|Big Girl after her dash down the Mohawk Trail*|
Okay, two videos, one on Friday, one on Saturday. It's odd for me to go the video route two days in a row. It's what I do when I have either a dearth of material, a paucity of ideas, or ya know, I went to the well and "she come up dry." Oh wait, the other possibility is that I am away from a reliable Interwebz connection. That was indeed the case this weekend.
For I was up north, up in the homeland, visiting me Mum. On the way up there is where today's post received it's title. It was one of those things you look back on and get a little weak in the knees playing "what if?" Vehicular near misses are not my favorite things. Not even in the top 100 for that matter.
Now if you look close at Big Girl, she's covered in salt residue, the kind of look which is fairly typical for vehicles during a standard New England winter. Which this year has not been. Sure it got below zero for a couple of days, sure it snowed a few times, but nothing really major. Friday though was atypical.
Leaving Chez Sarge, it was chilly with a thick cloud cover. The forecast called for snow in the late afternoon, not much if the storm stayed out to sea as was expected, perhaps some accumulation if the storm came closer to shore. Odds were that it would stay "out there," over the horizon somewhere.
Something I should mention, I got a bit complacent, after all, it's March, how much snow could we get? Well, sometimes it ain't how much that counts. One should also check the weather en route and at the destination. Details, details.
After we passed the last outpost of civilization (as I call it) at Worcester (that's pronounced Wuh-stah in case you were wondering) we plunged into the wild. (Well, as wild as it gets in central Massachusetts, the road seems to run through miles and miles of nothing, though there are towns and such just over the next ridge, they get smaller and smaller as you go north. The towns, not the ridges.)
After a bit, it started snowing. Little tiny flakes, almost imperceptible up close, you had to look towards the hills, noticing that there were no hills (which there are) because of the snow in the air. Tiny flakes, but a lot of them.
Another thing I should have noticed. Those wee bits of frozen water were sticking to the sides of the road and to the rocky outcrops along the way. Did I mention it was pretty cold that day? Well, it was even colder at elevation running up I-190 heading for Route 2. That is snow country. In normal winters those folks call six inches a dusting. Seriously.
Frozen precipitation and icy cold temps were the order of business on Friday. Not really a problem until we got onto Route 2. Lots of traffic out and about, I also noticed that the roads had been heavily treated with salt. How did I know that? The vehicles around me were throwing a mixture of snow melt, sand, and salt up into the air and onto my windshield. The wipers were going constantly as was the windshield wiper fluid. It was a battle that the wipers were slowly losing.
I also noticed that along the shoulders of the highway (where there wasn't much salt) the melting stuff was returning to its frozen state. Not light and fluffy mind you but the stuff that hockey players might enjoy. That was a little tidbit I stored away, just didn't recall that information as quickly as I should have just a bit further on.
|Note the shadow... (Source)|
As we approached that overpass along the road, mind you, it was nowhere near as sunny as in the photo, I should have realized that as the melted snow was refreezing along the shoulder, no doubt it was freezing even quicker in the shadows. Such as that noted above. Pretty cold under there I'll wager.
As I accelerated past a rather large tractor trailer which was flinging copious amounts of wet dirt into the atmosphere (and all over my windshield) I had the wipers going full bore and was pulling the lever for the wiper fluid for all I was worth, there was indeed a moment where visibility was close to zero. Fortunately there was still a wee bit of "clean-ish" glass to my far left. Yes, I was leaning outboard as it were.
As the tractor trailer combo slid into my wake, my windshield returned to nearly full visibility and I saw something on the road ahead.
It was long and shiny. Glittered like a mirror it did. (A friend asked me that night "Black ice?" "No," says I, "pale it was, pale as Death.")
Immediately time slowed way down (as it does when you are thinking muy rápido). A moment later that little piece of information I mentioned above started to percolate up from the recesses of my near term memory. (Isn't that the second thing to go as you get older?)
As it did I felt a bit of a slide.
Oh sh!t, oh dear... What the...?
My foot instantly came off the gas, letting the vehicle figure things out before I jumped in. As quickly as Big Girl wiggled her tail feathers, she straightened up. As if nothing untoward had just happened.
"What was that?" The Missus Herself inquired, more curious than nervous.
I responded with a certain sang froid, "Hhmm, bit of ice on the road dear. Nothing that we can't handle." Yes, I was feeling a bit nonchalant, far more so than the weather called for. For it was slippery and nasty in spots.
Soon we departed the Mohawk Trail, in a controlled and planned fashion mind you, not the "almost into the barrier" incident of minutes before. As we took the exit, right in front of us was a combination snow plow/sander/salter truck directly to our front. Spraying the landscape (and my car) with sand and salt, mixed with just a bit of melted goop from the roadway itself.
I'm guessing the State of Massachusetts had been expecting a lot more snow (which didn't happen) or that the weather-guessers had let the powers-that-be know that while there wasn't going to be a lot of snow, conditions were right for what would fall would melt upon contact with the road, then freeze again pretty quickly (which it did, in spots). Therefore the Commonwealth ordered approximately three tons of salty sand (or is that sandy salt) applied to every square yard of paved road. Leastways that's the way it appeared to me.
Again, I didn't really think too much of the incident when it occurred, it was just one of those winter driving things which happen from time to time. I've learned over the years that one behaves around snow and ice as one would around a strange, not-so-friendly looking dog, no sudden moves. Slow and steady, don't slam on the brakes, don't jerk the wheel. Ride it, see what happens, then control the situation.
While that is what happened, it was much later, in the wee hours of the night, that it struck me, "Holy crap, we could have been maimed/messed-up/and/or killed!" Yup, one wrong move and we would have gone right into those cement barriers which were backed by steel-reinforced concrete bridge abutments. No fun, no fun at all.
You know that old saying? There are old pilots and there are bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots. 'Tis a true statement, same goes for drivers, methinks I was perhaps just a bit too bold for the road conditions present last Friday.
As I thought in the wee hours of Saturday morning...
Well, that was exciting.Yeah, way too exciting.
* Bit o' poetic license that. The Mohawk Trail only runs along a small part of Route 2 in Massachusetts, we got off Route 2 before we got to that part. But it's what my Dad called Route 2 "back in the day," so I tend to call it that along its entire length. What would I know? No Mohawks in the family tree, just a lone Seneca, a long ways back...