Everybody is getting pumped up for the ski season ahead. Here in the East, we are experiencing our first blast of arctic weather and the snow making machines are blowing from New England clear into North Carolina. Ski The East website is humming with pictures of snow making and first tracks. Western trips have been planned, passes purchased for local and western skiing, and it is all systems go for the winter ahead for skiers. One of the rituals that I have on my schedule for the last 45 years has been the annual auto trek to New England or the Adirondacks to ski with long time friends. I have always driven 4 wheel drive vehicles since I was a teenager, but they are tested with drives on the New York State Thruway or the Scareway as I call it.
One of the pleasures of a road trip is that you can pack more into your vehicle than you would on the plane and you can drive at your own leisure and schedule. From the old days with tapes in the cassette player for entertainment to modern day Podcasts and Sirius XM Radio, I sit back and settle in to the annual 8-12 hour drive in normal conditions. But I never get normal conditions. The typical drive encompasses the following harrowing situations:
I -79 to Erie and 90 East- usually a whiteout condition with heavy snow blowing off the Lake Erie snow machine. I try to time the drive but I always get caught here with the lake effect and visual impairment all the way to Buffalo. The windshield fluid usually craps out here too as I try to peer through salt stains until I can pull over and get some more.
New York State Thruway at Buffalo- usually snow or freezing rain and wind blowing tractor trailers sideways off the frozen pavement. A slight reprieve heading east towards Rochester only to be slammed again with the Lake Ontario snow blower. One year I fought a 3 foot storm all the way to Vermont beginning in Rochester and continuing on through Utica and eventually all the way to Bethel, Vermont.
NYS Route 67 through Amsterdam, New York- cutting the corner here I ran into a heavy snow last year with no one on the road on a Sunday night. I saw the red light, I looked right and left and blew through the light to make sure I made it up the hill from the bridge with my Jeep, only to be stopped by a lone State Trooper. I explained, he understood, and let me go with the warning to get back on the Scareway because cutting the corner was not advised that night.
The final slog up Interstate 87 to the Adirondacks or east to Ft. Ann and into Vermont- usually the roads are covered and as tractor trailers have passed me maniacally, I have seen them up the road jackknifed into the valleys between the northbound and southbound lanes. Even have seen a few that jumped the guardrails on the right hand side of the road. I tell folks they are not that good to drive that fast. But the harrowing drives always come to an end with an extended drive time but better safe than sorry I always say. Especially seeing the tractor trailer carnage all the way up and back from Pennsylvania.
If you decide to tackle the Scareway, make sure you give yourself enough time and take your time for sure. Much to my wife’s chagrin, I am a right hand lane guy. I relax in the right hand lane and only venture out into the scary world of the left lane if I absolutely have to pass someone often in an un-plowed section of the interstate. White knuckling and talking to myself, I eventually make my way back to the pulse reducing comfort of the right lane. And make sure your tires are good enough to handle heavy snows. Otherwise, don’t tackle the Scareway in the winter. It is not for the faint of heart. Thanks for reading.