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*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘hazardous driving conditions

Fractious Trips

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There but for the grace of God, goes my car safely through the curves to arrive at the day-job undamaged during a cold snap with overnight snow flurries. Two days this week with the same conditions both mornings. With temperatures well below zero (F) on Monday and Tuesday, combined with a faint dusting of snow, an invisible icing glazed the pavement and normally innocuous curves of the interstate became bumper car (un)amusement rides.

I was lucky to leave later than others who exposed the surprise hazards before I arrived. My first clue was from an overhead message board reporting a crash ahead causing delays.

After a prolonged wait, during which we crawled along just above idle speed in approach to the point where three lanes were funneled down to one, I reached the scene of autobody shrapnel scattered every which way blinking little reflections of the multitude of flashing emergency lights.

For the rest of my commute, each turn was marked by disrupted snow against the cement barriers, sliding tire tracks slashing across the marked lanes, and pieces of plastic and metal sprinkled about. That is, when there weren’t still emergency vehicles in place and flatbed tow trucks collecting their prizes.

Minnesota auto body shops might be busy this week. Just a little snow caused more than 300 crashes Monday morning and more than 60 drivers spun out according to Minnesota State Patrol.

The main problem: Black ice.  (

I once had to take a previous vehicle to a body shop after someone slid into me when conditions were slippery. It’s the worst time ever to need repairs. The repair shops get inundated with work all at once. No fun for the shop that can’t fix things fast enough and even less fun for the sad car owners whose lives get significantly disrupted.

I admit to frequently driving faster than I probably should in snowstorms, but I have no problem with slowing way down for curves when conditions are ripe for black ice.

Since I can’t control what the cars around me choose to do, I consider it pure luck each time I arrive at my destination unscathed by the calamity of careless spinning disaster-makers.

These fractious trips fuel a growing urge to visualize a day when I no longer need to make these hour-long commutes.

There but for the grace of God…



Written by johnwhays

February 10, 2021 at 7:00 am

Risking Again

with 2 comments

After last week’s risky and dangerous commute home from work, I intended to be more cautious about venturing out when the weather gets wild and the roads are dicey.

However, there are some things that cause us to push that envelope of safety, like, say… a funeral for a family member. That is what we were faced with yesterday. The service for Cyndie’s aunt was at a church in Plymouth, MN, not far from the location of my day-job.

I stepped out to clean off the front steps yesterday morning, and soon learned the snow was coming down so fast that the areas where I shoveled were getting covered right back up in minutes. That caused an alert that our drive to the cities was going to take much longer than normal.

I rushed inside to let Cyndie know that we needed to depart as soon as possible, and anything she was hoping to accomplish before leaving needed to be immediately re-evaluated as to whether it was more important than possibly missing the funeral.

It was another day of crash-defying navigation in horrible visibility with heavy snow falling and roads slippery and snow-covered. Just the conditions I never wanted to find myself in again for a very long time. It’s exhausting.

To complicate matters, we needed to drive separately. We would both stay overnight in Edina, and I would drive to work this morning, while Cyndie will join immediate family at the cemetery for a brief burial service. After that, she will drive home to take over from our house/animal sitter, Anna, who stayed overnight at Wintervale for us.

I drove ahead of Cyndie, but kept a close eye on her in my rear view mirror. Together, we slowly made our way with barely a minute to spare, luckily avoiding the fate that we witnessed maybe a dozen times along the way, of cars losing control and crashing into the ditches all around us.

It was crazy making. It was white-knuckle gripping of the steering wheel the whole way. That kind of “edge-of-disaster” driving is really, really exhausting.

Follow that with heavy emotions of a funeral service, and that’s one heck of a draining day.

Wouldn’t you know, tomorrow we are due to get hit with another big snow event.

Something tells me I won’t be driving to work Tuesday.



Written by johnwhays

February 11, 2019 at 7:00 am

Mist, Continued

with 4 comments

I don’t have anything particularly dramatic to add to yesterday’s narration, but a couple humorous tidbits that Cyndie shared last night continue the themes.

I carefully (slowly) made my way to the interstate in the morning and didn’t have any problems driving the rest of the way. I texted Cyndie when I got to work, letting her know travel was possible, as she needed to drive through the cities, as well.

In the afternoon, she was miles ahead of me on the way home, and she sounded the alert that road conditions of the last few miles were still bad. She couldn’t even make it up the driveway. Her car just slid sideways on the slope by the shop garage.

She parked by the barn and precariously made her way up to the house to get driveway salt to scatter.

My car rolled right up that slope without slipping. I’m just sayin’.

I’m ready for a change of weather. Unfortunately, the forecast is all about a polar vortex of Arctic cold headed our way next. Snow seems to be a slim probability.

Later in the evening, after Cyndie returned from closing the coop, she had this to report: As usual, there was a hen squeezed onto the 2×4 over the side window, but this time, it was one of the Australorps. That top perch is usually claimed by one of the Wyandottes.

Cyndie said there was a lone Wyandotte on the near roost gesticulating obvious dissatisfaction with the arrangement.

It’s not just the horses who are wrangling over who’s highest in the pecking order around here.



Commuting Roulette

with 3 comments

The latest weather adventure to appear in our region involves a mixture of freezing mist and blowing snow. I left for work early yesterday morning, reaching my destination in good time, before the precipitation started. I decided working a short day was an option if the predicted glazing played out and threatened to turn roads into skating rinks.

About three hours into my shift, speckles of moisture started coating the window to the parking lot. Balancing the radar views with an attempt to get as much done as possible, I held out until about ten o’clock. The extra minutes I needed to spend chipping the frozen glaze off my car windows helped to assure me that my decision to leave early was justified.

If I needed any more proof of that, the two separate incidents of cars having spun out ahead of me to end up on the left shoulder, facing my approaching car head on, served as adequate confirmation.

Those were the scariest, but not the last problems to be dealt with. The next challenge came with a warning, as one of the overhead signs flashed notice of an accident ahead, with an alert to prepare to stop. To my relief, the problem was in the Westbound lanes, and I was headed east.

That one was a mess that involved a jack-knifed tractor-trailer, a lot of shredded metal, and a fleet of flashing emergency vehicles.

Surprisingly, despite all these incidents, my forward progress was barely hindered most of the way home. I drove as fast as I felt comfortable and reached our driveway in an hour and a half, as compared to the usual 60 minute drive.

Just to keep me from getting too cocky, as I braked for the turn into our welcoming driveway, my car kept right on going, sliding straight past the entrance.

I backed up, made the turn, and proceeded carefully up to the house, giving heartfelt thanks to my lucky stars.

Home, safe home, where the snow fell beautifully for a while, then turned back to that freezing slurry of icy pellets alternating with an almost invisible mist.

Cyndie recorded the sound it made to walk on the crunchy surface, because it was so uncharacteristic of the normal winter snow squeaks. She described it as walking on cardboard on top of marshmallow.

I hope my car tires are up to handling that on this morning’s drive.



Written by johnwhays

February 20, 2018 at 7:00 am