Getting There – it isn’t always the fun part

Our trip to Austin was not the smoothest excursion.

Fans spill out onto the track after Räikkönen wins the 2018 US Grand Prix.

But we finally made it to COTA, joined friends for a great time and watched an exciting race with a nail-biter of a finish.
We had planned to fly to Austin October 18th on Via Air. I had never heard of them , but last summer they began offering non-stop flights between Tulsa and Austin. An affordable one-hour flight sounded ideal compared to 7 hours on the road. Turns out their “daily” flights from Tulsa to Austin are… not. According to FlightAware, flight number 4171 was cancelled on the 13th, 15th, 16th, 18th, 20th, 21st and  23rd of October. 

Friday morning we loaded up the car and headed out.

Rain fell steadily all morning, sometimes increasing to “wipers on high” volume. The radar map showed an undulating green blob covering most of Oklahoma and Texas. As the sun rose it was evident we were in for a long, wet day.

I knew my car was due for fresh tires. A busy schedule and travel had prevented me from ordering new rubber. Remember: I hadn’t planned to be driving to Austin! The Continental ExtremeContact DW is considered a summer tire and not ideal for the cold and wet, though I had been impressed with their performance. But after 25,000 miles they were low on tread, especially on the rear, and the unending rain was making it pretty obvious. A heavy downpour near the Red River really had us squirming around in our lane. 

Conti ExtremeContact tires were pretty awesome for 25k miles.

Near Lewisville, Texas the hydroplaning caught up with me. The rain was light and nothing about the road was exceptionally strange, but the Infiniti slowly yawed to the left. I tried to correct but overcompensated and the rear now swung to the right– toward the barrels on an exit ramp! I overcame my impulse to pump the brakes and mashed the pedal to the floor. At this point I’m pretty sure the engine had died as I never felt the telltale pulsing of the ABS. The steering was stiff, but I remember the rear end swinging back to the left, and I complied by turning the steering wheel to the right. Since steering into the skid hadn’t helped I decided to stop fighting it. We spun around 270° and came to rest on the exit ramp with one tire slightly off the pavement. 

Whew. 

We were extremely lucky, the traffic was sparse and the roadway was wide. It could have been much worse. Just a few minutes earlier we had been sandwiched between construction barriers and a semi!

We pulled into the nearest Discount Tire and camped out while they installed a set of all-season Michelins. A couple of hours later we were back on the road to Austin. Raining. Getting dark. Tired.

 

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