Burning Bright

Got home a bit ago after driving 16 hours from San Antonio. Trip was relatively uneventful and the weather was fairly decent after some early rain in Texas, late rain in Missouri. Clear enough to know when I was at my closest to the Western White House, and performed a little symbolic gesture signifying the level of my respect when I passed.

Trip was educational and enlightening, but will be the last solo cross-country trip I do. Without sharing the driving responsibilities with another, after a while the stress builds up and you can’t relax, even when there’s nothing to stress about. And when unusual events happen, you can overreact.

Tonight, coming over one of the passes in the dark and the rain in Missouri, I rounded a corner to be met by braked cars. I slammed on my brakes and hit my emergency signal, and then spotted the cause of the halt — a sports car was by the side of the road, completely engulfed in flames. No matter how much you see it on TV, in real life the effect of a burning car up close is a lot more of an impact, and a lot less entertaining.

(I imagine the same can be said of war.)

The fire department was there, but far back from the car. There was little they could do without shutting down the highway, and little that could be salvaged in the car. As for the tank exploding, that’s a pretty common myth about cars burning — cars rarely explode, I’ve been told.

However, if there had been police there, I have no doubts that the line of us that formed to inch past the car would not have been allowed when it was in full flame. I could feel the intense heat as we passed — this couldn’t have been the appropriate thing to do. Or maybe it is.

I saw three young men talking to one of the firemen, and am assuming they were from the car and no one was killed. Regardless though, you will think less of me when I say that not long after passing the car, I pulled over myself and for some reason started crying, and couldn’t stop for 30 minutes.

I do not cry that easily, I truly don’t. I think it was the shock of the car and the horror of the moment when I looked in the flames and thought that they might have engulfed people. And I’m tired. And a wuss.

Now, if I were a journalist I would have pulled over, grabbed my cameras and got some great pictures and possibly even sold one or two. But I’m not a journalist; only a writer of words and taker of an occasional picture, glad she’s home, and swearing that she will no long go on these solo cross-country trips.

And that she’s going to buy a fire extinguisher for her car.

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