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Goats, gripes, and grasping for greatness
Competent judgment is not sex-linked - or - How to meet your neighbors... on Ice! 
29th-Jan-2011 10:44 pm
Force equation
Let me start by saying that dealing with digging out someone's stuck car on our hill ranks above dealing with 18-wheelers with locked brakes driven by non-locals who don't speak English. Both of them are great ways to meet the neighbors, though. We all want our road cleared as soon as possible, and if more people helps get that done, then we all pile in. This is because, as bad as my dirt-road, twisty, steep hill is, it is way better than the back road into our house.

I took the truck out to run my usual errands this morning. The hill was slick and, had I been thinking about it, might have made me nervous or unhappy. I had the truck in 4-high, and wasn't thinking about the snow or driving in it, so didn't pay any attention to the condition of the road as I went admittedly-too-fast down it. I ran my errands and scooted on toward home by way of the town streets.

Oddly, since our snowstorm on Wednesday, the "bottom half" of the road (the part closer to the highway) has been worse than the top half. Large swaths of pavement that are usually slick and hard to navigate were cleared quickly this time around. This was notable, and so I actually was thinking about the road and road conditions when I got up to the top of the pavement. I was also behind our neighbor Sunny (male), who was driving a small white 4wd pickup truck. I stopped at the end of pavement/bottom of the hill because I could see up the hill there was a black sedan turned sideways and nose-down into the snow on the low side of the road.

Sunny didn't notice the road was blocked up above until he had committed to the dirt section, and then he promptly discovered that the dirt road had turned into a sheet of ice. He stopped his truck while still on the mostly-flat part of the road, and obviously planned to reverse back to the mailboxes where I was sitting and thinking. Sunny put his truck in reverse, tapped the accelerator, and gently drifted sideways on the ice. I parked my truck and walked up to his, offering him a tow-chain drag back onto traction, since I was still on pavement. He said no, he'd be fine as soon as he hit the snowbank. This turned out to be true, though it took a little while. He tapped and drifted and tapped and drifted. As soon as his truck drifted all the way onto the snow at the edge of the road, he picked up enough traction to reverse back to pavement and join me in watching the idiot in the sedan up the hill try over and over again to gun his wheels out of the ditch.

While Sunny and I had been parking our trucks out of the way of the next idiot who might try to join the fun, the gent who lives down the street from us - Bryan - showed up over the crest of the hilltop with his son. They were driving his tractor-with-snow-chains, with the obvious intention to pull the sedan out of the snowbank. Sunny and I grabbed gloves, tow chains (we each have one in our trucks) and walked up the road to join in the festivities.

I called CK and asked him to bring snow chains in case Bryan's tractor and tow-chain solution didn't have enough umph to get the sedan out. It turned out that we didn't need them, and I ended up calling CK back to cancel the request. I had underestimated Bryan's plan of using gravity and the ice to his advantage. Bryan didn't try to pull the sedan up the hill out of the snowbank at that curve. He parked his tractor across the road from the car and then pulled the car across the curve, so that, as soon as the car came free of the snowbank, it rotated 90-degrees and pointed downhill on its own accord. Bryan's son unclipped the tow chain from the tractor the moment there was any stop in the action, and let the sedan barrel down the hill dragging the chain with it.

This is where I found out that I was totally legitimate in calling this sedan driver - who I'll call "John" - an idiot. He hadn't been trying to go down the hill. He had been trying to get up the hill. And obviously he was missing some powers of observation as well as any knowledge of physics to go with them. 1) He was gunning his engine and spinning his wheels like that was going to get him traction rather than create more ice under them. 2) He lives up here, and didn't have the sense to park his sedan and walk when he saw people were parking 4wd vehicles at the bottom of the hill 3) He was completely unprepared for even standing out in the cold. He was wearing a British-style cap, dress pants, and regular shoes. Um, hello? Admittedly, I don't usually drive the truck, so it doesn't have everything that my Prius does*, but still, I had mittens, an extra hat, snowboots, and a heavy coat.

