Winter Driving Adventure Tests My Winter Driving Skills
So, I was leaving from Green Bay Wisconsin the other day just before a lake effect snow from Lake Michigan was supposed to hit around Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana. I felt real good about getting out there early enough to beat out the winter weather. I was only intending to get down on I-65 and felt that would be far enough away to avoid any serious weather. When I pulled over in Remington, In about 70 miles south of Chicago little flakes were dropping lightly and at a slow steady pace. I listened to the weather station on the radio and heard that they expected more than an inch as far south as Indianapolis by early the next morning I figured I would go ahead and get back on the highway and at least go through Indianapolis because if the snow fell I sure wouldn’t want to go through there during rush hour.
I woke up the next morning in south of Indianapolis in Whiteland at exit 95 pilot. A jackknife had just occurred north of the Pilot truck stop. I filled up with fuel for extra weight and got on the snow filled highway.
People were sliding left and right off of the highway. I heard drivers saying that the snow lightened up the closer you get to Louisville, KY. It was good to hear that cause Louisville had already seen enough bad weather a week or so prior. A lot of people still didn’t have electricity if I remembered correctly. The roads were not as bad as they could have been, and not a lot of people were trying to drive so there was a steady but slow pace going south. Going north however the story was slightly different. They seemed to have more skidding going on.
I ended up behind a short line of traffic that was going way too slow in my opinion. Of course I am all for safety but this was not a 30mpg situation in my book. Even worse was the fact that all the traffic that came up on all of us in the right tried to pass in the left lane. Many times lingering beside of us as if paralyzed by the fact that the left lane was in worst shape than the right. Ok, this was obvious before they jumped out in the left lane. I really don’t like people riding beside me like that, especially during bad weather and especially when they show signs of being scared or inexperienced. I figured it would be safer for me to pass this traffic so that I could go at a pace that people wouldn’t be riding beside me wanting to pass but afraid to drive.
I jumped in the left lane and went around a few cars. The truck in front sped up as I approached. We pulled away from the rest of the traffic and since he was now going faster, I just fell back in the right lane behind him. As you may well have guessed he slowed back down again. Instead of braking I signaled and eased back into the left lane to get away from around him.
I was almost around him when on the north bound side of the highway a truck in the left lane started going sideways. He then swerved off to his left which would be in the median like there was an invisible exit ramp to the south bound side of the interstate. “Boy this was really getting interesting”, I thought. I braked as much as possible careful not to break traction. The Star truck jack-knifed once it was on the south bound side I-65. Me and the truck stopped no less than 20ft away from each other in the left lane. I grabbed my camera from my shirt pocket.
I ran over to the drivers door to see if the driver was alright. He was sitting the driver’s seat strapped in saying that he was fine. I didn’t have to call the police because the police was in the left lane not too far behind me. They pulled up and asked was the driver ok, I said yes and jumped back in the truck to get back to trucking. The driver did an excellent job of only blocking one lane of the interstate so we pulled out headed toward Tennessee.
Well, things sure enough got a lot better by the time I reached Louisville, Ky. Everything was pretty much cool all the way to Asheville, NC. I delivered off of I-26 just before night. The traffic coming through Asheville said that snow was picking up on Black Mountain but was fine on the other side. I sure hate to drop my 44,000 lb load off. I would be going up and down Black Mountain empty.
Seeing people skidding off the highway I wondered if I should pull over and wait until the next day.
I asked drivers how bad the Mountain was and they basically down played it so I figured I would hurry up and get across before things got even worse. By now it was dark. Half way up the Mountain, I began to loose traction more frequently. I tested areas of the right lane. First trying to ride in the tracks, that didn’t work to well so then I tested the fresh snow to see if I could get a better grip. That was a little better and I continued up partially in the right lane and partially on the shoulder. Near the top, I struggled to get traction and barely made it on top.
I briefly entertained the thought of parking there on top of Black Mountain for the night. I asked on the CB radio how it looked going down the mountain and was assured that things got better going down hill. Like a fool, I proceed to descend down the Mountain.
Not long after getting back on the highway, I loose traction.
Unable to get a grip, the tractor began sliding toward the median. I was forced to turn into the direction of the skid as I tried to match the engine speed to my speed of travel. I got traction long enough to be able to turn away from the center and go toward the right lane with the truck behind me cheering me on for correcting the skid.
The cheer was short as I went from a skid to the middle to a skid in the opposite direction. Seemed as if the snow, highway, and the mountain was playing a game with me and the truck. I couldn’t break much because the mountain was pulling me down so the tires would loose traction. I had to speed up as I turned into the skid to try and gain traction to straighten back out.
I ended up straightening again after matching engine speed with road speed and managed to get traction enough to get slowed down considerably.
The guy behind me was cheerleading on the CB telling me I was doing a hell of a job. The cheerleading was not enough to keep me on the highway.
I pulled over as soon I could on the shoulder to stay for the night until the sun came up the next morning, figuring that it make more sense than trying to go down with an empty trailer. I sat there for about 20 minutes listening to the CB and then the FM to get a weather report. The snow had slowed down a lot and a slow pace of traffic continued to go by while I was parked. The radio said that more snow was expected overnight and the temperature was continuing to drop. They also said that the temperature would not exceed freezing the next day. I decided that it might be easier to get traction since the traffic had made better tracks on the snow. Yep, I jumped back out there again.
I waited until there was no one coming down just in case. That was a good call because almost immediately, I started skidding to the inside of the highway just like the first time. Skidding in one direction, regaining control, then skidding in the next direction. I was a visual representation of deja vu. After finally gaining total control, I pulled over again.This time, I was not leaving until sunshine.
Not long after parking, I see the salt truck coming up the mountain. Wow, I thought, I forgot all about the salt truck! He later came down on my side. I let him come through 2 more times and it was time to go at it again. Yep, that was all it took. I didn’t loose traction once the rest of the way down the mountain.
Sure enough, by the time I reached the bottom there was no snow in sight, wet roads from rain. The next day when I came the highway was backed up because of accidents going west being cleaned up. It took 2hrs to get through the gorge.
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