It’s not lovely weather for a sleigh ride together
The roads had been soft and mushy all day, until evening, when they suddenly marbled beneath fresh, gathering snow. Driving, I told my boys I could not talk.On our hill, I lost purchase several times, despite four-wheel drive and snow tires. I had just told Teddy, then 8 (Roy, 4, was asleep), “I think we’re going to make it,” when headlight beams appeared above. A pickup truck slid around the curve, in my lane.
It was at exactly this time of year. Yes, it’s the season – for winter driving.I’ve been phobic about driving in snow ever since I first moved here and, though going slowly, rolled my small truck in a blizzard. I still remember how in one instant I went from being in control to completely out of it. The truck flopped, and bounced upside-down, windows and windshield blowing out in a hail of glass.
I had not wanted to drive that night, but a friend was having a dinner, and I felt obligated. Ever since, my mantra is to avoid driving in storm if I don’t have to: It’s not worth it.On this particular night, however, I was only going home. We live on a steep hill, of which visitors often say, “This must be awful in winter!”
“I don’t know why they say that,” says Mike, my husband. “It’s only really bad two or three days a winter.” He takes perverse pleasure in its gravelly roughness: “Keeps the riffraff off!”Well, I’ve been out on those bad days – and in the ditch three times, including twice in the same night. Three friends have also pitched into the ditch, and a neighbor, her baby grandson in the back seat, rolled her SUV.The truck slid straight at me. I cut right, and drove into the ditch. The truck hit the bank 30 feet above. I rolled down my window and bellowed not to try moving, but it bucked, backed out – and skidded toward us again.I reversed, backed out, and, as expected, lost control, hurtling backwards into the snowing night. Having cut the wheel, though, I veered across the road, landing hard into the opposite ditch, pointing uphill. The pickup truck sailed past, sliding 300 feet to the bottom.
The driver hurried back up to help, but my car was planted. Another neighbor, Bob, driving uphill in his Jeep, kindly stopped. We packed my wailing boys in among his groceries (with no room left, I would walk), and he shifted into gear. The wheels spun.”Get the kids!” he shouted. I grabbed them, and the Jeep slid, spinning, all the way down.I had to get the boys out of there, so, intending to return and help, began hiking, all of us falling on the ice. Above the crest of the hill, we watched a huge snowplow slowly coast sideways.In the stinging snow, Roy began sobbing, then complaining that I was “stretching” his arm. By the time we reached our driveway, Teddy was helping, saying, “We’re almost there!”We reached home, where Mike offered to head down in my stead.Meanwhile, another neighbor, Ken, parked his truck at the bottom of the hill, and walked; and a pickup driven by a young neighbor, Pete, went off. Pete called his father, Duane, who, suited and booted, zipped down in an ATV. The sheriff arrived, lights swirling. I phoned a tow truck, which went off the road.Pete and Duane put on chains and drove the pickup out, then hauled my car out, Mike behind the wheel. The second they unhooked it, Mike slid backwards, all the way down. His head out the foggy window, he tried to steer: missed the scattered vehicles by inches, somehow didn’t drop into the 15-foot gully at the bottom, and finally slowed.The car was unscathed. I did not feel the same, but that’s riffraff for you.Alison Osius lives in Carbondale and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org (write GSPI as subject heading).
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