Flashback: Winter, 2001. My buddy Greg was hosting a small party at his apartment. With us was our friend Jerry, and two girls who worked with me in lift operations at the local ski slope. Jerry had taken a shine to one of the girls, and had offered to be their ride home at the end of the party. His plans changed when the object of his affection announced she had a boyfriend, and he decided that getting too drunk to drive anywhere was a better idea.
I had to work the next morning, so I wasn’t drinking. I offered to bring the girls home when we wrapped up, it would only be a fifteen minute drive.
As the night went on, and we enjoyed ourselves inside- outside started to get snowy. Very snowy, so much that by the time we decided to call it a night, it had reached blizzard conditions. The girls didn’t want to stay, so I made good on my promise, and loaded them into the old Ford Taurus station wagon I was driving at the time. Off we went.
Until that time, I’d never really done much driving through really bad weather, but…what the hell. I had two lovely young ladies depending on me to get them home, and I was young, fearless, and fairly stupid. Most of the trip was uneventful, albeit slow. The final, major challenge would be a notoriously long, steep hill, which they lived near the bottom of. Starting down, I knew right away it was going to be…interesting. We crawled down, our juvenile banter and my awkward attempt at flirting with the single one of the two dried up as I focused on the task at hand. Then, it happened. I stepped on the brake, and the entire car went completely sideways. The girls screamed, but somehow….I managed to pull out of the spin/skid and straighten up. I got them home without any more incidents, although I wasn’t going BACK up that hill, and ended up taking another way home, a ten mile route that took me close to an hour. I got a kiss on the cheek for the ordeal, but more than that I took away a sense of confidence that’s stuck with me to this day.
Driving in inclement weather doesn’t rattle me that much. If I know the car I’m in, and I know the road I’m on, I’ll drive where others won’t. I’ve had my driveway cleaned out better than the road I live on so I could get out and make it to ambulance calls if necessary. Perhaps I’m still fairly stupid- but I don’t really see it as taking chances if you’re cautious, capable, and just a little bit lucky.
Since that night with the two girls in my dilapidated old station wagon, I haven’t had any major incidents on icy roads.
I will admit, that there’s something awfully creepy about being on a snowed-over country road at night, with nobody around you. All sounds other than that low pitched squeaking of your tires packing the snow around you are muffled. Your headlights play out over a road where there are no lines, just- if you’re lucky- tire tracks from adventurous predecessors.
But there’s a shot of adrenaline too. Senses are heightened. You’re forced to pay more attention to the road you’re on and anything around you that could pose a hazard. Every sound, sight, and sensation in the wheels and pedals are magnified, and all of a sudden the drive is dynamic rather than boring.
Plus, there’s the sense of victory when you arrive at your destination, made more potent if someone there can look at you and say “Are you f-ing crazy??”
In general I love to drive. Long-hauls, night drives, spur of the moment trips…all are so very much fun to me. A college friend and I once drove fifteen hours straight from Northern Virginia, to Central New York to drop my sister off at college, then three hours back to where we lived in eastern NY. We still talk about that trip.
Driving in conditions that make a trip a challenge though- adds something to it.
Maybe I’m a little insane, who knows. But chances are, if you see one car on the road when everyone else is smart enough to batten down the hatches- wave. I’ll wave back.