I’m no car aficionado; I drive a Prius, for God’s sake. But I do have advice for those of you braving this year’s Stormageddon and driving into the forces of nature. Many of us who were born and raised in California have never been forced to drive in harsh conditions. Our “harsh conditions” consist of too many leaves on the ground or turkeys crossing the road, if you’re from Fair Oaks. There’s seldom too much rain, lighting or—perish the thought—snow. This means that when there is a “once-in-10-year” storm on the horizon, many Californians tend to take on the SNL Californian role and become distorted. I do admit this was once—perhaps even still is—me, which is why I’m here to provide advice on how not to drive a car in winter.
My first piece of advice is this: if you can bear to stay home, do it. I know this column is all about exploring and getting outside but sometimes all we really need is a weekend inside with a boozy hot chocolate, sitting by the fire, listening to the storm outside our weather-proof windows. What better way to achieve this relaxing weekend than to blame it on the weather and some random article you read in Submerge the other day convincing you it was a good idea?
If you’re like me and you’re heading to the mountains to ice climb (or ski, or snowshoe, or drink, or gamble) and you just HAVE to fight the weather-stricken roads, slow the fuck down. I’m talking to you, Dodge Ram 3500. Just because you have snow tires or you’re a big ass truck does not give you the right to take the snowy roundabout at 40 mph and hydroplane into the crosswalk like an asshole. The rest of us behind you get screwed too.
If you don’t have the luxury of snow tires, buy chains and learn to install them before your trip. Don’t just read the instructions once and put them on, become a damn pro at getting those suckers on because when you’re in a blizzard you don’t want to have to find the user manual and follow each step.
On hills: continue movement. I repeat, continue movement. Do not stop. Even if you’re going 2 mph, that’s fine, just keep truckin’. This is especially important in a snow-chained Prius. Maybe your car is fine but please keep moving forward for the sake of the snow-chained Prius somewhere behind you.
Allot approximately 25 percent extra time for wherever you are going. This approximation has zero studies to back it up, just be aware you will be late if you leave on time.
With the advice I have provided to you I hope you either: A) stay home or B) get to your destination in a timely manner. If neither of these apply to you and you find yourself in a ditch on the side of the road stuck in a blizzard with no cell service along with all the other stranded cars, here is a list of items that I think will help you remain calm and collected:
• A shovel. If you really are in the middle of nowhere and you get buried, this will keep you sane. A poop shovel will suffice.
• Blankets and/or a sleeping bag. Save gas and turn your car off, bundle up and settle in.
• Speaking of settling in, do you like to read? Make sure you have your favorite book on hand so you don’t begin thinking of every terrible thing that could happen next. Avalanches are a real thing.
• Don’t like to read? Bring some booze. This should calm all nerves and maybe ignite some brilliant scheme for evacuation.
• Try to keep that gas gauge pointing to at least half during your trip.
• A buddy. Despite putting them in this terrible situation, it would be nice to have a friend to share this everlasting memory.
We West Coasters are lucky to have a winter such as this one. Take advantage and get outside but be mindful of your surroundings. Many tragedies have transpired this season, whether simply over-publicized by the media or caused by lack of safety due to over-excitement of the snow, accidents are present. Drive and explore carefully, not only protecting yourself but others around you. Have fun and adventure on.