I’m the first to admit that I have some quirks. I’m scared of aircraft when they’re parked in unexpected places. I hate glitter, chalk, and sand because I can’t stand the way they feel. I’m terrified of driving on mountain roads.
And yet this past week, my family took a vacation that saw us pass airplanes parked on the side of the road, my kid drenched a hat in glitter glue, and we drove through Sequoia National Park–which, if you haven’t been there, consists of nothing but very windy mountain roads.
I wasn’t scared of the drive at first, especially since I didn’t know what to expect. I realized that there was a huge increase in elevation, but for some reason it didn’t occur to me that we’d have to somehow get from one elevation to another.
Thankfully my husband was driving, and thankfully I trust him. He’s a good driver, is very safety-conscious, and knows how I freak out. The roads were relatively well maintained, and there were quaint (and hopefully functional) retaining walls through a great deal of the drive. There was also construction which meant that we spend part of the drive behind pilot cars that led us through the work zone at a slow-ish rate of speed.
All in all, the way up wasn’t too bad, likely because we were mostly on the inside part of the road and I never looked down. Instead I was looking up at the scenery and the trees, which really are huge.
The way down was a different story. On the way down, we were mostly on the outside and I made the mistake of looking down. We were so high up I couldn’t even see the bottom. It seemed like the foliage extended for miles below us. At one point my husband, who was driving not-as-fast as the people behind us (lest I flip out) pulled into a turnout to let others go by. Only he didn’t tell me he was turning out, so all I knew was that our car was suddenly headed off the road. I think I still have fingernail marks in my thighs.
What’s weird is that even though the ride down was stressful, it wasn’t until afterwards that it became terrifying. I keep thinking about those steep drops and how a car could veer just a few feet and plunge to the bottom of the mountain…and no one would ever know! The people would die upon impact, and the thick trees would keep anyone from finding them. Heck, even if there were witnesses, how would anybody get to them?
According to the literature we were handed on our way in, drowning is the leading cause of death in Sequoia. (Men between 18 and 30–not kids–are most at risk, presumably because they’re the most…how to put it nicely…brazen?) But I’m convinced the leading cause of death is cars plunging off the mountain roads.
Irrational? Maybe. Probably. I hope so. But in any case, it will likely be a long time before we head back there. Don’t get me wrong: I want to go back. I’m just not sure I’ll be able to.
So, tell me: What driving conditions or types of roads scare you, if any? Tunnels? Bridges? Snow? Is anyone else as terrified of the mountains as I am? And does anyone have words of wisdom to help me calm down about them?