Call me odd, but sometimes, when my mind isn’t occupied by any of the thousand things a day it seems I have to think about, it starts to wander, sometimes to daydreams, sometimes to ongoing issues in my life that I’ve been mulling over, and sometimes, to memories of the past. I have a good memory when it comes to good times (or sometimes bad times) from my past. Sometimes i can remember some of the oddest details from some party I was at, or some event that friends and I attended, or a date I had with my wife. Oddly enough, i have trouble remembering to take out the garbage, run the dishwasher, or pick up something my wife asked me to at the store.
So I’ve decided to start sharing these memories. So here we go, "4WD is useless on ice!".
In 1998 I graduated High School, and moved on to the working world, and of course, College. If you could call it that. I went to Allentown Business School, which later became Lehigh Valley College, and later became… bankrupt. Without going into too much detail, we’ll just say i may as well have bought the degree they gave me online, I probably would have saved money, and come out of the deal with just as much knowledge as I left ABS with, But that’s another story. During my first quarter at ABS, I had no car. I car-pooled with friends, got rides where i needed to. I had also started my first job, 2 weeks after school started, I started part-time at PenTeleData, in technical support. Still, i got rides from friends to make it to/from work, they were kind enough to schedule me with others that lived in my area. It was working out ok, but it was a little less than convenient. One day one of my friends decided he was going to cut some classes. I had just started my adventure into college, and wasn’t too keen on this idea. I wasn’t able to convince him to stay for his classes, but I wasn’t about to skip mine. So he left……… Left me stranded at school, i had to find a ride home. Luckily a friend of a friend was going to the same school, and she gave me a ride home. After that, I decided it was time to get a little independence. I started by convincing my dad to let me use his pickup to go to and from school. That worked ok, and got me through the quarter, but i wanted my own vehicle. Something I could call mine, customize it, be proud of it, and most of all, not have to give it back to its owner, and ask permission every time i wanted to go somewhere.
ABS was kind enough to give us a week off between quarters. So i used that week to find a vehicle. A 1989 Chevy S-10 Blazer. 2 door, 4wd, Black… it was perfect, well, at the time anyway. I still miss that truck sometimes. So we’re talking something like October when i picked this vehicle up. For Christmas that year, my mom bought me a nice brush guard for the front. "Euro Style" i believe they called it. It was one of those that wrapped around the front, had guards over the headlights (yes, this fits into the story). Am i losing anyone yet? Keep reading, it all makes sense later.
Now, my dad’s always owned a pickup, of some sort, as long as i can remember. His current pickup (at the time of this memory) is a 4×4 chevy full size. We’d been off-road in it from time to time, for hunting, boy scouts, things of that nature. And i loved it. I’d wanted a truck as far back as i can remember. I recall standing in the showroom of the local chevy dealer when i was something like 8 years old, looking up at this beautiful black Chevy while my parents were getting their car worked on. Just thinking about how cool it would be to own one someday. Now i had my OWN 4×4, you better believe I’m going to wheel it.
So a few months go by, it’s February or so in Northeast PA. I’ve had the Blazer for a few months, I’ve been through at least part of the winter in it, I’ve driven it in snow, ice, a few other not so nice conditions. I took it out on a few very mild trails… To date, I’ve never had a problem with traction, getting stuck, stopping, nothing. I’m feeling pretty comfortable with this 4wd thing. Mind you, I’m not an idiot. There’s too many people out there that think that because they have 4wd, they’re impervious to the elements. But I’ll admit, I’m starting to get that "I can go anywhere" feeling.
