I've been safely driving for well over 50 years, and I've never been involved in any kind of an accident, as I'm a safe and considerate driver. I'm familiar with winter driving in the mountains, and I know how to drive in snow, ice and other nasty road conditions. Yet, some times bad things happen to good drivers, and on Tuesday morning, November 10, 2020, my accident-free run of 54 years of driving came to an end, thanks to an unseen patch of black ice.
Photo: Around 0830 in the morning, on Tuesday, November 10, 2020, on my way to Panamint Valley Days, I found myself about 9 miles south of the small Mono County town of Lee Vining, CA, traveling south on U.S. 395.
I don't exactly remember what happened, but as I rounded a corner, I found myself out of control, as I hit a large patch of "black ice" that I didn't see, for whatever reason. I struggled to control the truck, but thanks to the ice, my truck was out of control. My instincts - and my long years of driving took over - and I took my foot off the gas, did not brake, and steered in the direction the truck was heading. It sounds weird, but that's what you're supposed to do when you're in this situation.
I thought I had everything under control until the very end, when I saw the bank rushing up in front of me. I recall distinctly, without any fear, a little voice inside of me saying "I'm going to crash." Things were happening so fast, and I was so busy trying to regain control of the truck that I didn't have time for fear...
Note all of my camping gear that has spilled out the bed of my truck.
If you're not familiar with where Lee Vining is located, it's in the eastern Sierra Nevada region of California, just east of Yosemite National Park, near Mono Lake.
Photo: The next thing I knew I was on my side and stopped. The truck had skidded into the bank, attempted to climb, but was stopped, and rolled onto it's side. The engine stopped automatically.
For about 10 seconds, I just sat on my side, buckled in, trying to asess what had happened to me. With relief, I noted that I wasn't hurt and, with the exception of the truck being on it's side, things seemed to be mostly undamaged. I had packed a lot of camping gear in the cab, but not much of it came loose, thanks to great packing. I made sure the ignition was off, and put the truck in park.
Next thing I knew, two helpful good Samaritans appeared in my windshield asking me if I was ok, and asking me if I could get out without breaking the glass. Thankfully, there was a foot or so of snow to cushion me, and I was able to roll down the window and crawl out the window into the snow.
When I got out of the truck, I thanked the bystanders who had helped me, and assured them that I was alright. One of the guys offered to call A.A.A. in nearby Lee Vining; I could have phoned them, but I took him up on his kind offer, as I was physically fine, but mentally shaken.
Photo: It only took A.A.A. about 15 minutes to arrive from Lee Vining, as their garage is only 9 miles to the north of my accident scene. The tow truck guy has just attached his winch cable to my truck, and is inspecting it before his partner operates the winch.
If this had to happen, I picked a great spot, as I was in a 4-lane section of the highway, I was in a cut, and there was a of of snow to cushion the truck.
Photo: My truck begins to get righted, as one tow truck guy works the winch, and the other guy watches. About this time, a friendly C.H.P. officer showed up, asked me if I was OK, and offered to write a report. I thanked him for his concern, but since my truck is 23 years old, I didn't need a report, as I had dropped collision insurance many years ago.
Photo: The tow truck guys work on my truck. If you look to the right of the guy in the foreground, you can see the patch of ice on the highway that caused me to skid. I hit the ice going around 55 miles per hour; had I seen it, I would have slowed to a crawl.
Photo: My truck is almost back on it's wheels, thanks to the expertise of the tow truck guys. The guy in the foreground was very helpful, and helped me load my spilled camping gear into the back of the truck.
After all my spilled gear was loaded into the truck, we relaxed for a few minutes, then it was the "moment of truth." Would my truck start?
I climbed back in, put the key in the ignition, prayed, turned the key, and I was rewarded with the engine starting, like nothing had ever happened.
We drove two miles south to the June Lake junction turn off, parked, and finished up the paperwork.
Thank you Lee Vining Towing, who is a A.A.A. member, as these guys were very professional, and did an excellent job!
Photo: The only real damage to my truck was the left front turn signal, along with the left taillight, which was already cracked, and slated for repair. I noticed a few minor dents on the side, but thanks to a misadventure that happened back in 2005, the rocker panels on both sides are severely dented. The driver's side mirror simply needed to be adjusted to my preference.
I was very fortunate, as this could have been catastrophic, and a life-changing - or life ending - experience.
Lee Vining Towing
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