No Matter How Good You Are or Your Car Is, Black Ice Should Be Avoided

January 4, 2010
Unless you've never been through it, you'll never know the truth of the fact that if there's snow and ice on the ground, the best thing to do is lay low until it's all over.

Here in New England, we're now just exiting our third day of snow, wind, bitter cold and ice underneath it all and for the last three days our car, the Cobalt we've mentioned from time to time here, has remained parked. No one has ventured out, except to clean it now and again.

Drive it in this weather, unless you absolutely have to, you have to be insane! The reason for this goes back about 33 years, to a very lousy morning in the mid-1970s when our newspaper column was just taking off and we were driving at least 200 miles per day not only in commutes, but also in test drives.

70s Cars Were Huge

If you remember the big behemoths of the 1970s whether your folks have told you about driving them, or you have driven them yourself or whether you've seen it in an auto museum the one thing they had going for them was floating comfort.

They handling was numb, the steering was worse, as you never knew where the front end was, especially on a big car like the old classic Lincoln Town Car that was yards long and wide and wallowed on anything but a straight road.

We were test driving one on one of those mornings when we also had to start the news cycle at our old newspaper. We had just received a promotion to Wire Editor and as such we had to be in by about 4:30 in the morning so things could start up correctly. We were an evening paper.

During the 1970s, weather forecasting was nowhere near as sophisticated as it is today and so we heard that there might be some light freezing drizzle overnight, but that it would be nothing to worry about.

Those were famous last words. We left the house at our normal time of about 3:40 and pulled out onto the major roadway that fronted our house. We should have known better when we were the only traffic on the road at that our the Town Car almost did a sideways skid into the median, but we thought it was just the property management firm that hadn't gotten around to salting things and so we kept on going.

Spotty freezing drizzle

To be truthful, the freezing drizzle was very spotty that night and so we were able to do the first 25 miles of our drive unimpeded. At that point, the Town Car's normally numb steering and handling became even worse. Hitting the brakes only caused the rear end to try to come around and brake lose and even steering became a treat as a small adjustment to the wheel suddenly put the 22-foot behemoth sideways to traffic.

Suffice it to say, we slowed down from our radical 35 mph, especially when the car went from right hand skid to left hand skid in a matter of a minute and then we began to creep at 5 mph or less. It took us the next two hours to cover 10 miles to a major shopping mall where we bailed out and we called the boss, who was in by now as he only lived several blocks from the office. He just told us to get in by hook or by crook as soon as possible.

So, we started to walk. We actually made it about 5 miles when suddenly the the ground decided to give way under our feet. Actually, the freezing drizzle had gotten so heavy that even walking was dangerous and we took a header that sent cameras, notebooks and briefcase flying every which way. Thankfully, an off-duty policeman saw us fall and delivered us to work.

You'd think that when the bells wouldn't stop ringing behind my eyeballs that my boss, at the time, might have had a clue that I had a rather nasty concussion (I slapped my head quite hard on the sidewalk and did black out), but he had me work until after our final edition of the afternoon was out and then he let me go up to the hospital which ordered me home and off my feet.

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