I like driving in the snow. There. I said it. I know that makes me a freak by most people’s standards..
At the mere mention of the possibility of more than a dusting of snow, school superintendents furtively consult about if/when to cancel school and/or after-school activities. Since the Ice Storm, even colleges consider the same. Radio stations in urban areas broadcast interviews with highway superintendents talking about how they’ll react to the storm. Folks make sure they’re stocked up on groceries and heating fuel, the assumption being that they’ll be stranded at home for a week or more. And they cancel travel plans.
Good! That means they’re off the road.
And that’s where I like to be. Yesterday I drove from Albany to Potsdam, NY in the thick of a decent winter snow storm. As I left Albany, there was 2-3 inches of fine snow on the interstate—no plows in sight. The traffic was moderate, considering the conditions, but it was moving along faster than I expected; as we maintained 30-40 MPH. That’s not hard to do when there are three lanes at your disposal, even if you can’t see the lines dividing them anymore. The people forced, for whatever reason, to be on the road in these conditions were off to the right, many with their hazard light blinking. Those of us comfortable with the conditions were cruising along in the far left lane, leaving dozens of fellow drivers in our snow dust.
The farther north we got, the thinner the traffic got. Finally, I passed the last tractor trailer in 5 inches of still-unplowed powder. And I was alone. Bliss! There is a post-apocalyptic serenity (if that’s even a thing) about being, for miles and miles at a stretch, practically the only person on the road. And there I was: all alone, comfortably riding along at 50 MPH and not having to worry at all about other drivers. I had, of course, to pay attention to the condition of the road foot-by-foot, and that brings its own special kind of exhaustion after awhile. But for me, that pales beside wondering what everyone else is going to do (or not do). Will they fall asleep? Swerve to avoid wildlife? Text? Simply get distracted? Suffer mechanical failure? Anything could happen at any moment! But not when it’s snowing and you’re all alone. Bliss.
And then there’s the scenery. It is unfortunate that snow and sunshine are almost always mutually exclusive, but the lack of sun barely takes away from the natural beauty of the Adirondacks during a good snow. I drove up through Keene Valley, Lake Placid, and Saranac Lake, stopping briefly to photograph this year’s ice castle. It was gorgeous! Gobs of snow clinging to every evergreen bough. And it was quiet! The snow deadens almost all of the normal road noise. Several times I put my window down just to listen to…nothing, resisting the urge to pull over and walk a hundred yards into the woods and just stand there.
I know this experience isn’t for everyone. I know there’s an awful lot of white-knuckled drivers on the best of days. There are people who are scared, and there are people who don’t have enough experience to drive well in what they perceive as adverse conditions. I am neither of those! I also have made certain that I have a properly-equipped vehicle which is a must regardless of one’s proficiency. But I love winter driving!
PS: Ice sucks, and I’m not stupid. This was “just snow.” I don’t care if you’re driving a tank—if there’s snow-on-ice or sleet or freezing rain and you think that’s fun, well, then I think you have a warped sense of entertainment!