Finally!!! Snow that is PROPER snow!!! Not the few inches that people rant about! This is the best snow for close to 20 years! This is old fashioned snow! This is snow that eats unprepared drivers – and there were plenty of them today.
Read on for a few driving tips – and the mess that was my attempted drive to work!
What a day… a good 5 to 7 inches fell over night. I made a comment on Twitter to Robert “Kryton” Llewelyn (@bobbyllew on Twitter) saying “It’s cold outside, there’s snow kind of atmosphere….”. He replied saying that he was now singing that all the time… Sorry Robert!! (Red Dwarf fans will understand…)
I’ve driven in harsh snow before, so I was confident of getting to work – my only worry was the other road users…
I cleared all of the snow from the car – unlike those idiots that just do a window. Getting hit by chunks of snow and ice off of the roof of the car in front is stupidly dangerous. In some places it is a legal requirement to clear all that snow off – and I think it should be made a law in the UK all the time there are people lacking this common sense and common courtesy to other road users.
Rant over – I digress… I get into my car (the engine and heaters were already running) and notice a warning lamp on the dash… the ABS lamp! Great… I had no anti skid brakes. Never mind, I didn’t have them in previous cars and I am a pretty good driver (experienced in many conditions), so I wasn’t worried…. until I tested the road conditions and the brakes. I was going about 5mph with nothing around and I eased the brakes on…. hardly any pressure and the car slid. The roads were going to be bad.
I cautiously pulled away again in second gear. A rule of thumb for ice and snow driving is to use a gear higher then the one you would normally use and keep the revs low. This really helps reduce wheel spin when you pull away.
Within minutes I was stuck in traffic. Worst of the drivers were people in their fancy 4×4’s who automatically think they know how to drive in bad weather!!! I’m sorry, but just because you own one of these vehicles doesn’t mean you have a clue how to drive them properly… but more on that later!
It took an hour to get the first 2 miles… I would have stayed home but I had an important document to deliver (more on that in a later blog!). I carried on – amazed at some peoples pure lack of driving skills.
The snow kept coming down and the temperature dropped again. I noticed an icicle slowly growing on my wing mirror it was that cold! I actually watched it grow as I was stuck in traffic!
I drove onwards! I reached a roundabout where I saw a 4×4 driver wheel spinning and not going anywhere – this was on a flat road with a hill up ahead! If they couldn’t do level ground, then they didn’t have a chance….. SO I called out with some friendly advice “Try a higher gear and less gas“… to which they responded “I can’t…it’s an auto…“. Holy Cow! I know that type of car and they ALL have a manual mode you can use… A perfect example of an idiot behind the wheel…
I hit the bottom of the hill and just kept up the momentum. There are two schools of thought on keeping going on ice – Low revs and crawl, or high revs and just keep going. I used an bit of both and passed an Audi 4×4 estate as it slid back down the road…. Jeez! I was in a Fiat Multipla!!! What was going on with these people!!! I passed a tree blocking half a lane of the road – the weight of snow had caused it to collapse. That would be a pain for people going the other way!
I finally made it another mile…. I drove down a hill and came to a stop behind more traffic…. this was now 2 hours into my trip… I saw some people spinning in circles up ahead. The traffic was stopped solid so I put the car into neutral, hand brake on and heater running. No one was moving anywhere.
Whilst we were all stationary I noticed this Twitter message from Downing Street. What a bunch of idiots – It’s all very well that they can work from home, but a majority of people can’t work from home – so this message was pure stupidity. Well done Downing Street – Once more showing you are in touch with the people of the land. Numpties – isn’t it about time you let someone else run the country? My sons nappy content could probably do a less damaging job.
As one car came in the opposite direction they called out to the traffic row I was in…. “The Junction is a mess – cars just hitting cars…. It’s all blocked“. The junction was fed by a hill in all directions… it was an ice trap. Well, I wasn’t giving up, so I carried out a three point turn and headed back the way I had come. On the hill I saw a 4×4 off roader slow, shuffle on the spot and stop. They had come to a slippery stop and couldn’t move away again. I had to stop behind them… there goes my momentum!
They sat for a while and finally figured out how to use the gear box and pulled away. That left me (and a few cars behind me) stationary. I tried to pull away in second gear and all I got was wheel spin. Damn.
I tried again… but no luck. The key in situations like this is to not try too hard. If you can’t move, stop that method and try another, or else you’ll just get in even more trouble!
I tried to pull away again, this time spinning my steering wheel from left to right. This moved the front of my one way and the other…although not moving forward I was fighting for traction instead of just spinning in one place. Slowly I inched forwards…and stopped again. Hmmm… New idea needed.
