Driving " or sliding " down Northwoods | SierraSun.com

Driving " or sliding " down Northwoods

Norm and Alan Nicholls

It is 6:30 a.m. on Sunday morning and I’m sitting at my dining room table and looking out at the snow falling horizontally.

I’ve made my morning observations and investigations and have found there is about 8 inches of snow in my driveway, 3 inches on my front deck, and about a foot on my back deck (a cornice affect).

There is also no doubt that asking Alan to help me on the column this week is useless. It’s a powder day!

As I ponder whether I will decide to go to Reno this afternoon for a dentist appointment (that’s right, my dentist works weekends!), I’ve begun to day dream with remembrances of past drives in heavy snow storms. They have not all been without incident.

My best winter driving story occurred the week after Christmas in either 1992 or 1993. This particular winter it snowed for days, both before and after Christmas. I remember that many of the side roads in Tahoe Donner had not been plowed and that many residents and vacationers were having to walk to town or to Ames Deli Mart for food and supplies. I kept our road (Sitzmark) open from our house down to Schussing, where it was plowed. Above our house, the road was totally impassable.

Anyway, one morning I decided to venture out and to go down to Boice Countryside Realtors, at the bottom of Northwoods and Donner Pass Road, where I then worked. I’d been holed up in our house several days and I thought I would just go down for an hour or so, check messages, talk to anyone that was there, then return. I considered putting on my chains but, hey, I have a 4 wheel drive, have driven in winter conditions for many years, and will be careful ” why bother?

When I got to the corner of Lausanne and Northwoods there was quite a backup. It took about 15 minutes before my opportunity to dash out, and squeeze my way between two cars on Northwoods. I pulled in behind a Chevy Blazer, four-wheel drive, with chains on all four tires.

As we were inching along, I did notice that the snow on Northwoods was hard packed and was distinctly rutted. I also noted a good number of people walking, snow shoeing and cross country skiing down the side of the road, heading to town for supplies.

As I approached the start of the hill (just south of where Coyote Moon is today), I decided to put my Jeep in four-wheel drive, low range, first gear, and also decided I would straddle the ruts rather than stay in them. I also decided to have my hand on my parking brake, just in case I needed a little braking. (Parking brakes apply braking to your rear wheels only).

Finally the Blazer (with chains) began his decent down the hill. I waited until he was 100 feet or so ahead of me, and off I went. All was well until two cars ahead of the Blazer began sliding sideways. The driver of the Blazer tapped his brakes and was able to come to a halt.

I tapped my brakes and immediately slid into the ruts. I tried to steer out of the ruts to head for the snow bank ” no luck. I applied my hand brake slowly. It slowed me some, but I was not stopping.

As I was sliding closer to the Blazer, I flashed my lights and honked my horn to warn him of our imminent impact. Just then, two college-aged boys appeared from no where and pushed the front of my car out of the ruts and into the snow bank.

I rolled down my window, thanked the boys profusely, and offered them a ride to town. One of the boys responded, “No thank you sir, not the way you drive!” Oh well.

A couple of our readers called in this past week with a couple more ways to get rid of voles. My friends, Rene and Jan Robert of Walnut Creek, emailed me and indicated that they used tent traps and some poison they got from their local hardware store. Their war on the critters lasted months, but the Robert’s finally won out.

Patty Lewis also called in and said that moth balls work well. She places them in the holes, and also spreads them on her lawn in the fall. I’ll pick some up in Reno today.

The previous location of the Truckee DMV office was in the CHP office on Highway 89, south of Bank of America. Larry McEneaney (representing the morning “Coffee And” coffee group, which includes Mike Connell, Dale Fritchle and Mark Bilstein) called in at 6:22 a.m. with the correct answer. An hour later, his son Brian also called in.

The host of others that played and won this week included: Ray Craig, Karen Mertl, Val Kelly, Melinda Holley, Dan O’Gorman, Gordy Kjer, Jerry Blakely, Mary DeLisle, Bill Mullins, Penny Malfitano, Katie Shaffer, Leah Krone, Pete Kolp, Bobbi Specht, Tom and Carla Beebe, Pat Callahan, Ron Rettig, Jim Maas and Pat Northrop.

Ray and Bill pointed out that prior to the Highway 89 location, the DMV shared office space with the CHP (and possibly the Ag station staff) in the building that now houses the Christian Science Reading Room over by Mountain Hardware.