Ice And Snow

I went to my daughter’s place today, and discovered another blog-theme.  It may be of interest to some of you.  Canada has ice and snow in the winter.  Despite what some folks think, only places wayyy up north have ice and snow year round.  I’m not as much of an expert about it as you might suspect.  I live almost as far south as Detroit.  Sparklebumps, in Minnesota, is north of me.  ByronicMan, on the Left Coast, is north of me, but all the lit doobies out there keep the temperature up.

My blog-friend, Nicole, in Phoenix, just went through a cold spell.  The thermometer dropped all the way from 75 F, to 65.  She has to go to the fridge to see what I’m talking about.  Meanwhile, I’ll get comments from SightsnBytes and Benzeknees, saying, “Wimp!”  TheHaremsMaster, whose back door opens on the North Pole, is too busy choking with ironic laughter, to take my rant seriously.

For you lucky people in warmer climes, I’d like to make you aware of things that we have, that you don’t.  Things that get us through the winter, both personally, and for our vehicles.  Snow falls on our cars and obscures the view.  Some of it will melt, and then, while we’re out of the car, it refreezes on the glass.  When we go to use the car, the first thing we have to do is remove that ice and snow.

We have windshield scrapers.  These are two-foot-long wooden or plastic handles, with a brush on one end, and a scraper on the other.  My “Don’t Yell” blog tells of using one in the summer, to convince a road-rager to stay away from my car.  You use the brush to clean the snow off the car, and then the scraper to get the ice off all the windows.  At least, that’s the way it’s supposed to work.  All too often I see idiots who have swiped a small patch off the driver’s side, but the rest of the glass is obscured.  It must be like trying to drive through a drinking straw.  If you don’t brush the snow off the hood and roof, the windstream just blows it back onto the front and rear glass.

Something else that most vehicles, sold in Canada, have, are block-heaters.  These are little electric heaters, which are installed in the bottom of engine blocks.  You plug them in when the car sits in the cold, so that the oil doesn’t congeal from the cold, and lack of lubrication causes engine damage.  In Sudbury, which is 500 miles north of here, but still not above the big 49th parallel border, many of the parking meters downtown have electrical plugs provided.

We have a TV show called Ice Road Truckers.  These are guys who deliver goods to the northernmost, often Indian and Eskimo villages, on or near the Arctic Ocean shore.  This stuff can’t move by truck when it’s warm, because there are no roads through the swamps and muskeg.  In the winter, they bulldoze up the snow and spray water on it to create a drivable surface, literally made from ice.

They bore holes in the ice of lakes that would be too thin to support these big rigs, and keep spraying it on the road path, till it’s feet thick.  There are several of these ice roads, some of them 1500 Kilometers long.  It’s so cold that often, the trucks are never shut down.  If they sit in the cold too long, they’re almost impossible to restart.  If they do have to sit for an extended period, just before they are needed, small fire pans are placed under the engines to warm them.  Some truckers have been known to pry off a hub-cap, and fill it with diesel fuel to burn.

Driving in the winter is very different from summer.  Plows remove most of the snow from the roads, and pile it on the edge, narrowing the available driving room and blocking vision.  Much salt, and a little sand is applied to the roads by works crews in spreader trucks.  This damages the road surface, nearby vegetation, and car bodies.  A new and better system has them spraying liquid brine, before a snow or ice storm is expected.  It uses less salt and causes less damage, and works better, because it melts the problem from the bottom.

Much attention must be paid when there is ice and snow on the streets.  Going up or down icy hills can be an adventure.  Sometimes you go down, even when you try to go up.  You can’t pull out into traffic as quickly.  You have to take turns more slowly.  You should think, and drive, ahead.  Will the road be slick at the stop light or sign?  Streets conditions can change so quickly.

I was driving the daughter and grandson to our house.  We were on a two lane street.  The outside temperature and the volume of traffic had the road surface bare and damp.  As we came around the inevitable bend in the road, for the last half-block before a T-intersection, the road widened to include a left-turn, and a right-turn lane.

Combined with a more open area, the entire street was a skating rink.  I made the anti-lock brakes do what they could, but still slid broad-side in front of a driver trying to get up a small hill.  One moment of inattention caused $3800 worth of damage, just to our car.

When we visited South Carolina, I noticed a sign on each bridge which said, “Bridge freezes first.”  I asked a native how often that occurred.  Only about every three years, but we have to keep reminding the fools, so they don’t fall off the road.  If you live where ice is in drinks with little umbrellas, and the only snow you see is on the TV when the cable connection comes loose, count yourself lucky.  I have to go take the snow-scoop and shovel, and clear my driveway.