Saturday, April 19, 2008

Pittsburg trip

Well, here goes, my first post to a blog.
The trip to Pittsburg for the restoration of the von Beckerath organ started off well enough. Leaving Staunton with good weather, it only got nicer the further north we drove. I was a passenger for the first half and then jumped in the Penske rental truck for the final 2 hour stretch down the Pennsylvania turnpike into Pittsburg. It was all smooth sailing with about 20 miles to go when I though that perhaps my life would go no further. I was following Tom who was driving the company Ford Freestar minivan. I was back several car lengths going down one of the innumerable long hills in western Pennsylvania. Traffic was pretty heavy with both lanes full when a big rig pulled beside me in the passing lane. He got about halfway past when he put on his signal to pull in behind Tom. There was clearly not enough room, but he was definitely in charge of this situation, so I backed off to let him in. Just as I touched my brakes to make space, I heard this incredibly loud screaming noise. The semi driver had jammed on his brakes right next to me going 65 miles an hour. What a scene! He had gotten to the point where his rear tires where next to my window, so I could see some of them were locked up and skidding, leaving solid black rubber skid marks on the pavement. A big cloud of smoke was rolling off the rear end of the truck, but not before some of it was around me as well. At that moment I looked over in front of the truck, and saw the reason for his panic. There was a big temporary sign that said the left lane was closed 1500 ft. ahead for construction. All ahead of us traffic in the left lane was slowing down as quick as they could to squeeze over into the right before they ran into a barricade. At least by then I knew what was was going on and why , but it mattered little when , since I could slow down quicker than the by now fishtailing semi, the first smoking, squealing 18 wheeler moved on ahead of me only to be replaced by another! Louder and with more smoke than the first, it also fishtailed on by, leaving its' trail of black rubber as well. By this time nasty burnt rubber smoke had entered my truck. I was completely panicked, not knowing what was going to happen. Luckily everyone managed to stay in their proper lanes and gradually slow down enough so all was well in the end. But my god. I
told Tom later if I hadn't had a heart attack during that mess, I must be good for a few more years. He said he heard the screaming tires also and looked in the mirror to see me engulfed in smoke with two tractor trailer rigs fishtailing along beside. Great fun! I pretty much shook the rest of the way into Pittsburg.