Saturday, December 19, 2009

In the Mountains

Friday, it started to snow.

I left for work because I had a lot to do, and I didn't really think I would have much trouble getting home. I could always leave early if I got my stuff done. Got there just fine and then the reports started coming in.

For those of you that don't have an idea of where I live and work, let me paint a picture. We live in Swannanoa, which is between Asheville (the "big" city) and Black Mountain, which is not a mountain, nor is there a mountain nearby called Black Mountain that I am aware of. It's just the name of the town. All of these towns are situated in a mountain range, such that you have to take the interstate up the side of the mountain to get to them. We're about 2200 feet above sea level.

At the bottom of the Mountain, East of us, is Old Fort. And beyond that a few more miles is Marion, where I work, about 1000 feet above seal level, so from home to work and back every day I have a bit of a hill to climb. The interstate has a 55mph speed limit for cars and a 35mph limit for trucks because there's quite a bit of semi traffic up and down the mountain. There are areas on the East bound side for trucks to run into if their breaks go out. So this gives you an idea that even in good weather it's a somewhat dangerous stretch of 5 miles or so that goes up the mountain side. Now imagine it covered with snow.

I do not have any issues with snowy weather and driving. I learned to drive in Alaska, where it was fairly common to drive in the snow for a good portion of the year. I've driven in Boston, though I prefer not to, in bad weather. I wasn't worried about my ability to drive home. What I should have been more concerned about was everyone else's ability.

So I get to the point at work where I think I'm ready to leave, about 2:30 PM. Then we get a phone call and surprise surprise I have to cut a last minute check to move some product. I get out the door about 2:45 PM, and on the road. It's been snowing fairly steadily since eight that morning. The roads are covered in snow, so I'm driving pretty slow and make it to the interstate just fine. Interstate traffic is about 40mph in a 70mph zone, which I'm okay with because that's about how fast I can go and still feel like I have control over the car. In fact, let me share with you my snow driving tips.

Do everything you normally do, but slower and in smaller increments. Accelerate slower. Brake slower, and pump the breaks when you do. Give yourself a lot of room between you and the next car and think ahead a lot more than you normally would, such as putting on the breaks a long way before you actually reach the intersection. Keep the wheel straight and when you need to turn, or change lanes, do so by turning the wheel slowly until the car responds. The key is no sudden movements. No sudden braking, no sudden turning, no sudden accelerating. If you can do all that, you should be in good shape.

I get to Old Fort, which is where the interstate starts to head up the mountain. Traffic came to a stop. I couldn't see ahead of me to see what the hold up was. I should mention I had already seen several cars and a few trucks slid off the side of the road by this point. After about 30 minutes of going no where, I sort of get the idea I might be here awhile. I wish I knew if it was an accident, or just slow traffic or what, but I never did find out. Eventually we inched forward bit by bit. I started to see police cars and it looked like the police may have been directing traffic. I went about a mile in the span of a couple hours. A lot of trucks and cars were pulled over.

By this point it was dark, but I was finally moving. I went about another mile up the mountain... and hit another wall of traffic. I still don't know what's keeping us from moving, other than cars and trucks just not moving. Another hour or so goes by, and at long lost a snow plow chugs up the mountain on my right with a long trail of cars behind him. A nice man from the car in front of me advises me to back into the plowed lane instead of trying to pull forward over the snow, which I do, and it gets me in the lane just fine. I follow the snow plow at about 5mph up the mountain for the next 5 miles. So I guess it took me an hour.

I made one stupid driving mistake that night, and it's when I tried to pull into my driveway and got stuck. With the help of my Brother-in-law and his friend, we got the car back into the road, and finally just parked it on the side of the road in front of the house. Finally, at 8:45, I was home. A six hour drive to go 30 miles.

Anyway, that's my sad story. I think what I take from that is that there should be a law. A law that if you don't know how to drive in the snow, you are required to stay home. Then, the people that do know how can get where they need to go, and those that don't know how will be safe at home instead of strewn along the sides of the interstate up the mountain.

Now it's Saturday. We have probably a good 12 inches or so of snow on the ground. It's very pretty. But I hope you understand if I choose not to go out in it today. Here are some pictures for your enjoyment, as well as some long awaited ones of our Christmas Tree.

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