Saturday, February 5, 2011

Driving in the snow and ice….in Dallas, TX

Not sure if any of you have followed the news this past week, but we had some pretty crappy weather here in the DFW, TX area. This lovely weather hitting during Super Bowl week, I am sure that Jerry Jones (the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, Cowboys Stadium and the host of this week’s activities) along with the Super Bowl committee must be crying in their beer over the bad turn of luck. Who I really feel for are the merchants that staffed up and brought in extra inventory to handle the hordes of people that were supposed to descend on the DFW area. Instead, we got ice, sleet and snow.

Bad weather and North Texas drivers do not mix well. Most of the drivers here have trouble driving in the rain, let alone ice, sleet and snow. When I talk to people around the country I tell them that two snowflakes can bring the city to its knees. So this week, we got the triple whammy.

It all started with a heavy rain storm Monday night heading into Tuesday morning. Problem was the temperature plummeted and that rain froze on the road. Then the sleet started about 1 AM. I had to fly to the East Coast for business meetings, so I dutifully got up and got ready to head out. Usually my dear wife takes me to the airport, but not that morning. Knowing that school would be cancelled, I borrowed my sons Jeep. I once drove my old Porsche 968 in a freak snow storm and almost could not get up a very slight incline; I was oh so close to parking it. Wide high performance summer tires and snow do not mix well, so I will never drive a 2WD Porsche in the snow ever again. My Cayman S? It stayed in the garage.

When I left my house at 5 AM heading to the airport, there was nobody on the roads (and for good reason). With the Jeep in 4WD-High, I had no problems. I passed a whopping 6 cars before I hit the main road that takes me to the airport. And then, there were only a handful more. Top speed? I hit 35 once or twice. As usual there is the moron who thinks that his 2WD pick-up truck can handle the conditions and plows through the ice and snow with no problems. So this guy in a Dodge Pick-up whipped by me doing about 50mph. He promptly hit an ice patch and swerved violently back and forth across the road, nearly losing it. He slowed down to 25mph and I soon passed him doing my Steady Eddie 30.

Even at this early hour cars were spinning off the road. A Miata (probably not your top pick as a snow car) spun out along with several other RWD (rear wheel drive) cars. And at 6:01AM I got the automated call from AA telling me that my flight (actually all the flights) was cancelled out of DFW. If only they had called me an hour earlier! Pulling off into a gas station to call the AA help desk to see what options were available, I also called to let my wife know I was making the return trip home. Just then a 4WD Toyota pick-up came scraping in with a white and orange road construction barrel lodged under the front end. Even the 4WD vehicles were having trouble in this crap. He jacked up his truck and I pulled the barrel out before turning around and headed back in the opposite direction. I was home by 7AM and it felt like it had been a long day already, I was worn out! I made it home by driving carefully…Steady Eddie 30.

See the thing is; that early in the morning with some sleet on top of ice, there was a little traction. But when I went out a little later to make a post office run, all that sleet had been crushed down into a 2-3 inch sheet of ice. Top speed now…20. The next day I went to the airport again and the roads were even worse. Now any rut that had been carved out of the ice and sleet had refrozen. But I did make it to the airport without incident. After my quick East Coast trip, the return trip from airport back home was intense, man it was nothing but black ice. Not good! I was worn out again when I hit the door. But I made it home safely by keeping it at a Steady Eddie 25.

Now I must shift gears….and write about my friend. I do not name names on this blog, but let’s call him Kip to protect his identity. Now I do not want to call my friend “The Kipster” an aggressive driver, but I bet if you queried the TX Department of Safety (our highway patrol) or any other law enforcement agency and entered his license plate number it would be at the top of the list of the most complained about vehicles on the road. Kippy's usual rant is that idiots going slow in the fast lane deserve such treatment and that especially goes double for people driving a Toyota Prius. Well, I maybe cannot fault him for the Prius part…It’s funny, but when I drive with him I find that people are very friendly and frequently wave to us, but for some reason they are waving with only one of their fingers. I guess it is because they are so happy to see us driving…especially after he just cut them off!

But we are in Texas and he does have a big-ass 4WD truck so he decided it was time for pay back. He put a tow strap on the back of his truck and went around pulling people out of ditches, unsticking them from the side of the road and for the most part being an all-around good guy. In the past 3 days, he has pulled out about 60 cars around the town we both live in. He is hoping this will somehow help his good mojo for all the crappy things he has done to people on the road over the years. My wife said there is not enough ice and snow on the road for that…. When he heard that he said his feeling (singular) was hurt.

So it snowed again yesterday (Friday) and the roads had a little bit of grip early, but once that got crushed down and mixed with the ice underneath it was even worse. So of course we decide to head into Dallas. We stopped to help yet another 2WD truck that had spun out and lodged a wheel into a drainage ditch. They were on a hill, so we could not pull them out, but we at least got them straightened out so they could back down the hill. Make that 61.

Over in Dallas we were amazed by all the cars that should not be out in these conditions; Vettes, Boxsters, BMW 3 and 5 series, Mustangs, Nissan 350Z’s, 2WD pick-ups without any additional weight over the rear axle. It was comical when we watched them struggle for any traction. Now I am sure most of these people did not have another option, but there is always a taxi, or God -forbid, public transportation. Oh wait, I forgot we are in Texas, land of big pick-up trucks, wide open spaces and the right to drive a car on icy roads (especially when that car should stay at home).

Until next time…


  1. Hi Robert,

    Great post, I'm up in the "Texas Alps" in northwest AR. Same situation up here. Another category to add to your list of leave it at home is 2WD SUVs. Saw many of these in the median as I made my commute up 540 from Fayetteville to Bentonville in my C4 cab. Great snow driver btw, not as good as the wife's Volvo cross-country however.

    Enjoy the Superbowl today!

  2. I made a trip from Houston to Dallas that Friday for a family reunion. I really didn't want to go, but there were lots of uncles and cousins coming from far away. It took me about 5-6 hours to make it up there in my Nissan Maxima. The scariest part of the drive was the ramp where I-45 turns into 75.