The Hot Mess Express


Well, winter has finally arrived. All week, my children have been downright offended that they’ve had to go to school. I’m sure many teachers felt the same way.

As always, with winter comes winter driving. Of course, the best way to handle winter driving is to listen to what your mom and dad told you all those years ago: slow down, stay off the brakes, watch out for the other guy. But, as per usual, lots of folks dismiss their parents’ advice and fly down the road only to end up in ditches all over the countryside. And so it goes, year after year.

Friars Hill Road is an adventure on even the most pleasant summer day. Between the herds of wild and domesticated animals, hundred-foot drop-offs and hairpin turns, even changing the music on the radio can land you at the bottom of a bank in a nest of poison nettles – just ask my father-in-law (Sorry, Steve). But add a layer of snow and ice, and it’s a whole other ball game.

Wintertime is the only time I drive slow on the Friars Hill Road. Here’s why: I don’t want to die.

When you first turn onto the road, there is a quarter-mile straight stretch, which, under normal circumstances, would be a safe and welcome length of road. Oh, but this is Friars Hill, and ain’t nothing normal out here, so, the comfort of the straight stretch is offset by the sheer drop-off on the south side of the road. Also, there are about six inches between the pavement and the shoulder on the cliff side, and potholes big enough to eat your tires, all of which makes for a white knuckle ride. Good times.

Once past the Straight Stretch of Doom, you immediately start into the hairpin turns. If your car has a compass, it can be amusing to watch it spin round and round as you navigate north, south, east, west and then north again all in a matter of moments. In snow, this means a series of strategic braking and accelerating as you pull your car on and off the shoulder to keep from sliding.

Things kind of calm down after that, I guess. I mean, you’re still dodging ice, potholes and deer, but as long as you lay off the brakes and the deer stay out of the road, you’re pretty good to go. You just climb up and up, marveling at how the snow accumulates with the changes in elevation. You might even turn up the radio and start planning dinner, but I promise you, you don’t loosen your grip on the steering wheel.

Now, I live on a road off of Friars Hill Road, and readers, let me tell you, it is the Hot Mess Express in the summertime. In the wintertime, it’s downright treacherous.

The purpose of this column is not to complain about potholes, but Oh My Gosh, You Guys! The potholes on that road are outrageous. Where there are no potholes, it’s completely rutted out. I drive a pretty nice SUV with a state-of-the-art suspension system, and anymore, I get bounced around so hard on my road that my head has actually hit the roof. It’s ridiculous. I’ve never seen it so bad.

So now that the road is covered in snow and ice, I’m pretty sure that despite my best efforts to stay safe, I’m gonna die this winter. The amount of acceleration necessary to pull my two-ton V8 vehicle out of a snow-filled pothole is simply too much to keep me from overshooting the road and sliding over the side of the mountain.

It’s sad, really. There is so much that I never got to do. I never got to go to Costa Rica or sing in a band or win the Powerball. But, I’ve managed to build a nice life for myself, and I’m grateful for that. I really am. And, actually, who knows? Maybe I will survive the inevitable crash. I do always wear my seatbelt, and I bought that ridiculously huge SUV for a reason.

But, just to be safe, maybe everybody else should stay out of my way, mm-kay?