Thursday, February 23, 2006

White Out

I badly fucked up my back loading boxes and stuff into the back of a panel van prior to heading for Edmonton bright and early Tuesday morning. Thank you, you incompetent worthless bastards at U-Haul. In the end, I had to seek out medical attention at the crack of dawn in Edmonton on Wednesday morning. Where the doctor shook her head and told me not to sit and not to run for a week.... Yeahm like that's gone happen with Boston in seven weeks.

The drive to Edmonton took sixteen hours and a half hours in what was at times an absolutely unbelievable blizzard - where I could only go 20-40 kilometres per hour because the visibility was so poor - from this side of Valemont, through the mountains to Jasper, on past Edson to just before Stony Plains. The highway signs said it all - in blinking lights no less - "Black Ice" - "Blowing Snow". That pretty much summed it up. At times, there no more than a hundred feet of visibility, if that. The panel van I was driving got sideways a few times, sphincter-clenching, heart in the mouth moments, and the ABS kicked in with terrifying regularity. During it all my back was in agony, sitting being the worst thing for it. I tried sitting on my pack, til my head was wedged against the ceiling of the van, operating the gas and brake both with my left foot, anything I could think of to ease the pain. Sometimes I hung from the top of the steering wheel like a monkey, with my ass an inch off the seat. All the time looking out at the snow, wondering if this was the night I was going to bite the big one... And the road conditions just worsened and the snow just came down faster and thicker and it all just got worse...

To keep up my speed, I was drafting semi-trailers - and just following their tail-lights until I would chicken out - they were going anywhere from 70K in the worst conditions, to up to 110K. Man, those cab-over cowboys can DRIVE! I was in survival mode, just trying to keep going, just trying to make it through the mountains, just trying to get to my destination and hoping that it wasn't my final destination... I was forced to stop many times to clear frozen snow off the front of the grill, the headlights and the windshield, a task I faced with dread because it meant leaving the warmth of the cab and hobbling out into the storm in no small amount of agony.... I thought of stopping overnight and waiting out the storm, but did not know if I would be able to move or drive or continue in the morning. I just gambled that I could keep driving in pain - I stopped only for for copious amounts of coffee, caffeine-laden Red Bull and a bottle of Extra Strength Motrin - which I chewed like candy - until I had reached a maximum daily dosage of 8,000 milligrams. If I was going to live, I was definitely going to need my liver.

Sometimes the windshield wipers would freeze to the windshield. Don't mind admitting that I was scared to death at times. No other vehicles were on the road for a huge long stretch - except me and the mother-truckers. I was following a big jacked-up 4x4, and then watched in horror as the guy did 360s in front of me, the truck waltzing in slow motion between the huge ditches waiting to swallow him up on either side of the road. I thought he was done for and then he came to a stop, his headlights facing the wrong way. I pulled up beside him and it was a young man in his early twenties, shaken up, just glad to be alive. After that he faded into my rear view mirror, no longer interested in going fast. That was the worst of it. Within an hour the snow let up and I cruised into Edmonton, exhausted.

I've seen enough snow to last me a lifetime. At least the rest of this winter!


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