Although we’re currently experiencing a few weeks of bitterly cold temperatures, it’s been a fairly mild winter with little snow – a few inches here and there, but nothing that requires shoveling and so far no major storms. Now with the Polar Vortex settled in, it’s too cold to snow, (very cold air contains very little moisture) but when I think of all those long brutal winters when I drove through hell, it makes me angry that now that I’m retired, there’s practically nothing. Last week in part one, I blogged about Snowmageddon – the storm of the century, now in part two – let’s talk about the worst drive ever.
Those of you who live in regions which experience the four seasons in all their glory, may appreciate snow when it first appears in December, that nice white fluffy stuff that makes you want to book an inn in Vermont.
These people sensibly took the train…
But by February most people are sick of it, and almost everyone dreads winter driving. Oh, you get used to, but I bet you secretly rejoice when spring arrives and you don’t have to continually check the weather forecast for storms on the horizon. If you’re working from home now, lucky you, you get to escape it altogether this year.
Even if you’re a good driver, and have the ultimate heavy duty vehicle with snow tires and four wheel drive, you still have to worry about other people’s driving. And isn’t it always the worst during the first snowfall of the season, when it seems everyone has forgotten how to drive, and the police, called out to fifty or more cars in the ditch, are reminding everyone to slow down – winter is here.
If you do go slow, then inevitably there is someone on your tail, desperate to pass, usually a big truck. Once some impatient young man finally passed me on a bare stretch, then spun around on the next snowy patch, right into the ditch. I was tempted to wave at him as I drove past, but a farmer had already come out to help him. Why do people always expect farmers to pull them out with their tractors – get a CAA membership.
Snowmageddon made me think about my worst drive ever. There are two in particular which stand out in my memory.
The first was when I was in my twenties and had a little two seater Fiero. (Yes, I know, not exactly practical). I didn’t have much winter driving experience as I had gone to school in Toronto and took the subway. The Fiero’s engine was in the back for stability, but the car sat so low that you sometimes felt like you were plowing the road.
It was late November and I had gone to London with my parents to Toys R Us to buy Christmas presents for the grandkids-who-had-everything. It was a mild sunny day otherwise we wouldn’t have gone, as London is in the snowbelt area, but shortly after we got back to the farm, a storm came out of nowhere and I decided to drive home before it got worse. It was dark by then, and the snow was that heavy wet stuff and by the time I came up to the train tracks just outside of town the windows were coated with it. The red warning lights were on so I stopped, but they had been having problems with those lights for quite awhile and they would sometimes flash even if there wasn’t a train in sight. By then I was having a hard time seeing any distance at all. I opened both windows to check if a train was coming and the windshield fogged up, but I accidentally hit the trunk instead of the defogger button so the trunk lid flew up obscuring my rear view. I sat there for a few minutes, not sure what to do, until there was a long lineup of angry cars behind me, and finally some guy with a truck (it’s always a truck) blasted his horn. Maybe he could see better than I could? So I went over the tracks, too quickly and promptly spun out on the other side in front of an oncoming car but I managed to get back into my lane just in time. I arrived home quite shook up – not one of my better drives.
The other episode involved a particularly bad stretch of country road and a dark and stormy night. I was working the late shift and it had been snowing heavily for hours, and was really getting bad out there as every second person who came in insisted on telling me,as if I wasn’t already worried enough about the drive home. I should have stayed at the B&B in town, a newly restored Victorian with a skylight and claw-foot bathtub in the bathroom, but it was pricey and I wanted to be home in my own bed as I was off for the weekend. Both ends of this county road would usually be plowed out, but the middle section was always a no-man’s land. With no houses or buildings to block the wind, just wide open fields, it was the perfect storm for winter white outs. Luckily this section wasn’t well traveled as on many a snowy night I would often be the only fool on the road.
On this night it was so bad I couldn’t even tell where the road was. There was zero visibility. Was I too close to the ditch? Where was the ditch? If you’ve ever driven a county road in the dark, there are no streetlights, only the light from your headlights. I crawled along, plowing through the drifts, chewing gum (as opposed to clenching jaw) and listening to Pachelbel’s Cannon on repeat – my routine for those white-knuckle drives. I’m sure there was an angel on my shoulder that night. When I finally drove out of it, the road was still heavy with drifted-on snow but I could see the light from some of the farmhouses on either side – a navigation point , signs of civilization.
A friend of mine ran into a pack of wild dogs/coyotes one night in that same section. They must have become disoriented in the snow to have come so far out of the bush and refused to move off the road. She finally drove through them and they parted – what a strange sight that must have been, a bunch of eerie eyes glaring at her, as if she had invaded their territory.
I’ve had other bad drives too (hey it’s Canada), and some thankfully, where I wasn’t driving. Men always think they can drive through everything, and maybe you can if you have a big SUV/truck. At least then I could close my eyes and pretend to sleep or read a book to take my mind off the fact that we might be following a long line of red taillights right into a ditch. I’d much rather drive in heavy rain than snow, more traction, but recall one horrible night drive in a fog so thick I could barely see the lines on the road. Where was Rudolph when you needed him?
Now that I’m retired, I’m grateful to be able to stay home when the weather outside is frightful, and looking back, I often wonder how I did it for thirty years? I’m not such a brave driver now that I’m older – I’ve become a weather wimp. If there’s a blizzard outside, I stay home and bake cookies, and say a prayer for those poor souls who must brave the elements to go to work.
What’s the worst drive you’ve ever experienced?