Into the Dust Cloud

December 31, 2021Travel

Pack the car. Fill up on gas. Grab ice from the store. And hit the road.

The getting away part of getaways is the hardest part. We were headed to Sequoia National Park from Los Angeles. The drive to our campsite is an easy 4 hours. Take the 5 to the 99, and drive a winding road into the mountains. It should be an uneventful drive through California's Central Valley.

Shortly after taking the 99, Google Maps suggested that we get off and take a two-lane road the rest of the way. It's the quickest route possible, shaving off a few minutes. Still in our city life mindset — we obliged. The road made its way through central valley farmland. It was relatively fast going, we drove over 60mph the whole way. Cars bunched together from one car going a little slow and nowhere to allow cars to pass. Cars coming the other way were frequent with semi-trucks intermixed. The air from passing trucks was powerful enough to swerve the car and I quickly learned to drift right as cars were coming.

The lineup of cars we were in was long. There was some space between me and the cars on either side but not in abundance. Drought-stricken California left no green to be seen and made me ponder The Dust Bowl. Tractors and trucks worked to prepare empty dirt fields. We approached one such dirt field with a truck dragging something through the field. Dust billowed in a trail behind it. The breeze blew the dust the few yards it took to cross the fence and enter the road. It looked ominous but fleeting. The car in front of us entered and disappeared.

We drove into the dust cloud. We could no longer see the road, let alone the front of our car. I expected it to end as soon as it started but the seconds started to pass. Each second felt like a minute — our safety hanging in limbo. The number of thoughts you can have in a matter of seconds is remarkable. Am I still in my lane? I think I would hit bumps on the road if I veered too far off. Should I slow down? The car behind us might hit us. Did the person in front of us slow down? The seconds drew on, long enough to voice these questions out loud.

In the end, I did nothing. I kept driving and held the wheel straight. After several coursing seconds, we made it out. It was one of the closest calls I've had driving and yet no adrenaline spiked and no quick maneuvers were made. Only the realization after, just how dangerous that had been.

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