.

I guess the SUV could not straighten out correctly, because what happened next I will never forget. The truck passed me on the right, and then immediately cut in front of me. His wheels tried to turn into the skid, but his truck was going to have no such part in it. It just kept going to the left past me and into the median strip. His car kicked up a huge cloud of dust and debris when he hit the dirt, and I had to drive right thought it (my other option was to panic and slam on the brakes, but then I would have gone through it anyway). When I emerged from the dust cloud, the truck was scraping along the concrete divider, sparks flying everywhere. It was very action-movie-esque. His truck then drove up the wall and flipped over, causing the front end of the car to hit the ground, and sent his car many, many feet into the air, hood facing towards the ground, back end facing the sky. When it landed, it then did about five flips before coming to rest on its wheels again in the carpool lane on the opposite side of the road, where it skidded to a stop. Of course, since my car was still moving, this all happened about 10 feet to my left as his car cartwheeled next to mine at about 50mph (I'd started breaking my then).

After I came to a stop, we called 911, and the police and fire trucks showed up about 2 minutes later. I tried getting out of my car to go check on the driver of the truck, but by that point I was about 100 yards past where he had stopped. My passengers convinced me that it was too dangerous to get out, and the other people that had stopped closer could help him anyway.

After a while the police came up to my car and asked if I was okay, and then took my statement. I asked the cop what the fate of the driver of the SUV was. His response: "He's a little shook up, but only had a few minor injuries." I asked what kind of car that was, because I wanted to know what kind of truck can do five cartwheels and protect the driver that well. He didn't know.

Suffice it to say, I'm glad everyone (including the idiot who wrecked his car from racing it) made it out okay. Because of the light traffic, he managed not to hit anyone else.

Oh, and the guy he was racing: he took off before anyone could catch his license plate. What a dick.