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Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Longest Drive

The nearer your destination
The more you’re slip-sliding away…
— Paul Simon

Yesterday’s drive home was one I would prefer to not repeat for… ever.

Daughter Dearest called me at work just before 6, as I was running a bit late. “We’ve got sleet coming down up here.”

“Okay,” I said. Sleet doesn’t bother me. Freezing rain bothers me, but I didn’t hear much about that so I wasn’t too terribly concerned. I finished up what I was doing and headed out.

It was raining and (of course) dark. There was a slick spot on the little side road I take to cut off some of the drive, but I figured once I got to the highway I’d be fine. So I was at the corner, waiting for the traffic to clear, and…


Bumper dentI said a four-letter word meaning excrement, and got out to survey the damage:

The guy who hit me was pretty good about it, he gave me his info and called the local fuzz. The fuzz said it would be an hour or more before anyone got out there, and to just swap info and go. Okee-fine. He had some minor damage to his front; the Civic was drivable but the trunk is hard to open and close. Up the road I went, no problem. Got to 400, and it was pretty slow and thick… all… the… way… up. I think I got to 40MPH once. With as much traffic on that highway as there was, I knew there wouldn’t be any icing, but people were being cautious (and with good reason, many roads in Atlanta closed last night).

Things started going pear-shaped as I got off the four-lane and headed toward town. The road was a little icy, but nothing anyone couldn’t handle with a little caution and common sense (yeah, I know, Planet Georgia). Still, it was slammed up solid. It took about an hour to get three miles, where the first seriously slick spot had been lurking. The salt truck rolled by and getting through town was no problem.

There were several cars ahead of me on the road out of town, all moving a bit faster than I was comfortable going at this point. Hitting an icy patch at 30MPH, you might be able to keep it straight until you get through it, but whatever. I caught them at the stop sign and they took off down the highway — again, faster than I thought was prudent. Turned out I was right: I slowed way down as I topped a hill, and doing one of my periodic traction checks I found a really slick spot. I was able to keep the car straight and tap the brakes, getting the car stopped. At this point, it was crawling pace, with plenty of traction checks and complete stops, for another mile.

I caught up to the rest of the cars, all right… three of them were off the side of the road. I got stopped, as did the car behind me (last thing I needed was another rear-ender) and I put my foot on the road.

It was a skating rink. But I was bored and got out, sort of skating around (pushing off with one foot, skidding along on the other). To make a long story slightly less long, it took about two hours to clear the road enough to slip (literally) on by. A guy in a 4-Runner pulled the Chevy pickup out of the ditch, and the local marshal (tooling around in a 4x4 pickup) got another car back on the ice. The deputy said I’d probably be okay if I kept two wheels in the grass (still slick, but some traction) until I got past the creek, where the road was in better shape, and asked everyone where they were going. It turned out not to be idle curiosity; they sent the salt trucks in the directions that people were going. One passed me about three miles from home, as I was gingerly navigating one of many ice patches on my road. Again, there were cars behind me but as they found the going really icy and weren’t using the grass, I left them behind.

So I left work just after 6, and got home about 11:30. If I’d known it would be that bad, I’d have just holed up in a motel for the night.


  1. That sucks! We (thankfully) don't get a lot of ice, but when we do, it's a mess. We usually lose power when it happens. Snow is so much better!

  2. Wendy, of course, you also have equipment to keep the roads clear in the first place. We didn't get much ice on the trees or power lines, but it was just enough to hose the roads really well!

  3. Far, do you know the Atlanta blog "I Dream of Bicycling"? The lady there wrote about the same storm. It does sound epic, in the way people here are still talking about the blizzard of 78 and the way folks were abandoning their cars on the highway.


  4. It was odd, Nudge. Usually, the roads are the last thing to ice over & this time they were the only thing to ice over. The results were similar to the infamous "Snowjam" in 1980?81? when snow and below-zero temps combined at rush hour. People were abandoning their cars then. Timing is everything — we've had far worse (like the 1993 superstorm that brought an actual blizzard to Planet Georgia), but most of the time that stuff happens overnight so people are stuck at home instead of traffic.


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