Make that URBAN Snow Wheeling...
I love my adopted state of Maryland but
down here (I am from Massachusetts originally) a snowflake sighting is cause for closing
the state. So when we finally got a "real" snowstorm, I looked forward to some
urban wheeling - you know - using 4HI and 4LO on the road!
Anyway, I planned to drive people to and
from work at the hospital. But I never got there:
An interesting day...
Early yesterday I came upon a Montgomery
County patrolman stuffed into a snowbank on a median strip. He had "chains" on
the back wheels. They were more like big springs but... No visible tow hooks of any kind,
and I could not get enough traction to move him pushing on his nudge bar up front (and I
didn't want to ruin my roller fairlead by getting aggressive). So I left him, after a
little shovel time got him in better shape.
Later, I found some guy in a Lexus 4WD
that for some unexplained reason had decided to drive into a snow bank at a 90-degree
angle, leading to an open stretch of land where the new road is supposed to go next year.
I think he was trying out his "wheeling" skills.
He got about 12 feet and high centered.
He had no wheeling skills. Right after I stopped to help him, another guy whips up, jumps
out and brandishes a little piece of nylon rope that he wants to rescue the Lexus with. I
was tempted to let him embarrass himself but instead asked what the strength of the rope
was. He got laughed at by the other people when he boldly announced that it was a
"300 pound" test line and would be fine doubled up a few times. Maybe he was
right.... Um yeah. I just pull out a strap and snatched the guy out and went on my way. No
idea what happened to dental floss man...
When I got home, the neighbor with the
property behind me got my help dragging their lawnmower-splinted-up-as-plow up to the top
of their drive way so they could attempt to plow out some 700 feet. (Noone in
Massachusetts would try to plow a 700 foot driveway covered with 18 inches of snow with a
limping lawn tractor...) I got the contraption dragged up the hill to the top ( humored
them, what can I say), but it did not have enough traction to plow its way back down, so I
dragged it back down with the plow doing some work but ultimately a failed plowing
exercise on their part - they ended up snowed in. Dragging that thing around reminded me
of a tractor pull (no pun intended).
Later that evening, I drove down their
still unplowed track with my wife and kids, to their house for a nice house party. Come
time to leave I found that more snow had fallen and I was basically skidding along with
tires barely making contact, stuttering my way up the hill. So I drove the Jeep back up
the hill, haltingly, and went back to shuttle the wife and kids home by foot.
Next morning, I went out to shovel out
Carl, we went to the store to get a shovel (yeah right!) I foolishly attempted to go
around a stuck front-wheel-drive something or other that had no business being on the road
and got a strap from Carl.
I planned to go to the hospital to do
some volunteer driving (Carl had done it the night before and was out again this
afternoon). But just as I went out to do a little light shoveling before I left, my wife
called that "Tomi is bleeding...!" Turns out my 3-year-old rammed a plastic tube
into the back of his throat ("DON'T RUN IN THE HOUSE WITH THAT IN YOUR MOUTH or
A quick salt-water rinse and the bleeding
stopped, but his uvula was sort of hanging by a thread. So we got everyone bundled up and
went to the hospital to have it looked at.
This meant some challenging 4-Wheeling
right in the driveway, which is pretty long and had remained unplowed for the duration of
the storm, with only a couple forays out. Fortunately, I had shoveled the snow bank from
the plows earlier, so we made a quick departure for hospital.
Hurry up and wait... He got his spot in
line and my wife pointed out a man with two small kids who had been waiting for three
hours to get a ride home. Knowing that we'd be waiting forever to see the Dr., I took him
and his kids home. The main roads were no big deal. His side streets and townhouse
association roads looked like a war zone... People everywhere shoveling ricers. They all
stopped and looked at us like we were landing a space ship when we drove in. Of course my
Jeep is a bit weird but...
It's strange to see the reaction to a
passenger who has not previously been in a 4WD vehicle in situations like this. We forget
and take for granted the basic capabilities of our rigs. After several trips down the 700
foot road behind my house, in 18-20 inches of unplowed snow, this guy's townhouse roads
looked pretty tame. But of course, not navigable with most cars. So I just told him to
relax and enjoy the ride. We just eased down to his court, where his wife was waiting.
Dropped him off and I made my way back to the ER where my wife and kids were ready to go.
The uvula was saved and two beaming boys were sucking on Popsicles.
