Cory Farley, voted "Best of Reno" 26 times in 27 years by readers of his column in the Reno Gazette-Journal, takes an unconventional look at topics from presidential elections to the best way to cook Brussels sprouts.

Location: Verdi, Nev, United States

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

We now return to our regularly scheduled program...

On the perhaps unwarranted assumptions that, A) anybody noticed, and B) anybody cared, I'd like to apologize for my long absence from this space. If I'd known I'd be gone so long, I would have mentioned it.
The good news, though, is that I'm not dead. On Saturday night we came over Donner Summit in a howling blizzard, doing fine with chains on the Mazda and criticizing, as is my wont, the abilities and perceptions of nearly every other driver on the road, particularly the buttwipe in the four-wheel-drove Moron Pickup who tailgated us for eight miles from the chain control.
If I'd had any place to pull over, I would have done it. At least if he hadn't been seven feet behind me with his high beams on.
Then things got really exciting.
Somewhere a few miles the other side of Donner Summit, in a single line of cars moving slowly in bad but not horrible conditions, we hit a gust of wind. I've heard the term "whiteout" all my life, and I thought I'd seen whiteouts a time or two, but I was fooling myself. When this one hit, I not only couldn't see the front of the car, I couldn't see the washer nozzles on the hood or the reflection of the headlights from the swirling snow. It was like being inside a cotton ball.
I just had time to think, "Brakes . . . no, that buttwipe in the truck will hit us," before we drove into the snowbank.
Full confession: I've been critical for years of people who crash their cars, particularly in snow and ice. Every crash, I've written several times, is the result of a mistake, and if you're the only driver involved, the mistake has to be yours.
I've been thinking about this one for three days, though, and I don't see what I could have done to avoid it short of staying home (which, in fact, I had argued for, but I was overruled). If Tony damn Stewart had been sitting where I was when that wind blew up, he would have been where I was seven seconds later: Stuck in a snowbank up to the windshield.
There was almost no impact. I felt a gentle slowing, snow rolled over the glass and we were done, in so deep my wife couldn't open her door. We both crawled out mine. Traffic moved sedately by 10 feet away from us, drivers pointedly not looking so they wouldn't feel bad about not stopping to help.
I generally carry a shovel, tow rope and basic gear for dealing with emergencies, but we were in Terri's car, which meant we didn't even have one of the dozen or so flashlights I've given her over the years, and which have mysteriously disappeared. The car was fine, not a scuff, but it wasn't going anywhere.
I was wearing a heavy jacket, and I had a hat, but just jeans and running shoes, the perfect garments for getting wet, then freezing to death while I waited for help. My gloves were on the kitchen table, barely 40 miles away. A call to AAA revealed that they were busy and we probably couldn't expect help until morning, 10 or 12 hours away.
This rather limited our options, but I figured I might as well keep busy. With no clear goal in mind, I started sweeping snow out from under and around the car with my arms, and made surprising headway. When it looked clear and the wheels had a straight path to pavement, I cranked it up, slipped into reverse and spun the tires for awhile. Even with chains, though, they couldn't get enough grip to go.
"Are you OK?" came a voice.
I bit back my first answer, which might have sounded snippy ("Yeah, fine. I just thought I'd lie here next to the car for awhile").
"We've got a tow strap," said the passenger in a big pickup, the kind I've reviled in print a hundred times. "Maybe we can yank you out."
I nearly broke my neck nodding, and they swept into action. One guy jogged back and stopped traffic while the other handed me one end of the strap. I flopped on the ground and hooked it under the back of the Mazda, and he got back into the truck while the first guy looped the other end of the strap around the hitch on the truck. I slipped the clutch just enough to keep the wheels from spinning, they pulled back slowly, and in 10 seconds we were out.
I started to get out to thank them and get their names, but I slipped on the ice and by the time I recovered, they were packed up and gone. I don't even know what kind of truck it was. But if you were in it, thanks.


Blogger sabjoro said...

I'm just glad you or the wife weren't injured.

7:02 PM  
Blogger Ann Onn said...

Wow. If you had any idea how many times I've thought of your oft-repeated declaration that there is no such thing as an accident, especially when it comes to vehicle crashes.... I agreed with you in general, but I knew there were exceptions. Honestly, I never wished you would learn it the hard way! But it's satisfying to see your viewpoint might have changed a little.

