Monday, December 30, 2013

Black Ice Follies

Nope, this is not about race, except maybe a race to stupidity. The Black in the title refers to a particular kind of ice. As any experienced Minnesotan knows, during extreme below zero weather, car exhaust lays down a thin coating of ice on roadways that is hard to see and thus treacherous. Add a dusting of snow over the top, and everybody either really slows down or pays a price. I only bother with all this background because I realize not everybody understands black ice, or has experienced it. And if today is an example, many manage to forget they ever have.

Today was one of those days. I heard it actually made it to 2 above in the metro by suppertime, after starting in the teens below this morning, still lower temps outside the heat island. Morning rush hour laid down the first coat of black ice. Snow was falling by mid morning, the teeniest of flakes, the kind which seem to have no traction, no grip on neighboring flakes.  It wasn't really necessary for the problems of the day, since I spotted the first cars in the ditch much earlier, but it contributed even more.

I turn into a little old lady driver on days like these. Apt, eh? Of course, these kind of roads have turned me into that kind of driver since I started driving. I'm unapologetic about it. There are reasons.

Today, for example, I was hitting a spot where freeway and lesser highway diverged in a v shape. My route required me to take the ramp off to the right and follow it in an "s" curve over cross streets until it merged with the other road. It was as icy as everything else, so I slowed way down for the curves. My rear view mirror showed me four cars tailgating each other following my course. I judged their speed to be way too high for conditions, and decided to keep an eye on them as they came up behind me, in case I needed to tap the brakes to signal how slick it was.

I lost sight of them as I cleared the first curve. Continuing to glance in the mirror as safety allowed, I navigated the second curve, then kept watch as the road straightened for the long merge.

They never appeared.

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