Edmonton Journal

Winter roads teach scary lessons

Even veteran truckers can make poor choices in snow

- John. G. Stirling Driving

When you’re as old-as-dirt as I am, scary wintertime driving memories can come back to haunt you. Which scares the crap outta me, all over again.

Ever wonder why I have no hair on my brain cap left to comb? Winter driving made it all disappear.

Once upon a time, when I was younger, I was driving through the mountains that separate the West Coast from the rest of Canada.

Back in those days, truck drivers were still respected by the general public, especially those on the winter highways. It would be nothing for me to be driving on a snowy highway, well after midnight, with about 10 to 20 four-wheeled vehicles following my every move.

I stop for a pee. They all stop and wait. (I still am a very bashful fellow, you know).

What they were doing was following my tail lights. I was their friend, if they needed one.

Well, on one particular trip, some yahoo got a little impatient with my unschedule­d stop, and roared past me. Fine with me. I wasn’t getting paid to lead him over the mountain. One less set of headlights in my many mirrors.

Just after I crested the pass, there he was. No, he wasn’t waiting for me. He had buried his car in a snow drift clear up to the rear doors. He had crawled out through the trunk, and was trying to wave me down. I burst into laughter. It was better than watching a movie.

I slowed down. All my followers slowed down. I got out, made a big deal about opening my passenger door, and asked him if he’d like a ride down the other side of the mountain. He would not make eye contact with me, but he did climb in, and the only words out of his mouth for the next hour were, “I’m sorry I passed you.”

I guess you are, Mr. Dumb Ass, I thought, but never said. He did thank me when I dropped him off at the truck stop, but every time I crest that pass, I always remember that impatient idiot, and how lucky he was to survive.

I live in an area of B.C. which gets about two dumps of winter crud per year. When it happens, it brings out the crazy folks. One winter, I fell into the trap myself.

I learned to drive in Newfoundla­nd. I earned my licence, legally, while living in New York. Both places have four seasons. Winters are brutal. I took my driver’s test on Dec. 23. You don’t need to know what year, but JFK had just been elected.

Anyway, there I was in B.C., driving some 10 minutes from my home, and my wife and two young children are in the rig with me. Wife is in the passenger seat. The kids, both young enough to still love snow, (preteens), are strapped in, sitting on the sleeper bed, with a clear view out the windshield.

It’s snowing to beat the band, and I am bob-tailing (no trailer) up a 12-percent grade, to go pick up my trailer and deliver the load, then come home. Made it a family event. No school. It’s snowing.

Up the hill I start. No chains. I’m from Newfoundla­nd. I’m from New York. No problem. I don’t hang jewelry. Hello. Johnny Dumb Ass at the wheel.

Before I could blink an eye, before my wife could utter a blood-chilling scream as only women can do, my rig had done a complete 360 spin, and was heading down the hill, starting another 360 spin. Two complete 360 spins, and then a 180.

I didn’t hit anyone, as nobody else was dumb enough to be trying to climb that hill. That included the Queen’s cowboys. I lucked out.

My kids loved me. They had silly grins on their faces for a week. They thought I had planned that entire double spin-and-a-half just for them. My wife didn’t talk to me for the rest of the day. Not entirely a bad thing, I might add.

Me? I was glad I was wearing clean shorts, because I thought we were about to become a driving statistic.

I don’t take chances anymore. I respect the snow. I try not to drive up or down un-sanded hills, especially if it is snowing.

Life is just too short, and too precious to take dumbass chances in winter driving conditions. It’s just a job, and it’s not worth a life.

Some of us are slow learners, but once it’s in there, it’s there for life.

 ?? Butch Dill/ The Associated Press ?? A truck slides into the median while trying to avoid another wrecked vehicle on an icy road. Snowfall can bring out some crazy drivers.
Butch Dill/ The Associated Press A truck slides into the median while trying to avoid another wrecked vehicle on an icy road. Snowfall can bring out some crazy drivers.

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