I escaped almost certain death by about 30 seconds while driving up to Menlo Park on Friday. This has been haunting me and I finally decide to write about it. I was driving up the I5 – and just north of Buttonwillow was considering whether I should stop for lunch at the next rest stop or the one after. On this stretch of road, we were driving on the right shoulder and right lane, the left lane was taken by a southbound lane (the southbound had one lane out for repair), and there was a row of concrete barriers.
I was stuck behind one of many trucks I passed that day, pulling two trailers full of tomatoes – just loose tomatoes, not boxed. I wondered about the state of the tomatoes at the bottom of the pile, as I waited for cars to crawl past at seemingly 61 mph past the tomato truck doing 60, just close enough that I couldn’t get out between them and just slow enough to be taking a long time.
When I finally escaped, the road ahead of me was fairly empty. A ways ahead I saw this big plume of smoke rise up from the road, and the traffic slowed. At first I thought a dust devil had crossed the freeway, but it dissipated quickly; it was clear there had been a crash. When I came up to the stopped traffic, some cars were parked off to the right in the gravel between the road and the orchard, I had a big rig in front of me so didn’t see the crash until I was really close. A large RV (coach sized) had come southbound thru the concrete barrier, it was almost in the orchard, all twisted out of square, windshield gone. Some people were disembarking from the RV. Under the back of the RV, upside down and squashed was a small red sports car. All I can think was whoever was in it, it must have been quick. At that point, unless you had first aid equipment and skills, all we could do was pick our way through the debris field, around the concrete that had been pushed across the lane, and get out of the way.
On Monday, driving south again (in the normal lane, not the one that was on the northbound side) I could see black tire marks on the concrete barrier right where it happened – maybe the red car had also been in the southbound lane and flipped. I can’t find anything on the news about the accident.
So quickly we can be gone. If I had not been stuck behind the tomato truck, if I’d been 30 seconds further up the road, it might have been me.