Friday, March 06, 2009

A Hellish Drive in the Snow, or the Trackdaze That Wasn't

I was supposed to be racing this week. Monday and Tuesday were scheduled to be glorious (albeit cold) days at VIR with Trackdaze, but Mother Nature made other plans.

Dad had agreed to ride with me for the first time, and though we had been carefully watching both the Trackdaze site and the local weather reports, nobody had decided to call off the event before our scheduled departure time. So we dutifully packed up and drove from Richmond to Danville in just-above-freezing rain.

Now the weathermen had forecast snow for Richmond, but up until Sunday afternoon had not called for any snow in or around the Danville area. Sunday afternoon they changed their minds and called for 4" - 6" in Danville, with 8" - 12" in Richmond.

We had a wet but pleasant drive, pretty much alone on the road, and got to our hotel shortly before 5pm. The snow-line was still somewhat to our west, and we figured we had a little bit of time before heading over to the track for tech inspection.

Just for grins, we decided to check the Internet one last time, and sure enough: the event had been canceled. The wonderful clerk at the Sleep Inn let us go without any fees, and we set out on what was to become a Grand Adventure.

By 5:15 we were heading back home, and around 5:45 the sky turned really ugly. What had been freezing rain turned into a very heavy snow almost without warning, and almost equally quickly it began to accumulate.

By 6pm we were driving 30mph, and by 6:15 that had come down to 20mph. There were cars off in ditches on both sides of the road, and soon we developed a little northward-bound caravan. We watched in horror as several of the cars slid sideways, always managing to catch themselves, and each gritted our teeth equally as the cars ahead nailed their brakes going downhill.

We chided other drivers from the comfort of our own cab, knowing that if they stopped, we might not be able to convince our trailer to stop.

Then we realized that if we just worked the trailer's brakes, we could stop the truck in a straight line.

And then a tree fell. Two semis were stopped cold by a very large pine tree that fell straight across the road. A bunch of us jumped out of our cars and trucks and hauled fallen limbs & trunk while a Dominion VA Power guy cut up the remains with his very handy chainsaw. Within 30 minutes we were back on the road. I think I counted about 50 cars that had been stopped by the tree, but only about 5 guys who had been out there helping.

Then we had the stupid assholes who tried to pass us. A number made the attempt, and a few came so close that I could have easily reached out and touched them. One guy almost ran into my trailer when he merged on top of me.

It was white-knuckled terrifying driving for almost 6 hours. We got back to my house at 11:30pm, and dad was safely home at 11:45.

Next time I'll wait for Spring.

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