I got out and let my tyres down to half the normal pressure. You shouldn’t do this and then drive at fast speeds – but for me, I wasn’t going to be going more than 20mph on these roads. Partially deflating the tyres is dangerous IF you don’t re-inflate them before going over 20mph, as you could end up losing all the air and some people have even had the tyre come off.
With my lower tyre pressure I went for an off-roading technique I had been shown. Lots of left and right steering and plenty of revs once the car started moving. Add to this some brakes….
Most road cars with 2 wheel drive are only one wheel drive on ice. Most 4×4 cars are only 2×4 cars on ice. This is due to the thing called the differential. This allows the wheels to turn at different speeds when cornering. You see as you drive in a curve, the wheel on the outside of the circle has to go further (and faster) than the one in the inside. If the both wheels were joined together by a solid bar this couldn’t happen and you end up scuffing and juddering around corners……
But WHY BRAKES? When a car wheel spins, it normally only spins one wheel and the other doesn’t move at all – all due to the differential. By applying the brakes very slightly as you also put on the throttle, you slow down the spinning wheel and fool the differential into putting power into the wheel that wasn’t spinning. This means you have both wheels turning. This means you get all the powered wheels turning (more traction), and not one side turning and one side stopped. End of lesson!
This worked well! I slewed the wheels back and forth, changed up the gears and kept the wheels grabbing for grip all the way up to and over the peak of the hill. Once it was down hill all the way I stopped and put my hazard lights on.
I stepped out of the car and walked back down the hill to help the others that were stuck. Straight away I was told “No way – I’m stuck…” by a driver. I told him to slew his wheels and pull away in second gear – and to keep going once he was moving. It took several attempts before he got the knack (or listened), but finally he pulled away. There was no such like for the huge lorry further down the hill….. This road was now closed.
I carried on home, as by now I realised that there were worse roads ahead and more snow due. If I did get to work I wouldn’t get back. A phone call to the office showed only 2 people made it in (locals). Game over for most of them then!
I negotiated my way around the fallen tree and past the two 4×4’s I had passed coming the other way earlier (still stuck, still spinning to try and move…. muppets!). A few more snow broken trees and stuck cars later I slowly drove home. Knowing that the road behind be was impassable I powered my window down and let drives heading the other way know the troubles ahead. Luckily they all managed to turn back at the roundabout i had just past.
I got to Farnborough and slipped down a short cut slope by the Police Station. Big mistake.
The road was blocked at one end. I had to turn around and get back up the steep hill on a curve. I realised that the road was stupidly icy here – It was a safe assumption as the guy in front had got stuck on the level ground, slipped sideways and stopped. He got out, slammed his door and the car slipped sideways away from him. Not looking good for me then!
It was then I noticed a lady with a young boy at the bus stop. I knew no buses would get down here so I offered her a lift. Crazy of me to offer – and crazy for her to accept. I guess the child seat in the car and high Police presence made her feel safe. I called Chris on my hands free car phone for two reasons at this stage – To let her know I was almost home and to let the lady see I was a local person. I could have been lying, but the evidence that I was a family guy was enough for her.
Her son was just over 3 years old and autistic. She was trying to get him to Frimley for a specialist group that took ages for her to get an appointment for – she really didn’t want to miss it. I chatted about Alex as we struggled up the hill (more rapid left/right steering and high gears!) and finally got onto the Camberley road. I dropped the lady and her son off and carried on home. I hope she got home alright later – but hey, at least she made the appointment – the trip home wasn’t a race aganist time for her!
I got home and the snow was begging for some Alex action! We don’t have a sled, so I took an old filing cabinet shelf and formed a ramp on the front. I then added some carpet tiles so Alex wouldn’t get too cold a bum, and finished it off with a cord to pull it. He loved it!!
It was Hellish trying to keep his mittens on, but apart from that he thoroughly enjoyed his parent powered sleigh ride!
The lake looked wonderful in the snow – but then don’t you think that most things look so much better with a nice layer of snow?
The local main roads cleared up with the gritter lorries spreading their paint chipping loads all over the place. I figured that we may as well get the weekly shopping done as I had the safer car and Chris had no snow driving experience. The roads were pretty clear – but tomorrow will be sheer Hell. It is already below freezing and that slush is going to be like sheet ice in the morning. I shall try to go to work again, but I think it will be worse on the roads tomorrow due to the ice. Today was just snow and pack snow – no real ice problems.
Once we got home it was dark out – but our neighbours were still building a snowman… and called me over to help! It took four of us to roll the middle section up onto the bottom section! It is way taller than me! (I’m 6ft 4in). You get the size idea from the crushed beer can buttons!!