Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Apparently "E" means "Empty"

I'm gonna come right out right now and admit that this was totally and completely my fault.

Let me set the stage here. Rick and I were driving from Portland to Seattle. We also had my coworker Katie in the RV with us. I noticed that the fuel guage was at about 1/4 before we left, so I made the mental note that we needed to fuel up before getting too far out of Portland. Why the mental note? Because the fuel guage in the RV is small and completely blocked by the steering wheel when I'm sitting in the driver's seat. I'd like to add that the low fuel dummy light and is also blocked. I guess I'll also add that the low fuel dummy light in this particular recreational vehicle does NOT have a companion audible warning chime.

Long story short, I forgot about the fuel thing about 10 seconds after I made the mental note. I re-remembered the fuel thing about an hour later when I noticed that the engine wasn't running. (We were on the Interstate at this point, in case you're wondering.)

My exact expression was "**** me! We're out of gas!"

Katie was riding shotgun. As she tells it, she looked over at the dash and saw that the fuel guage needle was so far below "E" that it was resting on the peg that supports it when the engine is off. (I kind of wondered why, if she could see the guage so well from her seat, she didn't mention something about a gallon earlier, but i digress.)

A large semi behind us with a blaring horn reminded me that we should not be coasting on the Interstate, so I threw it in neutral (to maximize coasting distance), hit the flashers, and pulled over.

Once we slowed to a stop, I shifted back into gear, crossed my fingers, and turned the key. Success! I floored it back onto the highway and got us another few hundred yards before the engine quit again. (I should mention that we were lucky enough to be about a 1/2 mile from an exit with fuel when this happened.)

Anyway, I coasted to a stop on the shoulder again and fired up the engine. Again, success! I floored it to get us another few hundred yards closer to the exit.

At this point I did what I now consider to be one of the most absolutely stupdiest things I've ever done in my life. (We're talking Darwin Awards quality stupid here.)

I had just hit the gas and was accelerating on the shoulder. There was a semi truck in the right lane (to my left), but instead of slowing down to let it pass I decided that I wanted to make the most of the fuel fumes so I keep accelerating. We were essentially running full highway speed down the shoulder, right next to this truck. The problem was that there was a bridge around a corner at which point the shoulder (i.e. our lane) completely disappeared! I slammed on the brakes. The semi truck that was next to us started to gain some ground as we got squeezed between it and the guardrail. At the very last second I swerved batman-style into the lane behind the truck just as the engine quit again.

(I get nervous just thinking about this.)

Just how stupid was this move? Consider some alternate endings:
  • We hit the bridge guardrail and go flying over the edge to our death.
  • We hit the semi truck and go careening out of control to our death.
  • We hit the semi truck and it goes careening out of control.
  • There's a vehicle behind the semi truck that we cream as we're swerving to avoid the bridge death thing.
Seriously, this was really stupid of me. I've never been in a car accident, but this one at best would have delayed us for our Seattle user group meeting and at worst would've wiped out 50% of The Brian Madden Company plus a few bystanders.

On a lighter note, the RV coasted most of the way around the exit ramp, and the three of us walked to the gas station to buy a gas can and a gallon of gas.

The photo below is perhaps my favorite one of the whole trip.

This is like the automobile walk of shame. Lots of people honked as they drove by.

One final tip: After we got the gallon of gas into the RV, we drove to the gas station to fill it up. Rick and I were kind of joking about what to do with the gas can we just bought. Try to return it? Throw it away? Then Katie piped in, "uhhhh.. how about filling it up and sticking in the RV?"

Oh. Right.


Blogger Jack Cain said...

ROFLMAO! I'm glad you're OK, but this was really funny.

BTW - When I told you about driving on the shoulder at 70 with the Highway patrol behind me (but not chasing me) should I have made it clearer that I was driving a little teensy weenie pickup truck and not a WINNEBAGO!!!???

11:17 AM  
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