Reporter’s Notebook: Sierra drivers go slip-sliding away
A weekend storm dropped more than two feet of fine, powdery snow on the Sierra, and left behind an icy glaze on most of the roads. I wasn’t out much during the storm, but the behavior of some of the drivers out there was enough to make me wish I had stayed safe at home the whole weekend.
For example, on Friday I followed a rear-wheel drive sport coupe through the snow from Highway 89 down Interstate 80, until we both got off the freeway at the Central Truckee exit. At the base of the exit, it was rapidly apparent that the other driver was unprepared for the snow. The sport coupe spun out, and turned sideways across the road, with the rear wheels still spinning. It was still there, twisting across the lanes of traffic, as I proceeded west down Donner Pass Road to the office.
There’s a solution to this problem: Chains. Listening to the police scanner in the newsroom, it’s obvious that many drivers leave both their chains and their brains at home before setting out onto snowy Sierra roads. Some, like myself, opt to buy studded snow tires, and put off the day when we will have to “chain up.” Other more carefree (and short-lived) spirits just ignore chains and drive hell for leather, while some chainless, brainless two-wheelers creep along at 5 mph and slide erratically across the road.
I understand Northwoods Boulevard and the back roads around it are a great place to drive on snowy days, if you like being part of a domino effect as an unchained vehicle farther up the hill loses its grip and slides down into the ditch or oncoming traffic. Although an unchained two-wheel drive vehicle with spinning tires can be an amusing sight, an extreme close-up of the rear of a sliding BMW is nothing I want to personally experience. Truckee’s road crews spend long hours keeping the roads free of snow and sanding them down for traction, but there is no substitute for common-sense driving.
And if the other normal drivers weren’t enough of a danger, it now appears that at least one driver for a private snow removal service has taken to jousting with his front-end loader. On Sunday, the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office received a call from the operator of a front-end loader, who said another operator had assaulted him with another loader, pushing his loader up on two wheels. Sheriff’s deputies responded and arrested the alleged assailant. If the allegations are true, perhaps the accused could plead guilty to watching “Aliens” one too many times.
In addition to slippery-wheeled motorists and the other hazards mentioned above, has anyone considered the effects of massive doses of cold medicine on drivers? I have a bad cold; most people in this office have the same bug, and emergency rooms and clinics across the Sierra are filling up with sniffly, wheezing patients. Most of these folks are driving with a heavy head of decongestants or antihistamines, which can’t do much for their snow driving skills.
All in all, it looks like my best option might be to stay at home and off the roads until April, or possibly May. The idea’s sounding even better since I discovered Monday that my car, studded snow tires and all, couldn’t make it up the frozen driveway at my apartment to Alder Creek Road. Rather than chain up, I hitched a ride with a worker who has a four-wheel drive vehicle.
I hope to purchase one myself soon.
John Bayless is news editor of the Sierra Sun.
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