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Snowbound: Escaping the SCV

Posted: December 20, 2008 7:04 p.m.
Updated: December 21, 2008 4:55 a.m.
When my teenage daughter, Brandie, called Wednesday and told me our car had a "snow 'fro" from snow piling up on its rooftop, I didn't believe her. Like most Southern Californians, my husband Vince and I commute to work. We knew when we left our high desert home in Pinon Hills Wednesday morning we'd likely get trapped in sunny Santa Clarita. But our much-appreciated jobs at The Signal awaited and we enjoyed an exciting serendipity creeping along Highway 14 nearly alone.

Of course by nightfall Wednesday we were stranded with the thousands of other would-be northbound freeway travelers. No complaints. The hotel bed was better than ours, and when morning arrived we got free food. Always a bonus. My teeth were not like felt, my socks were not deodorizing my car and I could still feel all 10 toes. But when Caltrans finally reopened Highway 14 northbound I was more than ready to go home.

The ride through the pass toward the Antelope Valley was beautiful. I didn't drive, of course, because I conned my husband into steering-wheel duty by telling him that "You're My Hero" story again. I just enjoyed the gorgeous white cloak that shimmered so brightly I could see it despite the dark night around us. And we were doing OK. Until we hit the last paved road leading to our house.

Wah, wah, waaaaa ...

As we turned off the eastbound Highway 18 and maneuvered southbound into the Twilight Zone, Mr. Indy Racer fish-tailed our mini-SUV enough to inspire both of us to cry like little girls.

He did what any California snow driver would do and gunned the gas.

I panicked.

We headed straight for the California aqueduct that runs along our back yard. I can't repeat what he said because I told his boss, Lila, and she turned fire-engine red.

We made it, and I was relieved because I knew that once we hit the mile-and-a-half dirt road that leads to our house, we'd be fine. After all, everyone knows the dirt soaks up the water and gives traction to tires.

Upon approach of our road we noticed several abandoned cars, a few full-size trucks and a semi stuck in the dirt.

Not good.

What should we do? Step on the gas! We took the turn into two dirt-road ruts some poor sucker made before us. Two feet of snow lay between those two ruts and both sides were lined with four feet of white powder.

And I ain't talkin' cocaine, either, brother.

I have to admit, I was thankful I had a seat belt and an "Oh, s**t" bar on my car because I was clutching both so hard my knuckles were as white as the snow. By the way. It wasn't so beautiful all of a sudden.

Indiana Jones next to me looked a lot like his eyeballs were going to pop out. All he could say was, "Hold on."

"No kidding," I thought. Actually I can't print the word I really thought but that was the main idea.

It was like riding a roller coaster with no rail and a two-year-old German shepherd running the machine.

Our car turned just about every direction a neck can twist without a complete snap as we lumbered down that mile and a half of dirt road in between enormous puddles and ice slicks, gunning it all the way.

Near the end of our first mile I realized we were forced to breach the relative safety of our ice ruts and make a left down our own street.

Did I mention we live at the bottom of a hill?

It's just a little hill.

Mario Andretti pushed through the snow barrier and found another set of ruts.

"I thought Brandie said this was scraped?" my husband squealed.

She needs a dictionary.

I thought we were slick, which evidently we were. Literally.

Our car slid down the rutted-slope, and we were in our very own auto toboggan. Surprising how much speed a car can pick up sliding completely uncontrolled down an icy slope.

We got close to our own six-foot fence and it looked like a pansy bed border with a good three feet of snow lining the bottom.

Did I ever mention my husband once raced motocross bikes for Honda? It showed when we got close to our own eight-foot gate. I'm thinking the creosote just beyond the house and before the aqueduct looked like a good place to crash. But the 45-year-old teenager next to me made a swerving left and crashed us into the snow drift right in front of our gate.

I was astonished. My hero saved me!

We just sat there until we both regained our reason once more. Finally he instructed me to get out of the car and open the gate. He wanted to try and push in.

Ever tried to walk in four feet of powder snow at 10 p.m.? Ever try to run under those conditions?

The car went nowhere, but I fell into the snow twice trying to clear the disaster I could imagine would be barreling my way. The worst part about it was that we absolutely promised, guaranteed in no uncertain terms that no matter what it took, we'd be back at The Signal in Santa Clarita bright and early in the morning.

Silly Californians.

Michelle Lovato is a Signal staff writer. Her column represents her own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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