Winter Travel Tales

flowerbug

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having family down here in the middle of Michigan and living in the UP for 15 years (going to college and working) i spent a lot of time on the road back and forth including some trips i would rather forget ASAP but no luck there yet.

the first year i was up there i quickly established my mile markers and where i needed to turn off for gas. normally i would not stop to eat as the trip was already long enough as it was. one winter trip north i managed to not have as full of a gas tank as i should have and was coming towards the Mackinac Bridge, there was a a gas station i knew along there but this time i didn't know it was abandoned for the winter and there was a foot of snow on the off ramp and in the parking lot and all around the gas pumps. i rolled up and then noticed nothing was there or on or likely to ever be on. luckily i had my roommate along who could give us a bit of a push to get us rolling again so i was able to get out of there and back onto the highway and made it to Mackinaw City on fumes.

this thread isn't limited to driving tales, but most of mine are. :) a few plane trips i had will be fun to ramble through too.
 

flowerbug

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normally a trip up or back would be about 8hrs (speed limits weren't as high as they are now and there weren't hardly any passing lanes so if you were stuck behind someone you had to be patient).

i had a few trips which clocked in at 13 and 14 hours and both happened to be the Christmas holiday trips south.

the 13 hour trip was slow due to two different snow storms and in between the two storms it was very foggy. you didn't want to be going very fast in some areas because of the large number of deer. this wasn't as much of a concern at first but after being up there and doing the trip so many times i'd seen the results of a lot of deer/car accidents and even had a friend suffer major brain damage from half of a deer coming flying over the car in front of her and smashing through her windsheild. she never recovered fully from that. this particular trip was the first winter i was up there and i didn't have any company on the trip south.

i'd also left right after work and school classes let out and by the time i'd gotten going the weather changed quickly and it was heavy snow for the 6 hours across the UP to get to the bridge (aforementioned Mackinac Bridge) 4hrs of heavy fog and then the another storm over the top of the Lower Peninsula. normally a trip across the UP would take me 4-6hrs depending upon traffic and conditions. 5hrs average. it was very slow going and often at times i was driving with my window open so that i could see the snowbank along side of the road to keep me at least on the road.

after i made it over the bridge then i was stuck behind a semi doing about 35mph and the wind was perfectly from the south so i could not ever see to get around him. eventually i decided to go even slower so i could get out of the drift of snow he kept stirring up and then i found out that i could actually see much better by turning off my headlights and again using the snowbanks along the side of the road to guide me along. by this time it was very late at night and there wasn't anyone else on the road. the truck at some point pulled off and the moon came out. i'd finally made it out of the storm. there were no other tire tracks to follow for many miles of unbroken snow on the highway and running with just the yellow lights for fog i could see pretty well, also using the light of the moon and the snow was very sparkly too.

at least this time the gas station stops were ok and everyone was open even if almost no traffic on the road.

i only had a small 4 cylinder car that year (a silver Mercury Capri) which did very good in the snow all things considered. by this time i'd had the car for 5yrs and knew it very well so that i could tell how fast i was going by the sound of the wheels on the pavement or the sound of the RPMs. this skill became useful to me for night driving later that year when the speedometer light stopped working but that's not a winter tale story of how i got my first speeding ticket. however all that driving did force me to know what that car could and could not go through as far as snow was concerned and i had good tires. i didn't have chains though. i kept a shovel and some other things in the trunk just in case i got stuck or needed to help someone else out. a few chunks of old carpeting and some grit, ice scraper, windsheild deicer fluid. you don't ever want to run out of that on a messy road trip with a lot of slush and spray from trucks or cars.

the 14 hour trip was later in the series of events, but also it was a trip where i wasn't driving myself so... i'll bump this into another post instead. this one is long enough already. :)
 

flowerbug

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after my first year of college i had one last summer where i was not working and i hope to go out to Colorado and find a part time job for the summer. it also was a good excuse to do some exploring and fishing around Colorado. after a month i hopped on the bus and came back to MI and worked for the family business. that was the last time i did that and as a fairwell parting gift i had an entire flatbed truck load of tile and other materials to deliver to a four story building and no functional elevator so it all had to be moved a few items at a time. my trusty car had been left behind in MI and while i was away my brother drove it and ruined the timing belt. i'd hoped to have it fixed but eventually that didn't happen and i sold it for $50. :( so that left me without a car for the next year and i was mostly getting back and forth over the holidays by finding a ride with someone else.

the trip that year for the Christmas holiday was with people i didn't know and it was also with one of my roommates at the time so we had four people and luggage crammed into a very tiny car. the person who drove was an utter maniac. the roads were a mix of ice, slush and some bare spots that provided some traction but for me and my roommate we were white knuckle the whole trip. after about a half hour i stopped talking and just closed my eyes and that was about how it was for the next 7 hours. the driver was speeding (i'm ok with that if the roads are clear and you have decent visibility - not what we were going through).

