Saturday, November 26, 2011

So You Think You Can Drive

As the saying goes, be careful what you ask for. The last few days I've been lamenting that I didn't have anything to write about on the blog. What to say, what to say, what to say. Things have been rather quiet as of late: no astute snow metaphors about life, no stupid human tricks, and no driving escapades.

Whoops. Hang on there. Driving shenanigans, you say? Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner!

Yes, tonight I learned what it means to get one's car stuck in the snow. In a ditch. In -17 degrees.

Here's what happened. I had finished my grocery shopping and noticed how pretty the sky was looking for sunset (at 3:45pm mind you). I've been wanting to get an overview picture of the city for a few weeks now. A picture showing the lights, for another blog post I've been mulling over. So I drove up into the hills to a spot I knew had a good view. 

The view was exactly what I had been hoping for: city lights set against the soft blues and pinks of the sky. The snow almost glowing. Perfect. Getting the picture to match what I was seeing though was a different story. Each time I took a picture it wasn't what I wanted. I saw a car approaching and thought I'd best give up and go home. Besides, I didn't want to look like the idiot taking pictures along the side of the road.

I steered my car slightly to the right to ensure the oncoming car had enough room to pass. Next thing you know I was the idiot in the ditch, and I knew I had my next blog post.

As soon as it happened I remembered Jeff telling me when I first arrived in Fairbanks, to watch out for the soft snow at the side of the road. "It'll suck you right in," he had said. And so it had.

My tires spun out of control and I was stuck. I tried reverse, then forward, then reverse again. Nothing. The folks that had passed me stopped and came back to help. First they tried pushing my car. I felt the tires grab the road and thought I'd be set free, but then I was back in the ditch. They tried pulling me out with their Subaru but that didn't work either.

I told them to go on home and I'd call Triple A. Meanwhile according my car thermometer it was about 17 degrees below zero. At least I didn't have to worry about my groceries spoiling!

The weather app on my phone actually registered the temperature in Fairbanks at -26. But because I was up in the hills it was a little warmer. Something about a "temperature inversion." 

I called Triple A and they had a tow truck there within a 1/2 hour. The dispatcher asked if I was in a safe place and should he send the police. I adamantly said no. I was mortified enough -- I didn't need a fleet of police cars there too!

Once the tow truck showed up, Walter had me out of the ditch within 10 minutes.  

Walter hooking me up.

I was grateful for the GPS map on my phone. I had been able to tell Walter exactly where I was. Had I not had that, I would've been telling him things like, "turn left off Sky Line dr and I'm past the trees with the snow." Helpful.

Luckily, my car didn't sustain any damage.

I suppose it's time to finish putting my arctic car gear together. I had some things in the car, but it was just my regular CERT emergency bag that I used in California. Time to add snow pants, extra long underwear and my down sleeping bag.

Guess I won't be signing up to be an Ice Road Trucker anytime soon.