I drove this dude from Ft. Worth, Michael, out to Park City this morning from the airport up through Parley's Canyon in a snowstorm. Before we reached Sugar House there were warnings for semis to put chains on their tires. (I grew up in Dallas and lived in NYC as a pedestrian for 7 years before I moved to Utah a year and a half ago.) Parley's Canyon on a good day is treacherous because it's steep, curvy, and people drive like maniacs. Before we reached Lamb's Canyon, traffic reached a standstill. I offered Michael to take him back to Salt Lake, but he flew in to go skiing.
On the way to pick him up I was thinking about my very first friend Michael, who died 20 years ago with his girlfriend after colliding with a semi driving from Keuka College to his girlfriend's parents' house upstate in a blizzard. He was killed instantly, she died later at the hospital. It must have been gruesome and horrific. The accident happened shortly after his 21st birthday, he was buried days later on my birthday. 20 years ago last Sunday.
I learned how to drive in the snow last year after I moved to Utah. Everyone's advice is to go slow, avoid hills and other drivers. It works pretty well, except when you're on a highway during morning rush hour traffic.
I was telling Michael from Ft. Worth about my mom and brother getting stuck in the snow in Bears Ears a couple weeks ago on their way to Salt Lake from Dallas. Spending the night in the car, how they could have died, and that they were rescued by a satellite phone feature in the rental car and an $1100 tow. We approached what appeared to be the snarl, a car on the shoulder turned over on the driver's side.
"They survived!" I told him, finishing the story, hoping the same was true for the occupants of the turned on its side car. He laughed.
We finally got past Jeremy's Ranch, snow and slush became wet road and sprinkling rain. The clouds began to break. I could go the speed limit again. Captain Badass played as we exited Kimball Junction. I'm pretty sure Michael from Ft. Worth took notice and acknowledged quietly to himself what a badass job I did getting us through that snowstorm through Parley's Canyon without incident. When I dropped him off I gave him a fist bump and said thanks for being on that adventure with me. He gave me a nice tip.
As it turns out, as it is in favorable weather conditions, the drive back to Salt Lake through Parley's Canyon is more treacherous. The snow had stopped and roads were plowed. People drive like maniacs, and it's mostly downhill. The left lane was closed because a subaru ran into a guard rail just before the runaway semi exit. The whole right fender was gone and it was turned around 360 degrees. After the curve a compact chevy almost drove into my line and would have hit me if I hadn't slowed down (and honked). Shortly after that, a semi changed his mind about exiting 215 and just started moving into the right lane almost taking out the compact chevy. I had time and space to move to the left lane, but the semi was making no excuses about coming over. That could have been real nasty.
I earned some driving courageously in the snowstorm through Parley's Canyon stripes today. I've often thought of driving as a metaphor for life. Sometimes you have no choice but to face what's thrown at you with courage and humor.
I've driven hundreds of thousands of miles since the mid-90s, about 20 of those miles have been in the snow, none on the highway until today. Michael from Ft. Worth was pretty chill about it. He even told me he wasn't nervous when I asked if he was. Thank goodness, I needed him to be not nervous. He laughed quite a bit, and he seemed to have a good time. So did I. It was for sure a rite of passage.