The Worst Drive Ever

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.

Is there a train on the track?

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.

Hey, get off our turf!

 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?

29 thoughts on “The Worst Drive Ever

  1. Ally Bean says:

    First of all I’m laughing here because whenever even one snowflake falls, Z-D starts singing that stupid song “Snow” that you have so kindly featured on this post. He cannot sing, and it’s more of a screech than song.

    As for worst driving in snow experience, I was in my mid-20s and driving along a road beside a river. My mother was with me and it was a total white out. We didn’t want to be rear-ended and sent into the river, so all we could do was to keep moving slowly forward with her looking at her side of the road to make sure I didn’t drive into the river and me looking straight ahead hoping to not crash into anyone. It was hell, but we made it home.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Joni says:

      So I guess we won’t be seeing Z-D on any singing TV show then? I do love that song, but not the reality of snow. Your river drive reminds me that I once turned down relief work because I didn’t want to drive home 45 minutes along a river road in the dark in winter. The road is very close to the water in places, and under icy conditions, cars have been known to occasionally land in the river, and sink very quickly. No, not for me.

      Liked by 1 person

    • annieasksyou says:

      My husband and I were once given free tickets to a supposedly exciting college football game about a 1-1/2 hour drive from our home. I think his employer was the donor, so our gratitude was expected.

      It had begun to snow by the time we took our seats—and the wind made the temperature feel Arctic. We stayed for about 20 minutes, which was 19 minutes too long.

      The drive home was horrific: zero visibility and a full-blown blizzard. I think it took us about five hours.

      We always enjoy returning to our home, but on that occasion, the relief and gratitude were overflowing.

      But you, Joni: 30 years of driving with the knowledge of what hazardous conditions were possible! I’m relieved for you that you can stay snug and bake cookies…

      Liked by 2 people

      • Joni says:

        It’s funny how we have total recall of those white knuckle drives! I hate football so would have left early too, or more likely stayed home and said I’d gone! I’m relieved I done with all that, and from the looks of the forecast – big snowstorm next two days – I’ll be home baking cookies…or Dutch oven bread….my next experiment. PS. I replied to your email.

        Like

  2. Anne says:

    We had been hiking in the mountains of Lesotho when a snowstorm came out of nowhere and we sought shelter in a barn that night. The next morning we set off to return to our home in South Africa along very narrow, very winding, very muddy roads with no room for passing traffic. Thankfully, I was the passenger in our LDV and my husband is an excellent driver. However, if you could see how steeply those mountains fell below the road you might understand why I eventually chose to join our two friends on the open back – at least, I felt, that I stood a chance of jumping off before we skidded off the mountain! Large trucks had churned up the road in places, turning them into skidpans … my knuckles were clenched tight, my heart beat loudly, my mouth was dry, and my muscles were tight in anticipation of having to jump. When the slippery muddy road finally brought us to the lower reaches of the mountains I burst into tears of relief!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Joni says:

      Wow Anne…what an experience. I can’t imagine seeking refuge in a barn overnight. I googled to see the area and it looks very steep. Very similar to the Cabot Trail in Nova Scotia…..I couldn’t look down at all so lay down in the back seat until we got to lower land.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Dave says:

    “… it was so bad I couldn’t even tell where the road was.” Yep, know that feeling, Joni – too often here in Colorado. My worst drive – hands down – was through one of our mountain passes in early spring, to get my daughter to a volleyball tournament in the western part of the state. Once we entered the pass the road crews closed the highway behind us, so there was no turning back. That’s a bad omen when you see that in your rear-view mirror. Thank goodness for the person in front of me, who managed to stay on the road in white-out conditions. I stuck to his/her taillights until some measure of visibility returned. Then we promptly pulled over and spent a good thirty minutes clearing snow from our wheel wells. It was so packed in there I’m surprised our tires didn’t grind down their treads to nothing. Thankfully, my daughter is an adult now. Her volleyball years are behind her.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Joni says:

      Dave, you were a brave and dedicated Dad to drive in that! I guess you must be used to more snow in Colorado….I live in what is known as the “banana belt” of Ontario, so we tend to miss most of the big dumps of snow, so you keep those Colorado lows right there! Speaking of roads closures on mountain passes, I read a murder mystery a few years ago, set in a service centre in the Colorado mountains during a blizzard – a similar scenario, the road over the pass was closed, so around ten passengers were holed up in the rest stop overnight, and one of them was a murderer. It was quite a gruesome book…..but riveting in an Agatha Christie And Then There Were None way.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. avwalters says:

    During my ‘learn to drive’ years, my family lived in the way-north, lake-effect Keweenaw peninsula of Michigan. I had a handle on winter driving. But then I moved to California and grew soft. One Christmas I flew ‘home’ for the holiday, and my sister picked me up at the airport…fifty miles from home. It was total white-out conditions–I have no idea how the pilot managed to land. For the drive, my sister had a system…she couldn’t see a damn thing, so I hung out the open window on the passenger side, with a stick. When things were particularly grim in the visibility department, she’d slow way down and I’d drag the stick to locate the edge-of-the-road-braille bumps, so we could at least stay on the road, and on our side of it.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Joni says:

      OMG, that is one of the worst stories I’ve ever heard, but an ingenious solution too! I often wonder how pilots land too, but I suppose they have different navigation systems, and maybe things look different from the air. My brother used to work at an airport, and gave me some of the flares they use on the ramps for my car ER kit.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Jo Shafer says:

    In central Washington state, we’ve experienced our fair share of winter driving mishaps, especially back and forth to our children’s college in Seattle. Yes, Seattle, where it simply rains a lot on the west side of the Cascades. Home is east of the mountains, usually kept pretty clear by constant road crews plowing, even with traffic. But the worst section of the stretch is open prairie between Cle Elum and Ellensburg. That’s where hundreds of vehicles stalled in a blizzard — white-out side-blowing snow storm — for five hours. (Usually the whole trip takes only three hours, start to finish.) Huge diesel trucks hemmed in our little Datsun. The roar of running engines was deafening.

