In the blink of an eye, I thought, that car is going to hit us. We were each going 60 miles an hour in the pre-dawn very dark on a rain-swept eight lane highway north of Los Angeles. Let me back up.
Though we hiked, beach-walked, or pickleballed without fail each day of our two months in Carpinteria, it’s been a rainy winter after years of drought in the Santa Barbara area. The night before we are to leave for home in Maine, Hannah and I finish packing and slide into bed with an outdoor symphony of heavy rain, thunder, and lightning. Earlier that night, my high school friend Roz sent me this picture.
Lightning strikes briefly knock out power at LAX (the Los Angeles airport). Other strikes spark small fires and set palm trees ablaze across the region.
Sleeping inconsistently, I wake time and again to the staccato of rain against the bedroom windows. Knowing the rain will be our travel companion for the 80 mile pre-dawn drive to LAX, we catch a break as it rains only lightly as we load up our rented Toyota Corolla for the airport at 4A.
Once on The 101 approaching Ventura, the dark hides the Pacific Ocean to our right and the steep coastal mountains to our left. Raining cats and dogs, mice and chickens, the few drivers that are with us slow down to adjust to the slick road. Soon more commuters join us as we pass through Oxnard, Camarillo, up the Conejo Grade into Thousand Oaks.
For thirty minutes, the wipers whip the rain away; later I ask Hannah to turn on the defroster to defog the windshield on the now eight lane 101.
In the distance, I see brake lights go on, then off. Instinctively, I take my foot off the gas. In the second of four lanes, I then touch the brake lightly as up to my left, I see the flashing blue emergency lights of a California Highway Patrol car. Suddenly, and I mean suddenly, we are right on top of the accident, two lanes to my left.
And then, out of nowhere, a car at 60 mph veers at me to avoid the trooper and the disabled car. I have no time to think. I just see the flash of white to my left, steer right, having enough time to think, he’s going to hit us. He’s going to hit us.
And then he doesn’t. As I swerve out of his way, fortunately there is no car to my right. We dodge being a 15-second highlight on the morning news on KCAL-TV.
With adrenalin coursing through me from head to toe, I resist going down the rabbit hole of what might have happened. It’s past. I have the rain slick 101 still to deal with and an 8A flight from Los Angeles to Boston.
Settling down, within thirty minutes, we drop off our Corolla at Enterprise and take the shuttle to LAX itself.
I do know we dodged a bullet, and I’m so damn grateful.