Thursday, December 15, 2005

Another adventure in (Land) Yachting

Snow's covering the upper midwest these days, so here's another one about the Land Yacht in winter.

When I moved to My New Hometown in the Northwoods, I lived in a typical residential street in a 50's area of town. And as in most 50's residential areas, the streets had been paved a few times and ours had developed a bit of a crown, no doubt convenient because rain ran off into the gutters quickly.

However, with the Land Yacht, there were other considerations. First, the Land Yacht had rear wheel drive. For those of you blessed with unsnowy winters, rear wheel drive may be great technology, but it's not snow friendly. In snow, ice, or even mud, you want weight on your powered wheels to help them gain traction. Otherwise they spin futilely, quickly creating a trench the depth of the tire rubber.

The solution my more snow-experienced friends suggested was to put a big 70 pound burlap tube of sand in the trunk along with a couple bags of "super traction mix," also known as kitty litter, the idea being that if you got stuck, you'd pour the super traction mix under the tires and voila, off you'd go.

Second, the Land Yacht was big, wide enough to intimidate oncoming traffic in a two lane street, almost as long as my street was wide, and the driveway was narrow, all the more narrow when snow drifts towered on the sides because, did I mention, I'm just not that great at shoveling? So backing out involved staying straight until the front end cleared the snow drifts and then turning sharply so I could aim one way or the other down the street.

Turning sharply was also vital at that point because if the Land Yacht's rear wheels passed a mysterious and ever changing point of no return over the crown of the road on an icy day, the car would slip down, unable to gain traction to go forward, and I had to hope one of my neighbors would appear to sit on the trunk to add weight. And, of course, the road icyness varied, which meant that the point of no return changed depending on snowfall, coldness, time of day, and whether or not the salt/sand truck had passed by recently.

I was running a bit late one very cold, icy, nasty day, which meant, of course, that the point of no return was closer to the crown than I'd realized, and I was a hurry and didn't turn as quickly or carefully as I should have. I felt the Land Yacht slip back as I gently braked to switch into drive. GRRR. I got out, leaving the motor running, and tried to push or rock the car forward over the crown, but to no avail.

I opened the trunk and took out my sacks of handy dandy super traction mix, opened them, and poured one each down into the troughs forming under the rear tires. Then I got back in the car to try to go forward. Instead, voila, insta-(very foul looking) mud in the now deeper tire troughs. So much for super traction mix. (I'm sure the neighbors across the street thought some St. Bernard with loose bowels had wandered by.)

Then I did what any normal, red-blooded Bardiac would do. I opened the car door, and stood outside, ready to push, while sticking my right foot in, and pressing on the accelerator. I pushed, I rocked, I pushed, I accelerated slowly and carefully, pushed... and the Land Yacht began to move forward.

Did I mention the road was icy? And sloping down on either side of the crown? Yes, I thought so.

Instead of hopping forward with the Land Yacht, or better yet, deftly hopping into the driver's seat like Indiana Jones into a Nazi tank (which would have been smaller than the Land Yacht, by the way), I slipped, performing a classic Buster Keaton heel above bum maneuver the likes of which would make many a vaudeville star of yore green with envy.

And the car rolled slowly forward.

You can see the headlines, now, can't you, in 24 point font? NWU PROFESSOR RUNS OVER SELF WITH OWN CAR.

It would surely have made the local news, perhaps an "after" shot of the car surrounded by the local firefighters and cop cars, lights spinning, played right after the local high school football footage. Heck, who knows, I might even have gotten lucky and been featured before the local high school football footage.

Happily, though, I didn't slip under the car.

You'd already guessed that, because you haven't yet seen me featured on one of those Darwin award sites.

No, instead the Land Yacht crept by within inches of me at minimal speed (which was still faster than I could get up and try to get in and put on the brake) until it burrowed gently into the rather impressive snowbank next to the driveway left by some very lucky lousy shoveller.

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