Friday Fives – snowy war stories from a desert raised boy

This week at Mawson: 25 October 2019 – Australian Antarctic ProgramWhat is your worst winter driving story?

Oh, its now I met my truck. Not this truck i am in now, but my love of pick up trucks in general.  As to winter driving stories…  well, I have several.  I have done some driving on closed Colorado interstates during blizzards, by myself.  Note, when a highway is closed, even the plows don’t touch the roads.  And there are no taillights to follow.  What was I doing on closed Colorado highways in blizzards in the dark?  Delivering supplies to stranded motorists to shelters via our Red Cross disaster trailer.  So, yeah… I not only drove in that scary scary stuff (where you don’t know where the road is… everything is just white) with a trailer behind me.  This is what the Red Cross does for you.  This is what I do for you.

But that isn’t the most interest story, not to me anyway.  In college, I was delivering Chinese food for a living up in Flagstaff, AZ.  I was driving in a pretty ugly snow storm in my little Honda Accord (being raised in Phx, we didn’t have much snow practice).  Anyhow, I slid into the back of this gal’s pick up truck  She had a hitch on the back.  It was maybe 10 mph accident at most.  It destroyed the front of my Honda to about 3K of damage.  Her truck?  Not a dent.  Just some paint on the back of her hitch.  This was great news, as it was very much my fault.  She said ‘no damage here, we don’t have to call the cops if you don’t want to.’.  What a blessing. Not just because I was afraid of the ticket.  I wasn’t… I have hundreds of them.  But insurance not covering either vehicle since I was working and didn’t tell them.

She mentioned she was heading to work at the local tire shop.  Flagstaff is tiny, that meant only one place.  For the next three days I showered them with free Chinese food.  Kinda slightly embezzled from my employers.  Anyhow, after that accident, I never owned a sedan again.  That was around 1994, and I have only bought pick up trucks ever since.

*** in reading this over, doesn’t it feel like its about to end with ‘and that is how I met my wife?’  It does to me.  In a way, it was… were my wife a pick up truck vs a sedan.  I don’t think she will like that comparison or analogy.  Good thing I don’t let her read, eh?

Do you have a “Damn, I am the boss driving in this crap!” story?

Yes, I do.  All that stuff about driving very heavy Red Cross trailers in the dark in blizzards with zero visibility on completely closed (and so non plowed) freeways.  There is no exaggeration above. Maybe you think ‘hey, at least you can use your brights!’  Not even a tiny bit.  it reflects too much snow and becomes blindingly bright.  In fact, I remember times out there I drive with no headlights… all they did was create glare.  I used my parking lights.   Also, in case you think ‘at least GPS kinda kept you on the road, right?”  no sir.  it didn’t exist then as it does today.  Today’s consumer GPS (like your phone) is accurate within 50 feet.  Back then, you had to have a very expensive Garmin that was accurate to only 500 feet.

 Even more boss?   Once I got a few miles away from the shelter site, a copper saw me with the Red Cross trailer and gave me a police escort the rest of the way.

Red Cross - St. Peter Catholic Church - Monument, CO


I tell you that story because I am not going to tell you the story of driving home from Phx to Flagstaff in an insane snow storm in a tiny shitty little Geo metro.  With four adults in the car.  that is more passengers than cylinders.  the reason why i won’t tell you that story is also because I was tripping balls on mushrooms.  See, we were driving straight back home after a a Pink Floyd show at ASU.  Now, why in the world was I driving a crappy car that I was totally unfamiliar with in a deadly snow storm while exhausted and hallucinating on mushrooms?   Because the other three were on acid, which has a much longer and stronger shelf life.  We voted, and i was deemed the most capable.  

Now, perhaps your mind goes to ‘jesus, why didn’t you get a hotel room?  Or, even just wander around the desert tripping out for a few hours and settle your head instead of driving?”  Valid question, to which I don’t have an answer.  Likely one of us had a class the next morning.  Anyhow… now you see why I am not telling that story?  If anyone in my family could read, they would be freaked the fuck out by that.

What is the coldest winter that you recall?

A summer in San Francisco.  That was an Oscar Wilde quote?  I just love it, and can’t top it.  didn’t Oscar Wilde also famously (and famously outly gay way) say to customs when he flew in from London to the US – customers asked him if he had anything to declare – and he replied ‘only my genius’.  Being that out and gay is bad ass, but dude did this 150 years ago.  Oh, here is another one I just love from him (that I also think is from him, but its too late for me to care) “be yourself, everyone else is taken”.  That one kinda feels Mark Twain’y to me.  If I only I had an editor.  Geesh, I think these might all be Twain quotes.  I’d fire my editor if it weren’t me.  HEY… ya get what you pay for, people.***

When is the latest in the year snowfall you recall?

How about a midyear snowfall story.  In college, so mid 90’s, a friend and I were on a roadtrip from Flagstaff, AZ to Chicago.  We crossed through the rockies on an August afternoon and it was snowing like crazy.  That, and a couple hours spent ‘on the hill’ in Boulder cemented my lifelong love and decide to move to Colorado whenever I grew up.  Ended up moving here right after graduation and have been here ever since – Feb of 1997.

How bad does stupid cold weather give you stupid cabin- fever?

Below zero freaks me out.  That is when, no matter how well you are dressed… it hurts to breath in your nose.  And its when you know you could slip and fall, or get turned around in the dark, and die.  During the bomb cyclone I had that terrifying experience.  I went out to check the driveway and it was snowing SO hard and SO windy that even in daylight I could barely see where the house was.  Truly, had it been dark, I could have died in my own driveway not knowing where to go.  I have 5 acres and a football field long driveway.  I get when in Alaska and in olden times, before a storm they would run a rope between buildings.  So, lets say you had to go to the outhouse in the middle of a storm (and lets say there is no electricity).  You follow the rope back to your house.  Which is why to this day, even if its snowing somewhere else… I just poo my pants.  Safety first, people!

*** editors note – the San Francisco cold quote was Twain.  The ‘nothing to declare but my genius‘ was correct… Oscar Wilde.  The ‘be yourself, everyone else is taken‘?  That, too, is Oscar Wilde.  I realize the answer to that question went way off the rails.  Don’t blame me!  Blame the dumb question, and that it was after several bourbon’s I get around to putting that together.


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