    How anybody got out of that jam I’ll never know. I simply don’t remember.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Joni says:

      It sounds dreadful! You’ve probably blocked the details from your mind. I hate any highway with a lot of truck traffic, which is why I seldom drive on the one where snowmageddon happened. Same with Toronto, if I have to go there, I take the train. It’s never the big rig guy who gets hurt/killed as he’s sitting high up, it’s usually the people in the cars.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Joni says:

      It must be nice to not to have to drive everywhere. My first job I could walk to work….5 minutes….so close I could even go home for lunch if I wanted to….so it was a shock that my next one was a longer commute, but I loved that job so much I didn’t mind it, except in winter.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. throughrosetintedglasses54 says:

    Really enjoyed reading that Joni, although your drives sound like they werent a very pleasant experience at the time. We have had our fair share of snow recently and Ive also had to visit Simon quite a few times for different reasons. Each time I have been a bit unsure as to whether I would be able to make it back the next day but the roads have been clear and the scenery has been a wonder to behold.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Joni says:

      Thanks Alison! It’s pretty when there’s just a few inches of fresh snow. I think a lot depends on how well the roads are cleared. Sometimes areas which don’t usually don’t get much snow, don’t have the equipment to deal with it. You never want to drive in the southern US in the winter if a sudden snow storm comes up…..they don’t salt their icy roads. Look at that recent horrible pileup in northern Texas.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. rkrontheroad says:

    A good read! I’ve been in some scary situations and you’ve inspired me to write about them sometime. Not this year, not much snow to speak of in my Colorado mountains. Lucky not to have been seriously injured! A roll-over in deep snow the center lane of the highway after hydroplaning in melting snow. Right in the middle of a 30 car pile-up, going 15 mph in second gear, slammed from both ends. White-out conditions where I couldn’t tell where the road ends and suddenly a fox appeared in the headlights, and sadly didn’t survive the collision.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Joni says:

      Oh my, you have had some bad ones! I’ve been relatively lucky to have not had to drive on busy highways, just two lane rural roads with moderate to light traffic. A roll over would be my worst nightmare, and a multiple vehicle pileup and yet it happens all the time, like recently in northern Texas. I blame the big trucks as they are always in a rush, so a smaller vehicle has less chance of survival. I won’t drive in Toronto traffic for that reason, if I have to go there I take the train. Thanks for reading and commenting Ruth!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Linda Schaub says:

    Those trips you remembered in perfect detail were terrifying to me Joni. Last week I told you about the horrible drive home from Toronto on the 401 Highway after my grandmother’s funeral, in a Pacer no less, which had cat litter in the back to make it heavier and did not do a bit of good. I thought we would never make it home. I even took driver’s training in the Winter so I would learn how to drive in snowy conditions. When the schools in my City lost their accreditation, we had half-days at school for 10th and 11th grade and when we got to 12th grade (our senior year as we had no Grade 13), we had no amenities, so had to pay for our own driver’s training. We had a mild Winter, thus no Winter driving occurred. My first Winter driving, I spun out in my VW Beetle and turned around multiple times, just barely missing a ditch. I was terrified and to this day, I relive that moment whenever I have had to drive in snow and start to go into a skiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiid.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Joni says:

      Oh a VW Beetle would be like the Fiero. It doesn’t matter how many years have passed, we seem to have total recall for those kinds of white knuckle experiences! So glad to be done with all that. If I have an appointment and the weather is bad I cancel it, or arrange some other way there.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Linda Schaub says:

        Yes, that was horrible and tainted forever how I felt about driving in the Winter. Same as being in the car with a friend on the expressway and a semi-truck came barreling onto the expressway and merged without paying attention to us and made us swerve up onto an embankment sideways. I have not liked driving on an expressway since that day and I was not driving, just a front-seat passenger. I will take the service drive instead of the expressway every time.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. ruthsoaper says:

    I’ve done my share of snow storm driving but thankfully those days are mostly over. The worst drive that I can remember wasn’t snow though. It was ice. I had just set out to take the kids to school, and was driving my daughters 1997 honda civic, when it began to rain. As the rain hit the ground it froze instantly and by the time I got to my next turn, a couple miles down the road, the road was solid ice. I slowed, without braking, enough to make the turn. As I was making my turn I was watching other vehicles, that were coming up to the corner where they had to stop, sliding into each other and off the road. I just prayed that no one would hit us as I guided the car around the corner. Thankfully no one did. At that point I decided to go back home. I took the next road which was gravel and a little better off than the paved roads and circled back towards home. I only had to drive a short distance on the paved road to get us back safely. My daughter was disappointed that she had to miss school but within about two hours the sun had come out and melted everything so I took her in for the last part of the day.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Joni says:

      Wow, I’ve not had the experience of driving on solid ice and don’t want it! I’ve driven in freezing rain, but had enough traction to not slide anywhere. I have a Honda Civic now, and think those antilock brakes are the best invention ever.

      Liked by 1 person

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