Wednesday, November 25, 2015

UPer winter road lessons...

when i was a child, we lived in Wiesbaden, Germany for a few years, so i had seen snow before. but seeing snow as a child is much different than seeing it as an adult. through a child’s eyes, snow is just sledding, snowmen dough, snowball fights, forts, and snow angels. it is something to shove down the back of your little brother’s jacket (what? who me? oh no. i was a nice big sister. i don’t know what he told you, but it’s all lies).

as an adult, however, snow is not as fun; especially when you have to shovel it or drive in it. the lessons learned my first winter here will probably stick with me the rest of my life (like ice salt sticks to the car’s undercoating).
  • before using a snow blower or electric snow shovel, since they both operate really the same way, know which way the wind is blowing and walk upwind while you are trying to clear the driveway. if you walk downwind, you will have snow blown back into your face, down the back of your coat, down the front of your coat, and before long you will look like a snowman on ‘The Walking Dead.'
  • when you get to the end of the drive way, and are about to shovel your snow into the street, know which way the street plow will be running. if you throw your snow to the wrong side of the driveway, the plow will push it all right back in for you.
  • layer, layer, layer when getting dressed. flannel lined jeans are nice and cozy, but if you have to walk any distance, or spend any time inside, you will find that they are extremely hot and binding. wool thermals will wick away the moisture, keeping you from getting frostbite, and still allowing you to move comfortably while staying warm.  
  • invest in a good pair of snow boots. don’t buy cute. buy warm. eventually you will want to wear flip flops when you decide to spend next winter in the Bahamas and it is really hard to walk in them if you don’t have toes. 
  • same for gloves and mittens. buy warm. buy wool. don’t buy cute with faces or texture pads so you can still text message with them on. put the phone away except to call 911 to get you out of the drift because you were texting while driving and got sucked off the road by the slushy stuff. it will be hard to take a selfie of you on the beach in the Bahamas if you don’t have a thumb (think of all the sheep you are providing an income for so they can support all those cute little lambs you’ll eat for Easter. oh, well, maybe that wasn’t the best example).
  • keep a few emergency supplies in the trunk of your car or in the back seat where you can get to them if you do get stuck. a shovel is helpful, and one of those folding camping ones is perfect. a box or bag of non-clumping kitty litter to give you some traction in the snow or mud. i saw a [video clip] that showed a stick tied to a tire to get out of the mud. handy dandy idea really. brilliant. i may have to get a 2x3x3 stick and some nylon rope to keep in the trunk. snacks like energy bars or something that won’t freeze. empty water bottles (because filled ones WILL freeze inside your car and only be good for hitting yourself in the forehead for not realizing that before). two metal coffee cans ~ a smaller one that can fit inside a larger one ~ votive candle(s), and matches. they will be able to provide enough heat to keep you warm for a little while. extra socks (remember the wool rule), gloves, stocking caps, and a jacket. maybe even an extra coverall and thermals in case your clothes get wet.
all that might seem extreme, but when you are stuck in the snow and the next car might not come along for 45 minutes or longer (that’s IF it is driving slow enough to even see you) you will be grateful i was a Girl Scout. in the 22 miles between where i live and where i work, there is only one gas station. there is one where i live, but if i forget to gas up there, and forget to gas up at the one 4 miles from home, the next one is 30 miles away. you don’t want to get stuck out in the winter with less than a half tank of gas.

traffic here isn’t like big cities. last December there was a pile-up of 100+ cars in Lower Michigan. while it was horrible for all the people injured and killed, and i'm not trying to make light of the seriousness of it, it would probably take four days or more for us to have a similar pile-up here. if you get stranded on the side of the road, whether because of snow, rain, flat tire, or whatever, you could be there for a while before anyone happens to drive by (there is a higher chance of you seeing a deer, or a coyote, or a wolf … maybe even a bear or moose … before you will see another car). learn how to change your tires, learn how to do it on a hill, and make sure you have a spare tire, a jack, a maybe even a can of Fix-a-Flat (if you don’t, you will be taking that frozen bottle of water and hitting yourself again for not making sure you had a spare and a jack).

in retrospect now that i’ve been here for a year, i wish i had gotten a bright red truck instead of a small, low to the ground, white car before i came here. if i were to ever go off the side of the road into the snow, i might not be seen until spring. i’ve thought of getting some hot pink, glow-in-the-dark spray paint and writing “this side up” on the roof of the car, but think that might just lower my trade-in value. i do, however, have a hot pink jacket and hoodie in the trunk that i could put on a window so that i would be seen, and trust me that wasn’t just by chance.

whether you live in a rural area, or in a busy metropolis, sometimes planning ahead for Murphy’s Law events is the best way to survive them. my philosophy has always been that if i plan for a worst case scenario, it won’t happen. for proof of that, just forget to bring an umbrella with you on a day when you are dressed up for that big job interview, and there is a 10% chance of rain. never fails to turn into a 90% rain day as soon as i park my car and walk to the building. it’s hard to convince your next new boss that you know how to handle last minute deadlines when your hair is dripping all over the carpet. trust me on this. i know.


  1. Sadly, without doubt some people will make fatal mistakes every year.
    Glad to hear that you and yours are safe.

  2. Life in the cold in a nutshell, awesomely done. Happy Thanksgiving. It will be 80 on the Texas Gulf coast. :-(


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