Today’s Deep Thought

If you ever want to be reminded that sometimes in life it’s better to take things slow and easy, and maybe not be in such an all-fired rush, I suggest driving on icy black rural backroads with a minivan full of kids, while pelting fragments of ice congeal on your front windshield.

You’re welcome.

27 Comments on “Today’s Deep Thought”

  1. Agreed.

    I’m curious, since you’re a (southern?) Californian grafted into the Midwest — what is your take on anti-lock brakes? As someone who has driven on ice my whole driving career, I find anti-lock brakes cumbersome. They tend to get me into more trouble than they get me out of.

    So anti lock brakes: Love ’em or hate ’em?

  2. After watching the husband scrape the hard candy coating off of his car and then watching channel 7’s “Go outside at your PERIL” coverage, I’ll stay inside now thankyouverymuch. Glad to know that you made it back okay. I hate ice. I’d much rather it be snow.

  3. Driving on ice sucks unless you’re a Canadian trucker supplying diamond mines and oil rigs in the Arctic.

    Worse, if you live below I-70, all you have to do is whisper “There are icy roads somewhere in a 50-mile radius of here,” and the herd of frightened lemmings you share the highway with suddenly starts driving en masse at 30 mph on the Interstate.

    OTOH, 1.) it’s fun to watch the idiot in his SUV 4WD spin out because he forgot 4-wheel drive is USELESS on ice, and 2.) I remember growing up in Cleveland that, in September, you spent about one or two months rent on a mildly functional vehicle called a “winter car,” because you didn’t mind smashing up the ’79 Mercury Monarch if it kept your shiny new Camaro intact.

    I like the warmer winters in Cincinnati (90 mins south of the Scalzi Compound), but it’s a lot easier to drive in Cleveland. It’s almost always snow up there, which makes antilock brakes almost useful.

  4. Joe Iriarte:

    I’m going to remember you said that, come hurricane season.

    Shawn Powers:

    I have no problem with anti-lock brakes. Part of this comes from the fact that long ago I made the decision that I didn’t need to go fast when there’s ice on the road, and generally I keep a lot of space between me and the next object on the road.

  5. John:

    Well yeah. That’s not really what I was getting at. I drive a minivan full of girls around daily with icy roads, and I also drive slow and safe. Still, it’s interesting that anti-lock brakes don’t annoy you. Thanks.

  6. JS said “and generally I keep a lot of space between me and the next object on the road.”
    Ever notice that whenever you put a few hippopotamuses (you know, 1 hippopotamus… 2 hippopotamus… etc) between you and the object in front of you some douche will drop in between and before you know it you’re going backwards.

  7. Anti-lock brakes are great in de-skilling driving in slippery conditions. It used to be that you had to have about five winters of practice under your belt to be able to modulate the brakes to get decent braking with minimum skid. And you probably needed ten to fifteen years of practice to be able to get maximum braking with minimum skid. Now, anyone can just mash the brakes and get about 95% of the braking force that a really good winter driver would be able to get, with virtually no skidding.

    However, they do not substitute for knowledge of how to drive on ice and snow, the most important element of which is John’s original statement: take it sloooowww and eeeaaaasssyyy.

    When ABS first came out, an editor of Car and Driver magazine related his experience driving a car with anti-lock brakes on an icy road. His comment was that when driving on ice without ABS you’ll slide sideways into the intersection, but with ABS you’ll slide into the intersection facing forwards.

  8. Thanks for the reminder. Now try cobblestone streets in old hilly villages during that same freezing rain. Who knew Massachusetts still had a lot of cobblestone streets?

  9. Been there, done that, glad to live in Texas now ;) (well, OK, we still get the occasional ice storm in the D/FW area – but it ain’t nearly as bad as the years I spent living in northern Illinois)

  10. I’m with you, John. I want to never put myself in the position of having to say “if only I weren’t in such a damn rush that morning…”

    Honestly, barring a major medical catastrophe (in which case I’d prefer to leave the driving to the professionally crazy ambulance drivers…) I just don’t see why I can’t take it slow, with adequate following distance when conditions are dangerous.

