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Thursday, January 21, 2010


iced tree

Ice fell down from the sky all day. At 10 this morning a thin film of ice was on the rocks just outside the door. Today was a no-choice going to town day. I walked out and looked at the road. Water was running down the hill in it. The ground is still above freezing, so it will be awhile before the ice starts to form on the roads except on the north side of mountains in certain curves.

Debi told me a joke the other night on the way to the Ralph Stanley show. When a man from a city finds himself on ice sliding toward a snow bank, he says, Oh shit. When a redneck finds himself on ice sliding toward a snow bank he hands his beer to his buddy, takes hold of the steering wheel with both hands and says, Watch this!

Talked with Debi a little earlier today and she had her own watch-this moment this morning when the ice was a thin film on rocks, but no problem on the road. She'd gone to a country store not far from the house for supplies. On the way home, the curve she knew iced when no place else did got her. Paid it no mind. She went off the road a ways and almost down a bank, but not quite. Needed help getting back on the road, but came out of it no worse off than cold. She's a good driver too, knows how to drive with ice and snow. She grew up here.

That only happened to me once, and I went into it anticipating it. I knew exactly how long the slick spot would last on this particular curve, because I'd been over it a lot over the years. I came into it one night and it was iced. I expected it to be and was ready. I just wanted to see how I could handle it through the curve, believing I could keep it in the road until the pavement came back. I did. I was going sideways by the time I hit pavement, and if it had been 10 or 15 feet longer I'd have been going backwards when the pavement appeared. It was a fun ride. It's a little unsettling to be sliding out of control, but I knew the road, knew the curve, and it worked out exactly like I'd imagined. I went through it calmly working the steering wheel cautiously and staying off the brake.
I don't recommend it for entertainment.

I've tended to do my watch-this moments alone. When I don't have certainty I can make it, I don't want somebody sitting beside me watching me screw up really bad, or even get hurt; though I'm not one to take really dangerous risks. Also, I concentrate better alone. Don't see any point in taking off climbing a rock cliff to see if I can make it. I look at and say, No, I can't make it. I'm not going to try. I know myself well enough. In high school, we had to climb a big thick rope to the top and touch the gym rafter and climb back down. I hated it. I always made it, but just barely, and letting go at the top when I'm weak from exhaustion to be seen touching the rafter so I won't be told to go back up and do it, took about all the guts I had. A fall was certain death. I find chance interesting, but not enough to put everything on one turn of the roulette wheel.

One time I was in a Ford Bronco with center of gravity way forward and way high. It was so bad the rear end would try to move around to the front on washboard in the gravel roads. I figured on ice it would be like a spinning top. A short hill of 8 or so feet and then a curve of a driveway down toward the house. There was enough shrubbery between the house and the driveway so I figured the house was safe. It was Ted Stern's car and he was riding. At the top of the hill I stopped and told him we couldn't make it. He said we have 4 wheel. I said this is an inch of ice. 4 wheel is the same as 4 skates. He told me to go ahead and do it. I knew we wouldn't make it and I let my foot off the brake.

We lost traction instantly. First thing, the back end started swinging around. I sat back knowing there was nothing I could do but watch. He got excited. I told him to relax. The car left the driveway and made a slow circle on the icy lawn and slid up with his door beside a rhododendron so gently there wasn't a scratch. The next day, he made the same run in his new Cadillac with front wheel drive and made it pretty as you please. I noted the Cadillac has a perfect center of gravity and the Bronco's is way off. Debi's car is a Bronco. I was surprised, actually, that the Cadillac made it.

I've heard of power out on the gravel section of Cleary Road. That means it's a lot of other places too. Ice on the lines, tree limbs breaking. It's not a particularly fierce ice storm. Couldn't even be called a storm. It's no more than a heavy mist, but plenty of it and when it sticks to ice it turns to ice. I'm glad I don't have to be anywhere early in the morning but right here.

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