For the past few weeks it has snowed consistently in West Michigan. Well…that’s not entirely true. It snowed to the point that I thought Old Man Winter had finally awaken. Then, the other night, there was a thunderstorm! Yeah, you read that right. In the middle of January there was a thunderstorm complete with lightening. Only in Michigan would weather like this take place. I have been holding off on writing this post until we were right smack in the middle of winter but now the snow is gone. But since the snow will probably be back within the next couple days I am going to spread the word on how to survive a West Michigan winter.
It’s actually pretty easy. Now, I have always heard that it’s better to learn from the mistakes of others so that you don’t make the same ones. Well, in this post you’ll be able to learn from my mistakes and the mishaps of others. First off, if you’re from Michigan or you have been here for a few winters then you should know better right? Yeah…this is far from true. As a 911 dispatcher I can tell you that people forget how to drive when winter comes around. I understand that the road is slick and sometimes the snow just pulls you in a different direction but most of the time this happens to those who are driving fast. I mean, come on! You’re driving on ice and snow you should be driving slowly! All right, all right, I’ll stop my parental rant.
1. Hey I have four-wheel drive!
So there’s a possibility that you may drive a truck, jeep, or anything with four-wheel drive. This is great during the winter but things are not always as they seem. I have a small 4-door sedan and there have been many times where I’ve gone home from work, driving slow and someone in an SUV or truck has passed me up. As I continue my tortoise drive home I eventually catch up to the vehicle that passed me. Can you guess where they were when I caught up to them? Yep, you guessed it; they ended up in a ditch. It sucks but it’s true. As a 911 dispatcher I take a lot of calls like this and the majority of the vehicles that go off into a ditch are vehicles that have four-wheel drive. So the tip here is; make sure to drive slowly during the winter even if you have a vehicle that has four-wheel drive. It’ll save your life, your vehicle, the other people on the road, and your wallet from wrecker costs.
2. “Don’t worry I got this. I’m going to make a sharp turn and we’ll slide right in.”
When making a turn on an icy road it’s always good to 1, come to a complete stop, 2, ease off the gas while turning and 3, have complete control of the car. With that said I can safely say that I now abide by these rules. Did you catch that? I NOW abide by these rules. Several winters ago I was coming home from work with my friend Vinnie. His driveway was halfway down a hill and on this particular morning it was pretty icy. I slightly tapped the brake and we began to slide down the hill.
“What are you doing Rich?”
“I’m going to make a sharp turn.”
“Don’t worry I got this. I’m going to make a sharp turn and we’ll slide right in.”
Vinnie braced himself and I spun the wheel. We fishtailed and we slammed right into his neighbor’s mailbox. I had no damage and luckily a snow bank covered most of the mailbox. We quickly reversed and when I put it in drive and slammed the gas the tires began to spin. A car was coming towards us and we freaked.
“Holy sh*t bro! Hurry!”
“I’m trying man, I’m trying!”
My tires finally caught traction and we made it into his driveway before getting hit by the other car. I’m sure I sharted during that moment of panic but in the end I learned my lesson.
3. Go back to Florida jerk!
During the winter I mentioned above my wife and I were driving around with our Florida plates. One night I was driving home from work on the highway. It had been snowing all day and when night came it began to sleet. I was driving home around midnight and I figured I would be gold because really, how many people were going to be on the road with me? Well, there happened to be a truck driving fast and passing by me. I was white-knuckling the steering wheel and I turned my head with enough time to hear,
“Hey! Go back to Florida jerk!”
All I could think was,
“What? I’m from Michigan man…I’m from Michigan…”
Yeah…I cried a little on the inside but slow and steady wins the race. As I got closer to my exit I passed a truck that had spun out into the median. Now, I don’t know if it was the same truck but it wouldn’t surprise me.
4. You’ve been…Thunderstruck!
When driving, one should always pay close attention on the road and the driving of others. This is especially true when at a four way stop. Many years ago I was on my way home from dropping my fiancé off at work. We lived in a trailer park in West Olive and as I pulled up to a four way stop within the park I noticed a minivan coming down the hill. I was enjoying the sounds of AC/DC and as I made my turn I noticed the minivan was coming fast. I sped up a little and right as Brian Johnson belted out,
The minivan slammed right into the side of my Neon. I was immediately pissed and as I sat there biting my lip, the other driver ran out and screamed at me.
“Mijo, Mijo, are you ok!?”
“Mijo”, I thought. “I’m not your Mijo.”
Mijo is Spanish for son or my little boy or something to that effect. I didn’t actually tell her that I wasn’t her Mijo but I wanted to. The whole side of my car was destroyed. We exchanged information and we went on our way.
5. DO NOT TAKE 58th STREET!
If you happen to be visiting the Fennville area of West Michigan during the winter you want to stay clear of 58th street. This road is horrible and notorious for icy conditions, high snowdrifts, and accidents. It’s mainly because of the open area on either side of the road. The high winds blow the snow over and at times you can’t even see the road. Many vehicles have fallen victim of this relentless road but still people try their luck driving on it. If you’ve never driven on it then stay away.
There you have it folks. With this information you too can survive a West Michigan winter. Learn from my mistakes and the mishaps of others. If you drive something with four-wheel drive it doesn’t mean you can haul ass in the snow. If you’re making a turn, make sure you do it right by not making a sharp turn. If you happen to be out of state and driving in the snow just drive slowly and don’t listen to the hecklers. We Michiganders are happy people but some make us look bad. Make sure to watch everything that is going on when you’re driving in the snow. If you’re at a four way stop and another car is coming down a hill, watch it for a moment. It may just slide through and hit you if you’re not paying attention. If you’re listening to AC/DC it will most likely happen during Thunderstruck. Finally, if you’re visiting the Fennville area during wintertime, please stay off 58th street. You’ve been warned and if you’re from Fennville, you know better! Have a good one and drive safe!