  11. Done that ice driving thing, having spent winters in Idaho, Illinois, Maryland, Texas, and Alabama (the last two of which got serious ice storms while I was resident there).

    My standing instructions to the folks I have reporting to me now is that if there is snow at valley floor level (Santa Clara Valley, CA), stay home. Folks around here have a hard time in rain, mist, or fog. Being on the same roads with them in snow/ice conditions is an invitation to disaster.

  12. And isn’t it just lovely that usually the kids you’re driving have no sense of their peril? They trust you (if you’re like me, they sometimes trust you enough to shriek piercingly and unexpectedly during the ride).

  13. Thanks for the thought. And it’s definitely worth implementing, just on general principles.

    OTOH, it is currently 67 degrees here, slated to reach 74, but will probably be more like 78. Winter in Georgia!

  14. It’s also a great way to squash any nostalgia for moving back to cold climes generated by dwelling overmuch on the difference between Midwest mortgage payments vs. one’s own.

  15. I grew up driving in snow and ice in Massachusetts, so it wasn’t a big deal to me. Slow and steady, lots of distance, etc. I drove through blizzards on occasional, because I was young, stupid, and fearless. Never had a problem. Now in California, I get worried when the weather gets down close to freezing, especially when its windy or I’m going over a bridge. I’m aware the roads can freeze, but the rest of these idiots are going 70 mph because “there’s never ice in San Francisco”. I think even going 70 in the rain is dumb, and I don’t know if these folks noticed that some of the rain was sleet/hail. I’ve seen a couple horrific accidents in the past month that I bet were due to ice and stupidity.

  16. On a related note, if you need reminding that there is more to life than getting to work on time, try hurryiing out the front door to get to your car to beat traffic and slipping on the ice on your front steps. I now have a black fingernail, a huge scrape on my elbow, and a munged up shoulder to tell me to take in the comforts of home for a few quiet minutes in the morning before facing the rat race. And the fact that I missed busting open my skull like a melon by about two inches, that also helps.

  17. Alternatively, you can drive in tule fog with drivers who seem to think that visibility is 50 miles rather than about 50 feet.

  18. Well, here in Texas we know that if the roads are icy you should just cancel your life and stay home. I mean, it’s what, 2-3 days a year max? Maybe 4 or 5 if Al Gore flies into town on a private jet to talk about Global Warming?

  19. I’ll take the occasional hurricane over ice storms any day. And I lived through the bad hurricane seasons in central Florida (3 hurricanes in a row one year).

  20. After the terrible storms in Northwest over Christmas, I heartily second this. Among my other adventures, I did a 135 degree turn into a faster lane on the freeway due to black ice and shoveled out my entire (only about 500′) road so that my car wouldn’t bottom out on the 2+ foot drifts of snow.

    On the first, everyone was following John’s maxim and there was no crash. And, yes, I have AWD with chains and ABS. A frictionless surface is a frictionless surface and irregularities in that surface can cause serious problems with your direction of travel (although then it isn’t probably completely frictionless -hmm)

  21. Frictionless isn’t really the issue – it’s the line between “car stops as fast as I think it should” and “why am I not slowing down?” Any minute evidence of friction in case #2 can be safely ignored.

    Mr Jarpe: Been there, except I had the bruised elbow and a minor concussion when my head connected with my front steps as my legs decided they were in more of a hurry than the rest of me. The sound was interesting, though; previous to that I’d only heard it on a pool table.

  22. SOME would argue that the fact that you’re out on an icy back road in the middle of an ice storm with a minivan full of kids means that you’re in too much of an all-fired hurry already.

    Since I’m another Floridian, I will not judge, despite that remark about hurricanes. It’s a valid trade-off. If you live in the US east of the Rockies, you get at least two types of dangerous weather no matter where you live: Ice-storms, hurricanes or tornadoes.

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