White Knuckling

Classic New York State Thruway

You know- when you are a kid, you are fearless. Take me for instance. Whenever there was a snow day at school, I would jump into my mother’s ’64 Buick Special and head to the mountains. I threw some sand bags from the garage into the trunk, and headed out with big honker snow tires on the back. Rear wheel drive in those days. I remember taking it to Canaan Mountain, West Virginia for my very first PSIA clinic. What a ride on those backcountry roads. My dad called it ” The Yellow Bomb”. My mother always laughed and said” too much snow to go to school, so you drive to the mountains?”

The Yellow Bomb

Fast forward- after college I taught skiing at Sugarloaf , Maine and there were some harrowing drives to the ski area in Bob Irish’s VW which I used for the winter, staying in his cabin in Stratton, Maine. 40 below straight temps were not uncommon and I had to heat the oil with an electric dip stick otherwise the bug would not turn over. There were many subsequent drives on the New York Thruway over the years, going to Vermont and the Adirondacks to visit friends and attend the many PSIA clinics after passing my certification for ski instruction at Killington. The difference was I got smart and started to drive four wheel drive vehicles. They inspire confidence but they slide just like any other car. My first one was an orange International Scout which was a heavy bucket of bolts that seemed to always have some kind of mechanical issue. But it generally got me where I wanted to go.

I had a tow strap in the Scout and pulled many a stranded motorist out of a snowbank including the Honorable Richard Caliguiri – Mayor of Pittsburgh. He thought I was some kind of Somerset special and gave me a brief nod of approval before driving off and leaving me with my strap and a soiled ski school jacket.

After many ” white knuckle ” experiences behind the wheel of my 4 wheel drives, I got pretty comfortable navigating the roads of New England, Pennsylvania and Upper New York State. Recently my Jeep has served me well but I find as I get older, my driving has become more conservative. I rent 4 wheel drive pickups on ski trips and sometimes the tires are suspect. I have driven many times on I-70 in Colorado in whiteouts, and on 395 headed to Mammoth, the roads can become like driving on a mirror. My white knuckling on the steering wheel is the subject of laughter with my friend from Vermont and the other from Tahoe who ask if we will eventually get to the ski area say in June? My wife prefers 4 wheel drive SUVs on trips, but the boys prefer the pickup. The Mt. Rose Highway in Tahoe has been the site of many a harrowing night’s drive with epic snows either closing the roads or sending us on an alternate route.

Sierra Snow Conditions
The Sportmobile

When my friend Eric offers to drive his Sportsmobile, I am most grateful knowing I will not have to fight the roads with a rental pickup. We will get there safely and even when there are two foot snows during dinner, we will always get back to where we need to be. This is some kind of vehicle. Eric and his wife Helen take it all over the west.

So, I am not as fearless as I was in the 64 Buick or even the Scout, the Blazer, or the Montero, which went sideways one day down Highland Ave with my young son in his car seat. The blood eventually returned to my knuckles about an hour later in that storm. But the subsequent vehicles, including my current Wrangler, have served me well even though I take my time so as not to end up in the median or on a guard rail. Driving in the snow is not for the faint of heart, but with a lot of experience, and a certain amount of earned respect, I am a pretty good navigator of all things winter. Even though I may not make it to the destination until June. LOL!! Thanks for reading and drive safely this winter.

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The Jeep Wrangler

The Jeep Wave

So I bought a Wrangler to replace my Jeep Liberty which had 181,000 miles on it and rust holes as big as my fist. My son thought it was bad form for me to cover the rust holes with duct tape but I said it added character. In any event, it was time and I went to my friend Jim Krebs and got another Jeep – but this time I wanted the Wrangler. Funny thing is that when I first got it, my wife Janet remarked that people in Wranglers were waving at me. I said to her that maybe it was something to do with Wranglers like the Harley people give the cool, understated wave to each other. A nod of acceptance in their case. So when I got home, I went on the net and discovered that there is a very popular practice called…………the Jeep wave.
IMG_0861

Now I found out some interesting things in my research. Number one, you should always wave no matter what. Secondly. there is a protocol which if followed strictly, allows for a point system that grades your Jeep. If it is pre- civilian dating back to the 40s, you always wait for them to wave first then you respectfully wave or maybe even salute. If the Jeep is tricked out better than yours, you also wait until they wave first. Maybe to see if you are worthy of their wave? But always, always wave no matter what. My son Jack thinks it is dorky of course but you are a bit of an a-hole if you do not wave.

Now , some things I have found in my own personal research on the subject while driving. Women tend not to wave either because they are preoccupied or prefer not to wave to a stranger. Kind of like the stranger is saying,” Drive here often?” To which they seem to say- “Buzz off Sherlock. You and your wave.” Other observations include people who try to give you a cool version. Not much effort but a quick peace sign above the steering wheel. There are those who give you the full hand staccato wave like they are saying, ” Yes- I follow the rules and obviously you like my Jeep so I will fully acknowledge you.” There are the outdoors types who have all the doors off and the top removed and give you the wave outside the left of the car. I hear that it is extra points if you have your roof off in the winter and you give the wave out of the top of the vehicle with your wool cap showing.

The wave is reserved for Wranglers. There is no Liberty wave, Grand Cherokee wave, only Wranglers. The basic design of the exterior of the Wrangler has not changed much over they years and apparently the protocol of the wave goes back many years. Veteran Wrangler owners have told me that it becomes a little bit of a pain in the ass to keep waving but I must admit, I like it. In these days of waning gentility, fraternity, friendliness, there are mechanisms that allow people to join together and celebrate life. Take for instance the fraternity of the Terrible Towel. We all feel one when we wave the towel here in Pittsburgh. Somehow these things give us a bond that we celebrate. The Jeep wave is one of those mechanisms. So, if you see me waving at you and perhaps you don’t have a Wrangler, please note that I probably have gotten so excited waving that I wave at everybody. My wife is amazed at the people I talk to on a daily basis. Toll booth operators, the guys and gals holding the stop signs at road construction sites- I talk to all of them. Fast food drive through people. I wave to the cops- it never hurts. I guess I just like people and get involved maybe where I should be a little more reserved. I need the Jeep wave like I need a second navel. But it is another way of saying- hi neighbor, nice Jeep. My son just shakes his head. SMH as they say. Thanks for reading.