me and the roommate had made other plans for the return trip north so we did not have to cope with that sort of foolishness again, but if you ever wonder about how those accidents happen that claim the lives of multiple college students on holiday that was a prime example of how it could have happened. i also swore that for then on i'd never get in the car of a stranger for a trip of that length. just crazy a$$ed driving.

i didn't own another vehicle until after i got my degree some six years later. most of my trips back and forth to school for vacations and visiting family were with friends or i went by the bus.
 

digitS'

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FlowerBug, I think that you might be scaring readers enuf to realize that there are crazy a$$ed drivers out there but not enuf to avoiding being a crazy a$$ed driver, themselves.

;) How about this:

In my second winter of being in snow country, I made trip up a mountain road to collect a Christmas tree. The road was gravel, I suppose, but just compact snow that day. Fortunately for what happened, there were a few houses up there with the state land where our permit allowed us to cut a tree.

By the time that my wife at-the-time and I were back in the car with the tree, it was snowing hard. I promptly became stuck trying to turn the car around. Deciding that it would be best to drive ahead and find a better place to reverse our course, I drove down this little hill. Turned around. Now, the car had to go back up the hill and though the mess I'd made in the snow being stuck a few minutes before.

Zzzzzzzzzz. Up we go! Bounce Bounce Zzz zzz zzz ... But, then there was a curve ...

Sure would have helped to have a berm to bump into or a bar pit to be good and stuck in but ... NO! Went right off the side of the hill and rolled the car 3 times.

Luckily, we were so young. Unluckily, I was such a nit wit to have made a series of mistakes. At one point, my legs were out on the hood, through what had been the windshield. I was still holding onto the steering wheel and able to pull myself back in. My wife ended up in the backseat sitting on the Christmas tree. We were relatively unhurt - me with a few cuts on my face from the glass, her with a few bruises. If we had both been seriously injured, we probably would have died since we didn't see one vehicle passing while we walked to a house, used the nice lady's phone and waited for a ride home.

Steve
 

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FlowerBug, I think that you might be scaring readers enuf to realize that there are crazy a$$ed drivers out there but not enuf to avoiding being a crazy a$$ed driver, themselves.

;) How about this:

In my second winter of being in snow country, I made trip up a mountain road to collect a Christmas tree. The road was gravel, I suppose, but just compact snow that day. Fortunately for what happened, there were a few houses up there with the state land where our permit allowed us to cut a tree.

By the time that my wife at-the-time and I were back in the car with the tree, it was snowing hard. I promptly became stuck trying to turn the car around. Deciding that it would be best to drive ahead and find a better place to reverse our course, I drove down this little hill. Turned around. Now, the car had to go back up the hill and though the mess I'd made in the snow being stuck a few minutes before.

Zzzzzzzzzz. Up we go! Bounce Bounce Zzz zzz zzz ... But, then there was a curve ...

Sure would have helped to have a berm to bump into or a bar pit to be good and stuck in but ... NO! Went right off the side of the hill and rolled the car 3 times.

Luckily, we were so young. Unluckily, I was such a nit wit to have made a series of mistakes. At one point, my legs were out on the hood, through what had been the windshield. I was still holding onto the steering wheel and able to pull myself back in. My wife ended up in the backseat sitting on the Christmas tree. We were relatively unhurt - me with a few cuts on my face from the glass, her with a few bruises. If we had both been seriously injured, we probably would have died since we didn't see one vehicle passing while we walked to a house, used the nice lady's phone and waited for a ride home.

Steve

no seat belts?
 

digitS'

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Ya know, when I first began driving, cars didn’t have seatbelts.

In California, I drove through a parking lot where seatbelts were being installed and had that done for my first car.

The little Opel that I rolled was my second car. I don’t remember if it had seatbelts or not.

Steve
 

flowerbug

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Ya know, when I first began driving, cars didn’t have seatbelts.

In California, I drove through a parking lot where seatbelts were being installed and had that done for my first car.

The little Opel that I rolled was my second car. I don’t remember if it had seatbelts or not.

