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Lesson learned the hard way

Register • Feb 9, 2014 at 7:53 PM

I had enough experiences as a kid with snow, ice and cold that I should have had more respect for winter when I got older. But Bob learns his lessons the hard way.


I grew up in the snow belt, got a crash course in winter driving from my parents, took driver’s ed in the winter and really didn’t have much problem navigating my tiny Chevette through the white and driven snow.

My mom played a role in my disregard for the elements. Just a few weeks after I’d gotten my temporary driver’s license, my mom had me drive her to a friend’s, just for the practice. We stayed a bit but the weather turned nasty, with an earlier snow turning into freezing rain.

By the time we got to the car, it was glazed in ice. After scraping the windshield clean, I hopped into the passenger seat, but my mom handed me the keys and told me I was driving. My protests went nowhere and I started the car. All was well until I got onto I-271. The entire freeway was a sheet of glare ice. At least a half-dozen cars had slid off the road in front of me. I was terrified.

I tried to pull over but my mom wouldn’t let me. “You’re going to have to face this sooner or later” she said, “so you might as well do it now” I have no idea if she realized how scared I was. I have no idea if she was even more scared than me. She didn’t show it.

I took my time, didn’t accelerate or brake quickly, avoided sudden movements and kept a steady speed. I actually saw a couple of cars spin out ahead of me. But each mile I safely drove gave me confidence. I made it home.

Nothing to it, really.

By the time I turned 21, I was fearless and arrogant; those who were afraid to drive during snowstorms were wimps.

So when the great Blizzard of ‘78 began, despite all the warnings, the high winds and often whiteout conditions, of course I wanted to go for a drive. Incredibly, my high school buddy Mike decided to come with me.

We drove through the great blizzard from our street in Lyndhurst all the way to Ashtabula County without a real problem, although we’d plow through some drifts at 45 mph and come out going 30.

The way back was a different story. The storm had really hit and the snow was a few inches deep across the road, although in spots the wind had blown the pavement clean. We were still at least 40 minutes from home but I had no fear. Until I looked at the gas gauge. It was near empty.

Every Podunk gas station was closed due to the weather. We needed to find a city where we might still be able to get gas. I looked at the map and saw that Chardon was a few miles to the north on Ohio 44. We came to an intersection with a flashing light. I looked to my right and saw a Ohio 44 sign down the road. So off we went.

Unfortunately, it was OLD Rt. 44 (the new state route was another mile away). And old Rt. 44 had been declared closed due to the storm. We were too stupid to realize it.

We went up a steep hill — amazingly the wind had actually blown the roadway clean — but as we crested the hill, all we could see ahead was a white sea of snow. I had absolutely no idea where the road was. The car plummeted down the hill and careened into a ditch.

Mike and I walked what seemed like a thousand miles through chestdeep snow to get to the nearest house — actually maybe a thousand feet away. The snow was so deep that one of us could go no more than five to 10 feet before being exhausted, then the other had to take over making a path. By the time we got to the house, we were frozen to our cores and just about ready to drop. But it took almost half an hour to convince the elderly owner we weren’t there to rob her, we just needed help.

It took hours to find someone willing to pull us out of the ditch and back to the main road. He cursed me and my friend the entire time.

Amazingly, the rest of our drive home went just fine — we got behind a snow plow and road it almost the entire way home.

I’ll still brave the weather today, if I have to. But only if I have to.

I’d rather sit inside and think what a bunch of idiots those people are driving in a blizzard.

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