Tomorrow is March. I guess this year that means there are only five more months of winter left before we start the next one.
We're in the process of ending yet another Polar Vortex, meaning that we can start the day well below zero and still totally mess up traffic with another snowfall. Some days it means we can last the whole day below zero as well, and still mess up traffic with ice, snow, and drivers with absolutely no learning curve.
Today I started off by doing a 270 on a corner where a 90 is all that's required. Go ahead, call me an overachiever. Also call me lucky in that the oncoming car stopped several yards away from me. I had taken the corner slowly, I'd thought, and only began to feel marginally better when everywhere I drove today the road ice seemed slicker than as recently as yesterday, with no discernible reason. After all, yesterday the high was 2, and by some major effort, that was above zero. There should have been nothing in that - like melting - which would have left ice slicker, but there it was. Everybody else thought so too. Road ice, walking ice, didn't matter. Dangerous, we agreed.
I caught a run out to Eau Claire late morning. Not only was it profitable, it also meant I was heading east and away from the approaching snowfall. Only, maybe not so much away from it as into it, as it turned out. Rather than doing the posted 65 on the freeway, I was doing 50 by the time I neared my destination. The roads went from dry, to dark (wet) parallel lines, to white in the middle of those lines, to finally just white by the time I started back.
In fact by then everything more than about 3 blocks away was white. I settled in for a solid 45 and white knuckles, resigning myself to keeping the cruise control off, not knowing what might be ahead needing a faster reaction that it would allow. I also resigned myself to being passed by everybody.
The only vehicle I passed was a grey one lying rubber side up in the median, engine still running, just a few miles east of Menomonie. It had probably passed me earlier. I noted two other things as I passed. There was no snow sitting on top of it, though it was coming down heavily. Must have been a recent event. I also noted not only was there nobody walking, sitting, or standing outside the vehicle, nor tracks of somebody who may have left the car, but there was also no trail I could spot of the car's path to that location. No tracks, no dent gouged out of the snow bank, nada. It may as well have well floated down with the snow under a parachute, except for the lack of an obvious parachute.
Have I mentioned the need for mental games to keep one's self alert on long halls in stressful conditions?
I decided to believe that visibility was so poor that I just hadn't seen - no, not a parachute, silly - any tracks. Heck, for all I know, there might have been three or four more vehicles like it that I'd passed but not seen for the snow.
Perhaps you wondered why I mentioned my 270 earlier in the day. I had cause to remember it at this point in my trip. It gave me pause to wonder if perhaps I make a habit of being too judgmental of my fellow drivers. While they pass me doing what I consider an unsafe speed (by definition, anything faster then me) I note them by anticipating their possible impending accidents and cursing those same accidents for requiring me to be hyper-alert avoiding what, it turns out, so very seldom actually happens. And I'd proved I can manage to send my own car in unexpected directions as well.
As I was musing this idea and white-knuckling back toward the metro as still the slowest car on the road, the radio hit the half hour mark and started listing a few spots with recent road closures. 35 in Lakeville had just reopened, after clearing a multi-car and multi-semi accident off the road. And they had just closed 94 in the Menomonie area after multiple accidents there.
Nope, let's not give those other drivers too much credit, eh?