"In every walk with nature one receives more than he seeks."
John Muir

Monday, November 29, 2010

PREPARE TO STOP-- winter driving

I love the beauty of the fresh snow.
The world is clean, fresh, white and sounds are hushed and muffled.

But driving in it is another thing, entirely.

Growing up on Long Island, NY, we had some huge blizzards from those nor-easters coming up the coast. The garbage trucks (now called waste management sanitary disposal vehicles-what a mouthful--whew!)) would temporarily hook up big plows in front and push most of the heavy, wet snow off the roads. The snowpack remained behind and we loved ice skating (snow skating??) out on the street in our new Christmas ice skates.
For us kids, it all melted way too soon.

But in all our years in upstate NY, where we had serious snow that never left for months after its first appearance, the giant snowplows were permanent structures. They also spread salt and sand that cleared the main roads down to the asphalt, mostly. More than once these noisy giants even pulled into our own private driveway to push back the hugest drifts or spread some salt. Nice guys. I appreciated living in a small town where we knew the first names of the road crews. I also remember the countless nights of snowstorms where I was comforted by the lullaby of the huge plows rumbling through the dark hours.

Well, snow removal here is quite different. Rather than salt, gravel is spread. Now gravel provides grip for tires (so they say) but does nothing to help melt snow nor clear roads.
This gravel is stored in man-made mountains.
The gravel spreading trucks also work as graders, packing down the dry, fluffy snow.

The problem with gravel is that it gets driven into the packed snow on the road. Occasionally tires will hit some loose and these little chunks propel onto windshields with great speed.
Thus, many, many (actually most) vehicles have cracked windshields.

Intersections are the toughest of driving challenges
for the pause at a red light causes ice to build-up quickly.
An interesting phenomena are these signs located about 1/10 of a mile ahead of stoplights.

Since the snowpacked and ice-covered roads are so slick, stopping is a real challenge. These "prepare to stop" signs are placed strategically so a vehicle can stop safely when the light turns red. The trick is to actually begin to break gently when the warning light starts to flash.

I have prayed daily before leaving the parking lot, obeyed the signs and driven very slowly, much to the chagrin of the drivers behind me. I have remained safe up until this point. Thank God.
My grip on the wheel has lightened up a bit. And I still love the beauty of the snow.
But I do miss my friendly car starter, snow scraper and chauffeur.
He headed back to Texas with just his memories of Alaskan snows.

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