10 January, 2010

Winter's Tale

Picture a scene: a long, straight stretch of I-17 between Prescott and Flagstaff.  You've emerged from the Verde Valley and are in for the long haul up a steep grade, climbing from 4,000 to 7,000 feet.  Scrubby pinon pines and bushy juniper trees dot the hillsides along the road.  And, due to the adiabatic cooling rate, the temperature drops rapidly.  Soon, you'll be in pine country.

It is winter.

It has begun to snow.

You are prudent, and so you slow to a reasonable speed as the black road turns white.  You don't mind being stuck behind RVs, tractor-trailers, and other assorted painfully slow folk.  Occasionally, though, you pull into the fast lane so that you can get around folks who intolerably slow.  Which is how you end up with an SUV on your ass.

The driver of the SUV apparently has decided it's a warm summer's day on a dry road.  And this is normal - apparently, all car salesmen in Arizona promise an exemption from the laws of physics with the purchase of any SUV.  You look ahead at the long, white road and then find a gap in the slow lane.  You watch the SUV sail by with a burst of acceleration, and you chortle, because you know what's coming next.

The SUV vanishes into the winter white.  You continue your crawl up the hill at prudent speeds.  And you slow down even more a few miles up the road, and start looking to the side.  Because you know three things:

1.  Snow in the pine country often falls wet, heavy and slick, as this snow is.

2.  The chances of any snowplows here this early in the storm are remote indeed.

3.  The road, which has until now been straight as an arrow, soon bends.

And, sure enough, while the road has taken a new direction, the SUV has not.  It's currently making friends with a stand of pine trees several dozen feet off the interstate.  There are no tracks for a good stretch between the road and the hollow where the SUV currently resides, which tells you that the vehicle briefly believed it could fly.

You see that the occupants of the SUV are standing morosely beside it, and so you can indulge in guilt-free schadenfreude while you dial 911 on your cell to report yet another SUV owner who has vastly overestimated their mad winter driving skillz.

Ah, winter.  How exciting you are.  Which is why I have abandoned you for a city where snow is only an occasional annoyance.

But sometimes, only sometimes, I miss the sweet schadenfreude of watching SUV drivers discover that they are not quite so invulnerable as they believed.

Brought to mind by the discussion surrounding this post at Decrepit Old Fool.


Cujo359 said...

Four wheel drive is nice, but it only works when you have some traction.

Chris said...

One winter several years ago I was driving my dinky little Ford Festiva through Indianapolis on my way back home and came across this total dumbass, wearing a suit no less, stuck up to the frame rails in the slush and mud next to 465 in a brand spanking new, four wheel drive, Ford Super Duty pick-up truck. The look on this jerk's face was absolutely priceless. I mean, there he was, spinning the monster tires of his monster truck, and getting nowhere while everyone else in their cheap little Hondas and Neons beetled on by. Oh and by the way, if you ever lived in a place like Indiana, you would know that 9 of 10 vehicles stuck on the side of the road after every major snowstorm are 4WD pick-ups and SUV's. I think people spend thousands on these vehicles, then wait for a good snow so they can go out and show everyone how smart they are - but wind up looking like total morons as they wait in the ditch for the tow truck to arrive...