First, the term: “winter driving.”
This beggars its own description, because it will never mean the same thing to two people. First, you must define “winter,” and for some of us this means the end of late summer; for others it's the beginning of early spring. Then, “driving.” A wide-open application with so many interpretations, it could easily be called an interpretation with too many applications.
Unlike our neighboring state of Massachusetts, there is no such thing as a “typical New Hampshire driver.” Granite State motorists are a paraphrase of the old changing weather adage: “If you dont like the way were driving, wait a minute.”
That said, there must be some semblance of a winter driving standard to be applied here, so let's just say that the shortest distance between two points is not always a state line. Maine drivers will know what this means, especially those who live in Massachusetts and sport Vermont license plates (an inside New Hampshire joke).
The expression: “You cant get there from here,” is thought to have originated in Maine. Not true. It was first uttered by a New Hampshire motorist (me) who once tried driving from here, (east-west to Maine across New Hampshire's north-south geographical grain) and failed to get there after encountering a highway sign that read: “Warning: Route 117 Does Not Stop.”
Thus, winter driving in New Hampshire is something to be avoided, and this is how Florida was populated.
But, however you define it, when vehicular navigation during snow season must be done, there are a few tips:
Before going anywhere, check the weather report. This insures that you'll be stranded in two feet of “passing snow showers,” prompting me to report another pet peeve, when it comes to our softening of the language: Whatinheck is a “snow shower?” Is it snowing or raining? The first time a meteorologist up heah tells me to watch out for blowing “rain drifts,” I'm moving to Orlando, where they know what that means.
The New Hampshire Department of Transportation maintains that there is “no technical distinction between a 'road' and a 'highway.'” We know better. During a winter storm, if you're driving more than a hoot n' holler but less than a fair piece, you keep to the highway, unless you're headed to Maine and don't care what happens when you can't stop where you can't go.
Yes, there's also a difference here, in winter, between a “state” road and a “town” road. One has potholes full of salt; the other has potholes full of potholes. We won't even mention “frost heaves,” which deserve not only their own humor column, but another humorist. I've never found anything funny about broken axles, or having one's upper and lower teeth suddenly inverted, especially when one doesnt even have dentures.
If you're traveling anywhere more than a klick away, (for the military-minded among us), up to and including a hellingone, (for the bumpkins) especially if you eschew the main highway for a back road, you should prepare for a worst case breakdown scenario and bring all the essentials for survival: blanket, flashlight, cook stove, and a shovel suitable for digging an overnight snow cave.
These days, yes, a cell phone would help, unless you're in an unreceptive area. In this neck of the woods, that's every obstruction between you and this neck of the woods, beginning with that tree your car is leaning against. But, if you can get your call through, it will also allow you time to snap some keepsake photos of your snow cave during your all-night tow truck vigil.
Ah, we all remember this mantra from driver's ed class. Say it with me, all together now: “TURN IN THE DIRECTION OF THE SKID.” This is supposed to be an instinctive move, like knowing without thinking about the difference between how men and women button. If you're not reflexively reaching for your buttons right now to quick-see if you're a righty or lefty, then you're wearing a sweater. And, if you are, you're suddenly unsure, for the first time in your life, which side the buttons are on. I rest my case.
Too late. While you've been fiddling with your buttons, (often the reason for sliding into a ditch) you've just slid into the ditch, because turning in the direction of the skid has always seemed counter-intuitive to me, unless one is in the grip of a fight-or-flight reaction, where an innate human response directs one to face the danger, in this case, the oncoming neck of the woods.
If you do find yourself stuck in the Nor'easter of Route 117, whatever you do, don't try to stop. When driving in winter, stopping is a dangerous maneuver, and should not be attempted.
This means that you've arrived to find yourself sitting in your driveway and not going anywhere. Don't fret over it. You could never get anywhere from there, anyway.
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Syndicated humor columnist B. Elwin Sherman is still not stopping his car in Bethlehem, NH. He can be reached via his website at: elwinshumor.com. Copyright 2008 B. Elwin Sherman. All rights reserved. Used here with permission.
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