So we stood around talking about the fun of this hill, and re-living some of the better (or worse) near-misses we've had on it. Sometime in the conversation, another 4wd SUV joined us, and was waved to a stop before committing to the hill and requiring rescue. A gent who I'll call Greg got out and joined the neighborly chat. There were then the five gents and me, all jawing about winter, the storm, power outages, and the hill. Then Bryan pointed to his parked 4wd truck and told us of his experience of coming down the hill tail-first just this morning (what? how? I did just fine?!).

I decided that it was time to show these guys that I was a better girl scout than any of the boy scouts standing around me. I announced my intentions, and then dug into the back of the footwell and pulled out the truck's snow chains. Those chains have been living in the truck since we lost patience with the piling-on of snow last year. And I finally got to use them.

RAWR!

While I puttered about, getting my groceries and grain bags out of the truck cab, the guys kept talking. They were chatting about how very few people know my name (or CK's) but how everyone knows that we are the weirdos with the Priuses and the snow chains for them. I smiled to myself while I kept rearranging the stuff in the truck cab to get to my chains. While I was listening, I got to hear every one of the guys express some form of admiration or envy regarding CK's and my capable and competent use of snow chains with our Priuses. And then they saw the truck chains... I was suddenly the recipient of Guy-Envy. I had a better toy than they did. I saw it in their eyes. And I heard it in the sudden offers of help.

Bryan and his son were headed out, while Sunny, Greg, and John were headed up. The three guys loaded up their gear in the back of the truck. We trundled up the hill in the truck set in 4-high with the chains. The back wheels kicked a little bit, but as CK said, the truck with chains was a beast, and took on the hill without any hesitation. I offered door-to-door service as well as a lift up the hill.

I am mighty with my snow chains! Sometimes my judgment is off about the hill, but even I know that ice on the hill is when I need to call in the bigger guns.

... And maybe, just maybe, a few idiots on will consider investing in snow chains.



*Along with the usual jumper cables, fire extinguisher, and flares, the Prius also has a set of Xtrak feet grippers, slip-on shoes with good treads, a shovel, snow chains, a flashlight, a spotlight, a hacksaw, extra gloves, a regular blanket, a space blanket, and whatever miscellany makes sense when I'm headed out in the morning.
Comments 
30th-Jan-2011 05:49 am (UTC)
Love stories like that...especially when they are true. Glad you were able to show the folks on your road what capable snow driving and chains can do.

As for your list of stuff in the Prius, the only thing I would suggest adding is water and some food stuffs. We keep granola and protein bars in the van...because we never know when a blizzard will kick up and leave us stranded.
31st-Jan-2011 01:35 am (UTC)
I carry water and granola bars in my purse. I try to have water in the car, but usually I end up drinking it. Also, I can't leave food in the car or the mice will eat it.
30th-Jan-2011 01:24 pm (UTC)
Mmmmmm.... Love's me a competent woman!!!
31st-Jan-2011 01:35 am (UTC)
::big grin::
6th-Feb-2011 03:27 am (UTC)
seconded! :)
30th-Jan-2011 05:51 pm (UTC) - mmmm
snow chains + truck = might!
Good job!
31st-Jan-2011 01:36 am (UTC) - Re: mmmm
Thanks!
(Deleted comment)
31st-Jan-2011 05:42 pm (UTC)
I don't think so. I don't know them...?
24th-Jan-2012 04:22 pm (UTC)
I know it's been a while since you posted this, but I am reminded that if I/we want to keep wearing my usual shoes (which apparently have even less traction on ice than Uggs (which are pretty abysmal)) that a pair of the stretchy knobbly things would probably be a good purchase.
24th-Jan-2012 04:25 pm (UTC)
We have many pairs of various types. Here's the easiest.

http://www.rei.com/product/760280/yaktrax-walkers-unisex

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