Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘slippery roads

Please Stop

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Just make it stop. Please.

When I stepped out of work yesterday, this is how my car looked:

It was snowing again, perfectly timed with the beginning of the afternoon drive. Lovely. Happy Valentine’s Day, indeed.

My commute home started well enough, considering the low visibility and slippery road surfaces, but in short order, progress slowed to stop-and-go, rolling along at a snail’s pace. That tedious speed lasted for more than an hour, during which I enjoyed a deep meander through my prized digital music collection on my phone.

With little in the way of driving decisions required, my mind was free to pay greater than normal attention to the music of my memories that was flowing from my car speakers. It served as adequate distraction from how extra-long the commute was taking, until the flow finally opened up and vehicles started moving at dangerous speeds again.

Somehow, I was able to steer clear of the two lunatics who were unsatisfied with the reasonable movement in the left lane and decided to race ahead in other lanes to cut back into the left again, disrupting everyone’s safety. One of them chose to cut off me, without the courtesy of a turn signal.

The other picked a driver who chose to “fight back” with a classic road rage tactic of “tit for tat,” racing ahead to cut back in front of the first jerk.

No problem, it gave me a chance to slow down even more to grant them plenty of space to take their grudge well ahead and away from me.

Beyond those two scares, the only other challenges of disaster I narrowly avoided happened to be three separate incidents of police and highway patrol cars precariously parked to protect vehicles that had crashed and spun out.

It took me twice as long to get home, but I did arrive without calamity.

Shortly after, the falling snow stopped, and the sun even appeared for a couple of brief glimpses before setting.

I’m going to visualize this as having been the last snowy drive I will suffer for the rest of the season. To help start this new run of luck in my favor, my goal this weekend (like it was on Tuesday, last), is to simply avoid driving my car at all over the entire weekend.

Here’s hoping I achieve that humble objective.



Written by johnwhays

February 15, 2019 at 7:00 am

Freezing Mist

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Now, this. What did we do to deserve this? My commute home from work yesterday afternoon was one of the least complicated in my memory, right up until the last ten miles. Then things got serious.

Thank goodness for my Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive Subaru vehicle with Traction Control and an Anti-Lock Braking System. Before the changing road conditions were even visible, my car alerted me to the increasingly slippery conditions.

Most of the day was a dreary, gloomy gray, with temperatures just above freezing, and a hint of wetness in the air and on the ground. When I left Plymouth, MN, it just seemed damp outside. I barely needed to use wipers throughout my drive, as the moisture wasn’t collecting on the glass.

Things changed after I had turned southeast and passed through River Falls, WI. Within five miles of home, I slowed to make a lazy left turn from the state highway to a county road. However, I hadn’t slowed enough for the invisible icing hazard, which triggered the Traction Control to suddenly kick in and instantly grab my attention.

I touched the brake to drop some of my momentum and the Anti-Lock vibrated for added emphasis. I would drive the rest of the way home with extreme care.

After turning off the county road onto the local streets, I came over a rise and spotted the telltale marks of tires sliding in an oscillating fish tale pattern, and the car perched up ahead in the first few rows of a harvested corn field. I couldn’t stop to offer any support, because there was nowhere safe to pull over, and I wasn’t sure I could get my car to stop.

Luckily, it was close to two farms where they would have equipment to help. I wouldn’t have been able to offer more than moral support.

Poor Delilah lost her feet right away on the front steps when we headed out for a walk. The conditions on our land have gone from bad to worse. Areas that were icy before are now glazed smoother than a freshly resurfaced hockey rink. Rocks, cement, and asphalt, all have a coating that is deceptively and heart-stoppingly slippery.

The absurd wickedness of navigating around here on foot has gotten morbidly comical.

As darkness set in, I very carefully made my way down to close the chicken door to the coop. As we always do, I opened the big door to peek in and count hens. Eight. I found eight. Dang it! There were just nine of them milling about around there fifteen minute before.