I'm glad, too, that everything apparently ended well.

9:10 PM  
Blogger Sharon said...

Saturday night our neighbor and two of her friends returning from town had your experience, only there's no cell signal and the truck they heard didn't see them. They spent the night in the ditch. Makes ya think~

10:11 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Cory,check out; "" It has live-feed cameras from Truckee scales to Applegate. Next time someone uses the bond of Love to override your common sense, you can show them the folly of their desires.

If you were still writing for the rag, this would be a good time to remind people of the importance of having emergency supplies in the trunk.(blankets, water, flashlights, rain gear, you know what I'm talking about)

Don't go over that hill like a "dumb California fourwheeler". You are a part of a lot more peoples lives than you realize. We need to know you're around and still with us. I'm glad your safe, my friend. Lesson learned, huh?

11:02 PM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

Why I never go over the hill in Winter any more...

7:25 AM  
Blogger tuzoner said...

I was going to write a poem (and post it here) about the kindness of strangers until I remembered the time Cory dissed me about a limerick I wrote which was subsequently published in the prior to the literature master departing for greener pastures.

I mean, how bad could my limerick have been if it beat out all others and published?

The cheapskate wouldn't even offer to send me a coffee mug. BASTARD

Now every misfortune that doesn't involve either life or limp you suffer is greeted with amusement. KARMA, BASTARD

I guess my question is: How do you know that the truck that came to your rescue wasn't the butt-wipe in the four-wheel-drove Moron Pickup who tailgated us for eight miles from the chain control?

8:56 AM  
Blogger Robert said...

wow, tuzoner needs a hug...

my point of view on this is, fortunately you have good driving skills or this would have been much worse...

you might consider a "go bag" with everything...take it from car A and toss into car B...



9:58 AM  
Blogger tuzoner said...

I could use a warmed-over intellectual hug but Cory seems incapable or unwilling to dole those out here or any other place for that matter.

At least he could recognize that our writing skills attempt to match those of the great master.

That's grasshopper talk BTW *grin*

10:17 AM  
Blogger mindervillain said...

It strikes me that anyone who writes a limerick and doesn't expect to be dissed should get into another hobby.

Sonnets would be a good alternative; they practically diss themselves, and no one reads them anyway.

5:41 PM  
Blogger Bob said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5:43 AM  
Blogger mindervillain said...

How ya' doin' Cory? Any second thoughts about this blog thing and what it opens you up to?

5:26 PM  
Blogger Happy Camper said...

I hate white outs, I have only been on the road during a couple and it was scary; with absolutely no sense of direction. In the early 80', the car in front of us spun out and down into Blue Canyon. As our car slid right where their's had been, the whole world turned white. It was a small pocket of everything Mother Nature and the Sierra could throw at us. we found out later there were no survivors to the previous vehicle. I never go over in the winter anymore, and even locally, the car has a " breakdown tote" Happy you are home and safe, take care of yourself, we want you around for awhile.

6:30 PM  
Blogger nopastels said...

I have been in several whiteouts', you are not alone. Fortunately, the dumbass behind you did not create more problems with the high-beams. Why do high-rise trucks feel the need to put on their brights as if we did not know they were there??

Glad you are all well.

7:03 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Thank goodness yer alright.Not all people in four wheelers are bad and I would have joined you in that snow bank a few times myself had it not been for the added traction.While I'm not selling the things you may want to consider one of those Subaru all wheel drive jobbers.They get good milage and are all wheel drive.And they fulfil your liberal sensibilities,with regards to profile.The tailgate is also large enough to accomodate up to four Ron Paul bumper stickers,or large Hillary one...If you dare.Keep up the great writing!

6:58 AM  
Blogger mickey said...

Here's my whiteout story. '67 or '68 at Mammoth Mountain, rode up the T-bar, got off and started skiing across the slope in whiteout conditions. Couldn't even tell that I wasn't moving until I tried to stop. Got down the hill OK, headed back to town in my VW. About halfway down the hill I gently slid off the road. (If you remember, VW's had a flat stamped sheetmetal chassis, great for sliding in deep snow.) Slid to a stop so gradually that I didn't realize I wasn't moving (and that I was off the road) until I stepped on the gas and nothing happened. Anyhow, four guys in the next car helped my push/pull/lift the car back onto the road.

9:00 AM  

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