Okay, so the adrenaline rush is over, and my hands are no longer shaking.
What a rush!
I had taken my mother’s car to pick my daughter up from work. My mother hasn’t needed any rides for quite a while, so I’ve been using it more often just so it’s not sitting around for too long.
This turned out to be a good thing.
It’s full dark by 5pm this time of year, and my daughter gets off work at 6, so even though it wasn’t late, it was night driving. We were on a stretch at highway speeds (100kph) and traffic was light enough that I had my brights on. Which is why I was able to see some shapes moving across the road ahead, and immediately started to slow down.
At least 3 deer were crossing the road – and we’re pretty sure there was a 4th one in the group. Of course, one of them stopped in my lane and just stared at me.
There’s a reason “deer in the headlights” is a saying!
I was still trying to slow down and went into the other lane to avoid the deer, only for it to start moving again, which meant I had to swerve even more, managing to avoid it completely.
Which is when I hit the ice.
If I had just had to do that initial bit to avoid the deer, I probably would have been fine, but having to swerve farther started a cascade of momentum. After fishtailing back and forth several time, I realized there was no way for me to avoid hitting the ditch.
The north side ditch.
The steep and deep ditch.
Down we went then, up the other side!
Did I mention momentum? Yeah. There was a lot of that.
As we went up the other side of the ditch, I realized that if we stopped, we were not getting out without a tow truck, so I stopped breaking and hit the gas. I was able to steer the car back the other way and up towards the road again.
I fully expected the car to not make it up the incline. With the ice and snow, I was sure I would end up just spinning the tires and sliding back again.
Instead, we made it back onto the road, and back in our lane.
I am still shocked we made it out of that ditch.
In retrospect, if we had been in the longer, heavier van instead of the car, I would never have been able to keep going when we went up the far side of the ditch. The ditch is basically a V shape, and the length of the van would have worked against that.
Once back on the road (and with various exclamations!), I focused on how the car was running, because I was sure something had to have been damaged.
We managed to get to our little hamlet before the pull to the right became really pronounced. We could feel a shuddering from the front passenger side tire. I reached and crossed the highway, but by about a quarter mile down the road, the noise was kicking in and I had to pull over. I figured we were riding the rim by then.
So now what do we do?
We’re in a cell phone dead zone. Typically, the signal is lost by the time we reach our hamlet from town. Much to my surprise, I was able to phone home without any problems! My husband had already had to lie down, so my other daughter answered. I told her what happened, and she got her dad up to drive our van and get us.
We left my mom’s car with the hazard lights going – a black car on a gravel road at night is just waiting to get hit! Once at home, I called CAA – so glad we’ve got that!!! – and arranged for someone to come out and change the tire for us.
While we had been waiting for our ride home, my daughter did offer to change the tire. It wasn’t that cold out, she said. Only -12C, with a wind chill of -14C.
I said no.
That turned out to be a good thing, too.
After getting a call from the guy sent to change our tire, confirming where the car was (directions get a little hard to give once you’re off the paved roads!), my daughter and I went back to stay with my mom’s car until he arrived. Once he got to taking the nuts off, he discovered they were on too tight. Whoever last serviced the vehicle had used an impact driver on it. My mother’s car has aluminum tire rims. I didn’t know this, but he said that they should be tightened manually with a torque wrench, because the impact drivers over tighten them, and things can break. He had to get his own torque wrench out to loosen them. We would never have been able to do it ourselves, with the tools we had! As he loosened them, he could feel damage to one of the bolts, and when he put the spare on, he wasn’t able to completely tighten that one, because he could feel it breaking. So there’s only 4 of the 5 nuts that are secure.
While he was changing the tire, we looked to see if there was any other visible damage (the flashlight on my phone sure came in handy!), and there was none visible. I’d already checked the other tires, and they looked fine. I’m sure it’s going to need an alignment after this, though!
He got the little spare tire on for us, and I drove it home with my daughter following behind in the van. We were skirting the edges of legality here, since she’s only got her learner’s license, but under the circumstances, I don’t think it anyone would have considered it an issue!
I could really feel that the car didn’t have the right tire on there. I don’t feel I comfortable with the idea of driving the car to a garage on that donut. So what I’ll likely do it put the other tire in our van and take it to the garage to be repaired or replaced, then we’ll change it ourselves. I’ll ask their advice about driving it over to get checked. Frankly, I have no problem with getting it towed, instead, so they can check for damage before I take it at highway speeds.
This all might have to wait until the new year, though.
Meanwhile, I am fully prepared to find myself in a lot of pain tomorrow. If nothing else, my shoulders and neck are probably going to be stiff and hurting from working the steering wheel.
I think I’ll be pro-active and take painkillers now!
Right now, I am just so thankful. It could have been so much worse!
We definitely were being watched over, tonight!