I counted four times, then made my way up the treacherous climb to the house to get a flashlight. Slipping my way back down again, it struck me that I had only looked at one side in the coop, toward the roosts. There were seven on the roost and one that is typically up on the 2×4 framing over the small side window.

Aiming my flashlight through the window to the opposite side, I found hen number nine, deftly perched above the other side window. Whew!

As I climbed back up toward the house one more time, I captured a shot of the shiny glaze forming on the driveway and the wisps of mist reflecting in the beam of my flashlight.

I expect driving this morning will be a real slippery trip on the local back roads.

It might take me more than the usual hour to get in to work today.






Commuting Roulette

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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

Finally Happened

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It finally happened. My luck ran out. After an untold tens-of-thousands of miles commuting to and from work without an accident, my new Subaru got its bumper smashed yesterday. The first three days of this week were a mighty challenge of winter driving. On my way home on Monday, a car directly in front of me on the interstate started fishtailing on the slippery surface. While I coaxed my vehicle to a stop, I watched him spin sideways and bump the concrete barrier with the front of his car.

If I had been unable to stop, I would have t-boned his car right on the driver’s side door. I figured it was sheer luck that the car behind me was able to stop in time, as well. The guy in front of me backed his car up and turned back into our lane and we all resumed forward progress and proceeded on our way, traveling just a tad slower than before.

When the impact occurred yesterday afternoon, I felt no sense of shock. It was more shocking to me that an accident hadn’t already happened in any number of occasions when risk was high over the years. This one just proved to verify what I figured was inevitable. If I am going to spend as many hours driving in traffic as I do, then my odds of an eventual collision climb with each passing trip.

The sad irony of yesterday’s accident is that the recent precipitation had ended and roads were cleaner than they had been for days. Visibility was clear, which was a big bonus. Two of my trips in prior days involved precipitation that would freeze on contact with my windshield.

Although the roads were cleaner, they weren’t yet 100% clear. Some lanes and shoulders remained snow-covered. On my short side route to drop off a delivery to one of our customers, I witnessed two different snowplows working to clear ramps and a side road to the fullest extent.

As I navigated back toward access to the interstate, I came around a bend where the right turn lane goes downhill a bit before rising into the turn. It is an intersection with France Avenue, which is a busy main artery. It is not uncommon to meet with a backup of cars at this right turn lane while waiting for the long light which favors the primary avenue.

If there is a chance to make that corner before cross traffic resumes, it pays not to dawdle.

img_ip1879eYesterday, anyone making that blind approach around a corner into the downhill turn lane with too much momentum was doomed. The surface was an incredibly frictionless glazed slurry of salty, sleety slush. Go ahead and read that out loud three times fast. In the time it takes you to do that, several car bumpers will have crunched.

In my case, I spotted the vehicle in front of me struggling with loss of grip and immediately began working my car to a stop without hitting anyone. My Crosstrek came to rest at a 45° angle to the lane. I barely had time to gloat over my deft maneuvering before the car behind me made solid impact.

After moving to a spot beside the turn lane, I waited for police protection to give me a chance to remove a dangling piece of plastic and bend metal away from rubbing my tire. I was still way too close to the zone where cars continued to lose control. While waiting, I witnessed (or heard the sound of) 5 additional collisions.

Every time cross traffic forced turning vehicles to wait, a collision was imminent. It was a hard thing to watch.

The police unit that eventually arrived was followed immediately by a salt and sand truck.

While the officer tended to two cars uphill from me which looked to be tangled after impact, I jumped out and worked on my damage. When he tried to walk toward my car to check on me, it was too slippery for him to step, so he skated his way across the gap.

Hearing that I had already exchanged information with the other driver in my collision, he gladly sent me on my way. I was very happy to get out of that danger zone and back on the more manageable dangers of the interstate. With my nerves on edge, I drove home as safely as possible.

Part of me felt a fear I would go from zero accidents, to two in one day if I wasn’t extremely careful.












Written by johnwhays

January 12, 2017 at 7:00 am