One evening, Chuck and I are out in the Blazer. I don’t remember what we were doing, but for some reason we were in this little development in Albritesville. A friend of ours has something of a summer home up in this development. He and his family moved off to Philly, but kept the house for whatever reason. Just as a get-away I suppose. Well we’re up by his place, I guess looking for un-plowed roads just to test out my driving skills. We drive to our friends house, no one’s there of course, we didn’t expect anyone to be there. The roads are plowed, but not well, so it’s mildly amusing. We stop at his house, so did the snowplow apparently, past his driveway there;s a snow covered road in front of us. His house is the last before a very steep hill with a very sharp turn. My guess is that no one drives this road in the winter, and the plow driver isnt willing to risk his neck to plow it. Well we decided to get a little closer to the bottom of the hill, you know, see how it looks. We pull into the un-plowed part of the road and continue on. There’s probably about 100 yards of relatively even road before it comes to the hill. We get to the hill and come to a not so happy realization. First, the hill is a sheet of ice, and second, there are no tire tracks in the "snow" behind us, you know, the "snow" we just DROVE THROUGH. There are no tire tracks because it is also, a SHEET OF ICE. The good news is, we’re stopped, not sliding around, just stopped. The bad news is, we have 100 yards of ice behind us, a very steep, sheet of ice in front of us, tree’s to the left of us, and about a 4′ drop, with tree’s to the right of us. The road we’re on slants slightly to the right of us, probably for run-off.
So there we are, on a sheet of ice, too wondering what the hell we should do. Well i figured, turning around on a sheet of ice is probably a bad idea. so we’d driven in without even noticing that it was ice, we should be able to just put it in reverse and back right out the way we came, right? So i put it in reverse, and slooooooowly start driving out in reverse.. I notice that we’re slowly starting to get closer and closer to that 4′ drop off to the right, this doesnt seem good, i drift to a stop so i can re-think. The blazer stops, and then continues to slide to that damned drop off!! What can i do now? my tires have broken traction, i cant think of any other way to stop this thing! Obviously, a 4′ drop isn’t going to kill us, but it IS going to damage my blazer, and probably leave us stuck there. This is the days before everyone has cel-phones, so we’d be stuck walking out to someone with a phone. Then I’d have to call my dad, who’d no doubt give me hell for even getting into this mess, then we’d probably get noticed by development security or something, and get some kind of fine for being in there in the first place.
For whatever reason, the blazer stops sliding, we’re safe again, but much closer to that drop off, and i know that if i start moving again we’ll start sliding again.. Now what do we do? Chuck has an idea. Now, for anyone who doesnt know chuck, let me give you a description.. About 6’10" (thats a guess) and probably 400LBS. Big guy, big heavy guy. He had this blue coat that he wore all the time, we all called him the blueberry. So what’s his idea? He’s going to get out, and push the blazer away from the drop off.. And then we’re going to use his weight to get the blazer turned around, and as far to the other side of the road as possible. Then we’re going to get off that ice as quickly as possible. So he gets to the rear end of the blazer, and gets himself into position. Puts his feet on the snow on the side of the road so he has some traction, and starts to push with all of his might as i drive in reverse. Guess what.. It works! He starts to push the rear of the blazer toward the woods on the "safe" side of the road! Ok, so we get to the point where the bazer’s across the road, the front is facing the side with the drop off, the rear is facing the safe side. But i can’t get enough traction to back up! the tires just spin, i go nowhere. So Chuck once again braces himself, and plants his hands on that brush guard on the front of the blazer. I put it in reverse, and he pushed as hard as he can. Once again, it works! he pushes me into the tree’s on the safe side. At this point, i dont care that i backed into a few saplings, I’d rather have a few scratches from little tree’s than a blazer flopped on its side from a drop off. Now my back tires are on the snow on the safe side of the road, and I have enough traction to back up a little. I back up as far as i can and turn the wheels down to the clear part of the road, and ever so slowly get the blazer to the point where it;s facing the proper direction, and the two drivers side wheels are on the rougher ice at the edge of the road so we get some traction. Chuck hops back in, and off we go.
Moral of the story? 4WD does NOTHING FOR YOU when you’re on ice. And always keep a blueberry with you when you’re wheeling.