No sooner had I gotten home and started
dinner than the neighbor behind me called with a need to go get medicine. As I too had
errands to make, I loaded her up and off we went. We got a couple miles down the road and
encountered a Honda driver whose car had died in a snowbank. She was not dressed for the
weather and had a 5-mile walk to get home. We stuffed her in the back and took her home,
punching our way into her subdivision, much to her surprise and pleasure (her footwear was
Next we continued on our way to the store
for the prescriptions. While there, she decided she'd take on provisions for her house of
12 people, all stranded for the storm... The Jeep looked like a bread van by the time we
got it loaded. On the way out to the Jeep, some dork in an H2 was driving around the
parking lot looking for all the snowbanks and driving in to them, sort of showing anyone
who cared to look just how wonderful his rig was. I heard one guy nearby comment how
useless that behavior was, and it made me chuckle inside.
Over the last several days I have done a
ton of "wheeling". For a change, it was actually meaningful trips that really
did have a purpose beyond entertainment of me and my merry band. I never did get back to
the hospital to volunteer, but you might say that even sticking close to home, I was
My advice? CARRY CASH (Gas stations were
not all "up" with the credit card networks), CARRY SNOW SHOVEL (I used mine a
whole bunch) DON"T FORGET YOUR NEXT DOOR NEIGHBORS!
Yesterday, I drove back down my
neighbors' long driveway (800 feet) and packed down the ruts that I had made during the
storm. I made several passes, then hooked a tree saver strap through his cars two rear
tie-down loops, and looped a tow strap through that and to my tow hooks. I pulled him up
to the street.
My other neighbors, another 200 feet down
the driveway, had not cleared their way, and I had not driven down there since Saturday.
But the snow had gotten sticky and compacted some, so I aired down and gave it a try. It
was no problem. So I made several passes packing it down and making the tracks wide enough
that maybe they could get a car up without "falling off" the path.
During all this, one of their visitors,
pulled in the driveway and blocked my wife in... I don't know what it was about the large
sign the visitor didn't understand...:"DO NOT ENTER - 4-Wheel Drive, high clearance,
snow tires required". Well maybe because she was driving a front wheel drive mini-van
and she comes from Wisconsin, she figured it didn't apply to her?
Meanwhile, after I packed their track
down, the other neighbors gave it a try and managed to get two cars and a motorcycle
(never mind...) up to the road, parked in our forecourt (their driveway goes through
I got a kick out of the reactions to the
Jeep. It's been parked in the driveway almost every night for two years and they go by it
several times a day. All of a sudden, they noticed that it wasn't like a
"What about those tires?"
"You have air?" "I didn't think it could get down here...". Etc. Then
when we started talking about "lockers"...
I guess until you see them in action,
they're all poseur vehicles to the unknowing...
I ended up making another morning of it
today, working to get my neighbor out, after he shoveled out his car, putting the snow in
my way... Oh well, had to use 4-Lo on that... He couldn't understand why he could not
drive away after shoveling. I think it had something to do with him being high centered.
"But I have all-wheel drive!" Yeah but the wheels have to touch the ground to do
something... At the point that I found him, he was aiming for my 15-inch deep ruts, I
guess thinking he could make it out... Silly man.
So we shoveled the crown out so that he
had a ghost of a chance and then I dragged him along to pavement at the end of a strap.
Later, Carl came over and we shoveled out
the Volvo. LSD but no portal axles... ;( Then, with another Jeep there, we decided it was
time to play so headed down the field to the neighbors out back. We practiced our three
steps forward two steps back packing down a track as we went. We each got stuck and
snatched out a few times, finally reaching the end. One of the people down there helped us
wrangle the tow strap as we went, then pushed his motorcycle up the rut to the road and
drove off! Some folks is crazier than me!
We spend maybe an hour playing like that
then drove back up to my house. It was kind of like balancing on rail road tracks - if you
fell off the ruts, you ended up in the virgin snow another 5-10 inches deeper. Carl did
that turning around so I strapped his nose around the rest of the way so he could head up
Tomorrow I expect the state highway
department will buzz us with an armada of plows and make a nice big pile of snow at the
end of the driveway. Maybe if I am lucky they'll do it tonight, it will freeze, and I can
climb over it while the bumper to bumper traffic stops and goes in front of my house in
the morning... :)
I gotta say, the lockers make a big
difference. I keep hearing people complain about them misbehaving in the snow, but it just
has not been that way. I did have a dirty bead that caused a leaky tire. When the tires
are not at the same pressure it was hateful. Once I fixed it, they just don't even seem
like they're there. But when it comes time for traction... yeah baby! Carl flipped his on
when he got hung up the first time (I could see one wheel on each end just sitting still
before he did) and right away he was good to go. True 4WD!
How about another 20 inches? :)