Steve

you're lucky to be alive!
 

flowerbug

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the longest winter drive for winter break was 14 hours. i didn't drive much of it myself which makes me nervous enough as it is. this one friend was able to give me a ride and while the weather forecast wasn't looking great i'd been out in worse. the first 100 miles between Houghton-Hancock and Marquette is often very pretty and has some nice curvy roads through woods in spots that are very fun to drive on clear roads and good visibility. an hour and a half normally. in really heavy snow with poor visibility and someone who can't see that well to begin with that turned into two and a half hours.

as you head out of Marquette you come to M-28 which goes directly east along the shore of Lake Superior and it is straight, flat and utterly blah part of the drive. you do see some of lake shore for a while but on the whole you don't see it at all, it's just scrubby pines, swampland, flats, woods. it is also very unprotected from any winds or snow coming off the lake.

by the time we reached the turn-off the roads had a fair amount of snow on them with more still coming down, plenty of wind, the upside of taking the northern route is that it is shorter and so straight and flat that you should be able to keep the car on the road. the downside is the cross-winds. visibility wasn't too bad so my friend decided to take this route. as we went along the visibility kept getting worse and finally we decided we better stop and go back and go the longer route to the south (through Escanaba).

by this time visibility was so bad that we could barely see past the front hood of the car. as we finally get the car stopped and go to turn around there is a car completely broadside to us in the road in front of us. had we not stopped when we did we'd have hit them square on, but since we weren't going too fast it probably wouldn't have killed anyone, but it sure would have been a mess and rather rude experience for the other person who was also turning around. we managed to find a driveway to use to turn around and went back to the other route, but by the time we got back to the turnoff and went south we were already way off schedule and it snowed the rest of the trip with poor visibility.

she was not a confident driver and often was a lot more nervous and jerky in how she drove and that of course makes for my sense of empathy to kick in along with the fact that i hate to be driven by almost anyone else other than myself anyways so i'm having to keep telling myself to ignore it and that not always working. the whole trip i'm riding this edge of nerves in myself up and down.

the rest of the journey was much less uneventful but long and slow driving. the added subtext of this drive was interesting too because this person was a friend and i wondered if she was at all romantically involved with anyone or was interested and you know how those kinds of hopes and expectations can mess around with a friendship if you really don't know and aren't that forewards of a person... well, we figured it out and were ok from then on. i'm still glad that it all went as it did as i don't think we'd have been very good partners for each other anyways. always interesting this human relationship stuff. after she graduated from college and "went off" we didn't keep in touch so that's a bit sad, but that is also how college life goes. i was around for so long i was quite used to friends leaving and not staying in contact for too long afterwards.
 

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aside from the weather related aspects sometimes on long trips you find out exactly how much you dislike a person. i had a friend, and at first i didn't know how much trouble this person was. completely unable to control his temper. anger management could have helped him a great deal but i doubt he ever attempted to get help. as long as i knew him it never improved.

at first it was just a few episodes that set off my warning bells (i don't do that great with people who have any kind of temper as i have a lot of empathy and i can react really quickly in various ways that aren't that great either but at least i do know what is going on and can often manage things and talk myself down). as one example as a later teenager i had a group of friends and two of them didn't get along that well with each other but somehow it turned out that we had two people each in two cars and the two people that didn't like each other decided that they had to fight. so we were off on some side track road and those two got out of the car to fight and me and the other person were sitting there talking to each other through the windows and i had a very hard time not laughing because it was all so silly, but we just sat there and talked and i kept it calm between me and my other friend by simply stating it clearly that if he got out of the car then i would have to do that too but i didn't really want to fight him at all. so that all worked out and the other two friends got it out of their system and then we all went to a party. kids, eh... :)

ok, well back to the other friend with the anger management issues. he'd give me rides here or there around town and once in a while he'd be sort of a jerk to other drivers but not so bad that i'd think he was a hazard and a menace.

but then one time we were heading downstate at the same time so i did hitch a ride from him. wow, was he a massive asshole and outright hazard to other drivers on the road over minor things. like if someone went past him and then slowed down too much then he'd speed up, pass them and then not only slow down but he'd cut them off very closely and jam on the breaks. on roads with patches of ice and snow this was just utterly crazy. yep, another white knuckle trip. i hated every minute of that and shortly after that trip i backed off my friendship with him until he left college. i only saw him one-time after that and it was a dinner where he introduced me to his new girlfriend and he behaved so poorly that i never responded to him in the future. he had some great characteristics and i always wished him well, but i can't deal well with people who go completely irrational about very minor things and without much warning at all and when they do that when driving many pounds of heavy metals at high speeds well that's just a menace to society. no idea what happened to him. not going to look...

these kinds of events were the ones that made me really want my own wheels again and i did get a small truck right after i finished my degree and finally had enough funds coming in and some savings starting to build up at last. i had that truck and many adventures for a few years until it was trashed by some vandals while it was parked in the overflow lot which was uphill and away from the main part of campus. eventually i bought my first new car and had that for over 20yrs. many adventures with that car too as i travelled all over the USoA and parts of Canada visiting friends and camping and sight seeing for several years and eventually ended up back here with Mom where i'm at now.
 

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