And there I was on the inside lane of bumper to bumper traffic heading south into Portland on Interstate 5 when my engine flat quit on me.
There is no possible way for me to recollect the one million things that went through my mind at that one moment, but for whatever reason, that next moment saw my car have enough momentum to actually coast just off the interstate.
Getting out of my car quickly to push the car the rest of the way onto the shoulder, I was in shock. There was just enough space for me to completely be off the highway.
I just dodged bullet number one as traffic never missed a beat.
Sitting there back in my car with a ticker tape of a million things still racing in my mind, I couldn’t even exhale.
Gathering my thoughts, I begin to fix my eyes on what next. It was then that I fully realized that there was no worse place one could be other than in the middle of the road than where I now sat.
So what now? Do I scramble to call AAA? To be honest, as weird as this might sound, I still wrestled hard with not wanting to be that one person. With this, I was prepared to wait this out. This being rush hour traffic. Or, at least until ODOT showed up on the scene. I simply did not want to make rush hour that much worse for anybody.
These are real thoughts people.
Opting not to make the call, I instead reached out for prayer. This was an impossible situation.
What happened next still blows my mind. There is no way what happened over the course of the next 20 minutes was supposed to happen. I mean it never happens to anybody I’ve ever known whose car quit on them in the middle of rush hour traffic.
Armed with only uncertainty, all I had was hope for that next move.
With this, something began to unfold that still shocks me to this moment…
After sitting there collecting my thoughts for what seemed like a thousand years, I tried starting the car. With every warning light known to humankind flashing on the dashboard, I couldn’t believe it… it started.
But I didn’t trust it and I didn’t want to chance it… just yet.
Like a child curious for another glimpse, I sat for another minute and tried it again. It started.
With about 300 more feet of shoulder wide enough to fit my car, I had no confidence at all to put my car back into the four lanes of stand still, so I took it easy.
Starting the engine, with the lights flashing on the dash, I began to inch my way down the shoulder. After about 10 feet, I shut it down. Keep it cool I remembered thinking. Don’t overheat it.
And there I went using up as much of that 300 feet as I could going slower than a snails pace as the rush hour traffic inched by me to my right. But to what end I began to think? When I get to there, there’s nowhere else to go.
I just put myself into a box. What was I thinking?
Sitting there in my car with windows down and no more room left before me, an older gentlemen pulled up next to me and yelled out to me asking if I had made the call. For whatever reason, my response even shocked me.
“I’ll be okay.. thanks!” I yelled back at him over the sounds of vehicles en masse around us.
He nodded and then kept driving. Shortly after, a young woman pulled up and asked if I was okay, too. I just smiled and my car quit. I’ll be okay and thanks.
She too nodded and then kept driving, but with a nod that said… I believe you. It will be okay.
I sure needed that right then at that moment. It makes me think that often times when we feel most alone, we are actually most not alone. Or at least thats what my faith teaches me.
Sitting there with nowhere else to go. The four lanes to my right started to split. The farthest two lanes made their way onto the on ramp to the Fremont Bridge, while the two nearest me kept heading south.
And that’s when I saw it…
Like Moses before the Red Sea, I could only pray that somehow I could make it across two lanes to the wide median dividing the four lanes of traffic. It was like the promised land. There was enough shoulder to get me that much closer to that next exit and off this highway.
Will my engine last? How on earth will I get there from here? Everything would need to go my way.
Starting my engine once again, it held as I waited for my moment. I had not much room to work with. Simply put, I had to get from here to there and not take up too much road. If I did get there and the car didn’t stop, blocking all lanes, I was prepared to shut it down and sit to ponder that next move.
It was getting dark and the rain kept coming down. Visibility wasn’t good. And then it happened..
Like the parting of the Red Sea, I couldn’t believe it. A clear path opened up for me that led me to the median. It was like that feeling you get when playing Tic Tac Toe and you know you just won the game.
I made it and traffic still did not miss a beat. Are you serious? For the first time since this ordeal began, I had hope.
Maybe that young woman was right? Maybe we do entertain angels?
Safely in the median, I shut the engine off and collected my thoughts. Before me was a good 200 more yards of shoulder to work with before another lane merged into the now two lanes to my left. After that, I would have no shoulder for about 500 yards until the exit.
Inching my way down the shoulder, I stopped every few feet to not risk further damage to whatever was going on with my car. With the lights on the dashboard still flashing and armed with only uncertainty, there was now a hope I had not yet known. Maybe just maybe…
As I made it to the end of the shoulder, I had one lane merging from my right and two lanes of back to back traffic to my left. Before me was 500 yards of road with no shoulder. If it quits now, there would be no place to go and I… become that one person.
I sat there willing enough courage to go for it. I felt like Evil Knieval must have before taking off on a jump across danger and who know’s what. I just had to clear 500 yards. If I could do that, I win!
The moment had come. I went for it…