That Time I Wrecked my Car Driving on an Icy Highway!

I feel like a brunt of a joke.

I’m the dude that moves across the state, frets about real snow, is teased about how on the other side of the state we close down when an inch of snow hits our pavements, and is teased because I don’t know how to drive in real snow.

But I’m confident. Confident because I’ve driven in the snow and in a snow “storm.” Confident because I lived on a two-lane highway that wasn’t always the first to get cleared. Confident because I’ve never had an incident with my current vehicle. Confident because my little Tracker has always been an animal in the snow, especially when 4-wheel drive is rolling.

Still I’m teased. My co-workers tell me to pack a sleeping bag, candy bars, a survival kit for when the snow hits. I live a straight Interstate shot from home to work and back. Why would I need this? There is nothing but concrete barriers from here to my house. I’ll bounce off medians or semi-trucks, but no ditches.

Except that the first day it’s expected to snow I’m headed 76 miles south to a little town called Colfax. Fifty-five straight miles of two-lane, unplowed, iced roads with nothing but frozen farmland and white knuckles to keep me occupied.

Why Colfax? The company I work for has an unmanned office there, and from Monday to Thursday each week our Spokane office voluntarily (for the most part) sends an employee to fill in at this remote location. The Colfax calls are forwarded to our office in Spokane. Still we need a warm body to make the rent feel like it’s worth it. Last week I volunteered, not expecting the freezing temperatures to continue (a week straight of 20-degree temperatures), and snow to breeze in.

When I awake in the morning there is a dusting of snow. I’m not too concerned. I check WSDOT for the road conditions. It’s clear on I-90, perfect if I was headed to where I’m normally headed. I check the two-lane I-195. It doesn’t put a twinkle in my eye. I text my manager and she gives me the, “ah…you’re good to go!” response.

I head out with no issues.

You win canyon wall, you win!
You win canyon wall, you win!

Then five miles after I turn onto I-195 my car does something it hasn’t done since we’ve been together. It fishtails. I correct it, take a deep breath, and try to calm the pounding in my heart. I have it on 4-wheel drive, at least that’s what the green light on my dashboard says. A few cars pass me as I cruise at about 40 mph. Then it happens again. I’m confused. This road must be extremely icy because I’ve never had issues with fishtailing on the freeway while in 4-wheel drive. Cars fly by me, I slow down just a bit and the second I raise my foot off the gas pedal I go into another fishtail. I spin hard left, I correct and then start to spin hard right, I correct and once again I start spinning hard left and this time there’s no correcting. I’m face-to-face with a rock embankment and all I can do is wiggle the Tracker so that I’m not headed headfirst into the canyon wall. With two hands holding tightly on the wheel I hit the embankment doing, my guess is, 20 mph. Everything in my back seat is now in my front seat.

My chest pounds, I’m ticked, I’m confused. Why did I head this way? Why did my car do this? I’m going to take heat from my co-workers who jokingly told me about how I was going to end up in a ditch because I moved from the west side, where nobody knows how to drive in the snow. I call Lis and told her what happened. At first she doesn’t believe me. We had joked about it beforehand. Oops!

I watch as a van does a 360 on the Interstate in front of me. I don’t feel as dumb.

I turn my car back on, push in the 4-wheel drive and with ease back out of the rock and the small ditch. No issues with fishtailing. My guess is that the Tracker didn’t lock into 4-wheel drive. Stupid me, I had always pulled over when I plugged into 4-wheel drive, but read last night in my manual that if going less than 60 mph, you’re cool with switching to 4-wheel drive while on the go. Uh … no.

Well that sucks!

After snapping a couple of pictures and allowing myself to calm down a bit, I decide I’m not headed to Colfax. I’ll turn around and head back to our main office. That one possible walk-in (seriously I’ve had one in three days there) can wait.

A phone call to my dad confirms that it’s likely I wasn’t locked into 4-wheel drive. He says that if I was in 4-wheel drive low I wouldn’t have fishtailed so much.

On the way back to Spokane I laugh.

All the teasing that was thrown at me was warranted. Maybe they jinxed me. Maybe there was just too much pressure on me to successfully drive 76 miles in the snow and ice.

But no excuses, I’m the brunt of the joke. The answer to the joke about how people from the west side come over to the east side and cause ruckus with just a trace of snow.


UPDATE: Four days later and I’m still a little irked, both at myself and at my work. Once again this is not an office that I normally would head to. It’s an unmanned office that we take turns volunteering to fill in for. The total damage from my first, and only, estimate is over $2,200. Yes, I’m an insurance person, however, I didn’t have the funds to tack on, what I felt, would be an unnecessary coverage on my vehicle. I would have paid premium for collision ($500 deductible) for 10 years, which would’ve been about $1,200 (plus you have to have comprehensive to have collision so add another $500). My car is valued at maybe $3,000. It’s not worth it … until you slide into a rock embankment and realize you don’t have $2,200 to fix your vehicle. Oh well.

2 thoughts on “That Time I Wrecked my Car Driving on an Icy Highway!

  1. I’m glad you made it back safe and sound. When I was in high school, I did a spin out that left me facing the traffic going the opposite direction. I cracked my head on the window, nearly knocking myself out. Instead of assistance, the other drivers honked at me for being in their way. I’m a total wuss driver in icy weather. Christine

    Liked by 1 person

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