Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Preparation.....or maybe not

 Back in the early '70's a couple buddies of mine, Roger and 'Dad', reached the ill conceived decision to split a four way hit of Windowpane acid (yup, that's LSD folks) before the Wisconsin fishing opener.  They were having a wonderful time, completely oblivious to the DNR wardens that were checking licenses, lifejackets, and stringers, going from boat to boat in a small group of about a dozen boats fishing the flats.  It was not until the warden actually put his hand out and touched the gunwale of their boat and said, "Good morning guys, we're just conducting a safety check this morning" that they realized what was going on.  The giggling immediately turned to a look of sheer panic.  When asked to show their lifejackets and check their fish, the wardens might as well have been speaking Swahili.  When asked for his license, Dad took his wallet out, looked at it without opening it, and suggested, "Just arrest us and we'll come down Monday and straighten it out".  Friends in a couple of the other boats were laughing so hard that they almost fell out and soiled their trousers.  The moral of this story is that the boys, due to harsh chemicals admittedly, were totally and completely unprepared for a pretty common experience on fishing opener, even though they had participated in a number of openers which included the warden experience.  After driving in three snowstorms this season, it's very apparent that a fair percentage of drivers in the three states I've experienced, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and just last weekend Maine, are equally as surprised, unprepared, and clueless about driving in the snow as the two psychedelic fishermen were when the wardens drifted over.

Most of us have the forethought to prepare for the season or activity that is staring us in the face.  I've mentioned before how my short attention span embraces the change of season and how much I enjoy the getting ready part.  Whether its testing my drysuit in March, base waxing my skis in November, or sighting in my rifle in October, those preparation steps are crucial both for avoiding surprises and safely enjoying the sport or activity.  A leak in the drysuit crotch, skis that feel like they have an 80 grit sandpaper base or a rifle that's not 'on the paper' can ruin an outing or worse.  Ask the GurneyGranny, who dutifully sighted in her .257 Roberts before deer season and found it off by at least a foot at 50 yards.  Had she not done her homework, a certain 8pt buck would be residing in the woods rather than residing on a plate, medium rare, with a nice brown sauce reduction.  No matter which activity it is, I always seem to find stuff that either doesn't work, fit, or needs some sort of tweak. Careful people also run through a sort of mental progression when returning to an activity that they have not participated in for several months.  Whether its 'big toe, little toe' on the telemark turns, 'three appendages on the tree' when entering or exiting the tree stand, or 'rotate that torso' when jumping into the sea kayak again in March, most folks mentally refresh their mental and muscle memory after a layoff from said activity.  This does not seem to be the case with driving in the snow.
 I could launch into a tirade about the idiots on the road but we've all been there.  The people who either ignore the snow and continue to go 65mph and those who are like a fisherman on acid and slow down to 25mph on the highway.  Usually its the interaction of these two extremes that keep the wreckers and body shops humming and most of it could be avoided by a bit of physical and mental prep for what is sure to come for those of us in the Geat Lakes states.  Scraper, snow brush, and jumper cables are minimal prep around here.  Also, if you are driving on 'all weather' tires or especially the trendy low profile tires, you sir or ma'am are screwed.  Bridgestone Blizzaks, Michelin X-Ice, or Dunlop Winter Sport will make your life unbelievably easier on snow or ice.  It's all about control and if you don't have snow tires even four wheel drive is not going to help you.  Mentally walking through speed, following distances, and the mental simulation of 'where will I go if this guy in front of me spins out' are things that need to run through the old mental computer.

Let's see if we can prepare for winter and winter driving like most of us prepare for our seasonal activites.  Thoughtful physical preparation and the equally important mental preparation will get us into the winter driving season a leg up on our fellow motorists.  As far as those fellow motorists, give them a wide, wide berth and be content in the knowledge that they are supporting and perhaps even creating jobs in the towing and body shop repair industries.  Merry Christmas, happy holidays, and keep it between those painted lines.

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