It'snow fun getting stuck
December 15, 2010 - If you happened to be driving through downtown Oxford on M-24 Monday around noon, you may have seen an awkward pregnant lady in a huge brown coat down on hands and knees fumbling around a little green car stuck in the snow.
It was me.
I pulled into a street-side parking spot to meet someone for an interview at 11:30 a.m., and when I put it in park, my car immediately sank back into the eight inches of slush and packed snow chunks left by the plow.
Dang, I thought, (or maybe it was a choicier word), knowing full well I was stuck. I went inside to do the interview without even bothering to try to move my car, and maybe hoping a little that the problem would just fix itself while I was gone.
No such luck.
So, just after noon, I was back outside, scooping snow out from under the front tire with my mittened-hand, then jumping in the driver seat, turning the wheel and trying to rock my car out.
No luck with that either. Double dang.
Long story, short, I dig into my Yooper bag of tricks and pull out my car's floor mats. Yep, floor mats. I shoved one behind the wheel spinning in slush, employed a little aggressive rocking, and backed that green baby out of her would-be icy grave.
Success and a small pat on the back for me! You see, this victory over poor road conditions (and I suppose poor parking conditions) fueled my fire to write this column, which I had started to compose in my head before I ever got stuck in the first place.
Growing up in the Upper Peninsula, I learned a lot of useful and pretty odd strategies for driving in the snow and ice. Case in point: Using your car's floor mats for traction under your spinning tires.
(Ultimately the point is to drive slow and not get stuck, but sometimes all the caution in the world doesn't make a difference. And sometimes you just pick a bad place to park.)
Here's another trick for gaining traction underneath your tires: Kitty litter. When you're just a little bit stuck, shovel or scoop as much snow away from your tires as possible and dump a bunch of cat litter either in front or in back or your wheel, depending on which side you need the tire to grip. Plus, carrying around a heavy bag of litter in the back of your vehicle will give your car or truck extra weight and more control while driving.
Speaking of extra weight in the trunk, it's not a good idea when it comes to your New Year's diet plan, but it is a good idea for your vehicle, especially if it's rear-wheel drive. Growing up, my brothers' hockey bags usually did the trick, but throwing a cinder block or something back there will help your car grip the road better when it's slippery.
Or, if you don't want to carry around dead weight, carry around something useful, like a jug or two of antifreeze, de-icer windshield washer fluid or a bag of sand (also good for gaining traction).
Keep in mind, four-wheel and all-wheel drive does not keep a vehicle from getting stuck. This especially applies to trucks with an empty bed. Four-wheel drive does plow through snowy roads best, but ice and slush are a different story, and those are the most common winter road conditions in this area because of all the traffic and salt use.
I'm especially wary of losing control of my husband's SUV; if I started to go sideways on an icy road and suddenly grip a bare spot pavement with one side of the vehicle, that baby is flipping over for sure. It kills me to see big trucks flying by on bad roads, and I admit I do get some sick satisfaction out of seeing them in the ditch later. (I know, I'm a bad person.)
Also, putting your car in a lower gear when you're trying to get going after, say, a red light or on an incline, helps keep your tires from spinning.
Using a heavy foot on the gas or brake pedal is the quickest way to end up in the ditch, and not even floor mats or kitty litter will help you out. If your car starts to spin out of control for any reason, don't touch the gas or the brake, but do keep both hands on the steering wheel and steer in the direction you should be going. You might have to correct the car's direction a couple times before it goes straight, again.
In the event you get your car seriously stuck in the snow, call a tow truck. While you wait for it to arrive, pat yourself on the back for filling your gas tank, allowing you to keep your car running and you and your passengers warm. Just remember to vent a window or two.
Drive safe, Lake Orion!
Reporter, Lake Orion Review