Saturday, February 26, 2011

I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.

7pm on a wintry Thursday evening
Ice pellets land on my windshield like thousands of tiny tap-dancers. The noise reminds me of small dogs with long toenails running on hardwood floors. The highway is an unplowed, slushy mess. One lane shows two narrow black strips of bare asphalt. The passing lane, however, shows no pavement at all. Yellow and white painted lines are impossible to see from either lane.

I'm only a few kilometres into the drive home, but already I know it's going to take longer than the usual 45 minutes. I turn down the radio, grip the steering wheel tightly, and lean into the windshield-- creeping along at 60-70km/ hour.

Just about the only other vehicles on the highway are transport trucks. They have no patience for my caution; however, they're reluctant to venture into the snow-covered passing lane. So, they try to hurry this station-wagon-driving lady along. One truck gets so close to my rear bumper that I can't see its headlights. Only its grill is reflected in my rear view mirror. When I can't be goaded into picking up the pace, the driver steers his 18 wheeler into the passing lane with reckless abandon.

Finding the passing lane to be an icy mess, the driver inches his monstrous vehicle sideways toward me and my two strips of black pavement. I yield as much as I dare, but I refuse to be run off the road, into a ditch. Finally, the truck edges past, tossing a slushy mess onto my windshield in its wake--leaving me temporarily blind. Luckily, I know the highway well. This cycle of intimidation repeats itself at least a half dozen times before I finally ease my car up the off ramp and onto Nova Scotia's country side roads.

There are no black strips of asphalt to guide my path on these back roads, but there are no transport trucks to rush me along either. After well over an hour on the road, I'm thrilled to finally see the flashing yellow light that marks the turn onto Indian Road. Just two turns and two more kilometres, then I'm home. I roll my head from side to side and shake the tension out of my shoulders as I climb the gentle slope of Indian Road. It's been plowed at some point today, so it's passable-- barely. A streetlight illuminates the yard of the Bonderosa dairy farm which marks the left turn onto our dirt road.

I'm partway through the turn when I realize that our road has not been plowed at all. On top of that, there's a large pile of snow where our road meets Indian road. I give the car some gas, but I know it's too late. The front tires meet the pile of snow with a dull thud, and the car slides to a halt. I can't go forward, but thankfully I'm not stuck. I back out of the mess, and prepare to try again, but given that I'm on a slight hill, with all momentum gone, the car will only move backwards.

I reverse nearly the entire length of Indian Road. until it flattens out, then I give the car some gas and race up the hill as fast as I can. This time, when I hit our road, the car fishtails, but continues forward over the hump. However, the entire road is covered with about four inches of icy-snow the consistency of a thick slush-puppy.

I press my foot even harder on the gas peddle. I may have gotten through the pile of snow at the intersection, but I still have to make it up our very steep hill. I pass the neighbour's house, and begin the steepest section. I'm sliding all over the place, but at least I'm moving forward. . I'm going to make it. I'm going to make it.

I don't make it. My wheels start spinning just 50 metres from the crest of the hill. I back down the hill, into our neighbour's driveway and call Dave from my cell phone. A few minutes later, our Dodge truck is parked on the road in front of me, and Dave's searching for a spot to attach the tow ropes.

He tries to pull the car up the hill, but the road is so icy and the hill so steep that the truck can't get any more traction, and after about 20 feet or so, we're at a standstill. We detach the vehicles and I back all the way down our road and into the well plowed driveway of the dairy farm. Our kind neighbours tell me I can park there until 10am tomorrow-- when the milk truck is scheduled to arrive.

As it turns out, I don't need to keep the car there overnight. Moments after pulling into our driveway (in the truck), we see the flashing lights of the plow at the bottom of the hill. After about 15 minutes, its blade passes by our driveway-- then the plow stops.

Dave goes to see if the driver needs any help. It turns out the tire-chains on the plow snapped while negotiating our hill. The friendly driver tells Dave that he, and all other plow drivers hate our hill. He says his plow got stuck partway up last year, and he had to call someone to come tow his massive rig. He tells Dave to wait another twenty minutes or so, and that once his tire chains are back on, he'll do another pass on the road so we can bring up the car.

After his second run (and another stop at the top of our hill to fix his chains), we go get the car. Ice pellets are still pelting the windshield, but with the road plowed, I'm able to make it safely into our driveway. It's 9:30pm, and I'm finally able to sit down to supper.

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