My day…tagging along with tugboat man. When you’re the wife of a mariner, even slightly unpleasant tasks become opportunities to spend time together. Even this.
For one of Angel Boy’s birthdays, I think it was when he turned twelve in 1993, he and I went on a celebratory skiing trip to Big Bear, which is about three hours away.
To get there, you have to drive a scary hairpin turn curvy mountain road.
Before that day, I had been totally comfortable with my driving ability and had been all over the country by myself, well at least as far as Colorado.
After a wonderful day of skiing and snowboarding, we followed a long line of cars driving down the steep mountain road.
Halfway down, I noticed a burn-y smell, saw smoke, and my brakes weren’t responding.
I mean, I was frantically pumping them and the brake pedal pushed all the way to the floor and the car wasn’t slowing — NOT AT ALL — instead, it was picking up speed.
There was nowhere to turn and sheer cliffs to the right of us.
Just before I rammed into the car in front of us, a ranger station appeared on the right — the only problem was that I couldn’t slow down, and there was a sharp turn into a small driveway.
I told my son to put a pillow in front of his face. His response? “Why?” My answer? “JUST DO IT. WE MIGHT CRASH!” That’s my Angel Boy, always questioning authority but not really aware of what’s going on around him. (He probably had his head in a book.)
I pulled hard on the emergency brake at the exact moment that I wrenched the steering wheel and screeched over the curb to a complete stop. My heart was racing and I was aware of just how lucky we were to be alive. I still don’t think that my son realizes how close we came to a disaster that day.
Cars pulled over and offered support and comfort, as they said they didn’t think we were going to make it– everyone was talking about the runaway car, and this was well before most people had cell phones.
The ranger station was closed but there was a phone with a direct line to the highway patrol, and CHP arrived in a few minutes to assess our situation.
I was petrified, but not so out of it that I didn’t notice one of the officers was the most beautiful male specimens I’d ever seen in a long time (tugboat man excluded). He called a tow truck and we were towed to San Bernadino. The diagnosis was that my brakes got too hot — that’s all — and least that’s what I remember they said — and by the time we reached the service station, everything was OK.
Angel Boy and I drove home — very slowly– and on a nice flat freeway. The next day I took the car to our mechanic and had him do a complete brake job even if it didn’t need it.
I always felt that we cheated death that March afternoon.
Ever since then, I become VERY panicky on mountain roads unless hub drives, and I’m too afraid to drive by myself, and I’m a FREAK about my brakes (different car) — he checks them for me all the time, which is how I ended up sitting in the car at O’Reilly’s in Oceanside. While he was away at survival training last week, I felt that there was something wrong and smelled the burn-y odor again. When he checked it out, he saw a real problem with the caliper and the brakes were “sticky” (whatever all that means). Anyway, being the kind of wonderful human that he is, he decided to replace the calipers, brake lines, and brake pads on both sides, even though only the right side was messed up.
Oh, and were you wondering where tugboat man was in 1993 and why he wasn’t skiing with us since we’ve been together since 1991? The company he (and I) worked for decided to expand to Hawaii and my future husband had recently sailed a 700 passenger vessel there from San Diego and was involved in establishing the business in Oahu, as well as doing a lot of surfing.