Monday, December 28, 2009

Ice Driving

In 1968, me and four others musicians left Manhattan, Kansas for a gig in Guyman, OK 350 miles away in the Oklahoma panhandle. Before long, rain had begun to pour. Soon it was freezing on the road and our windshield.

About thirty-miles outside of Dodge City, we were stopping every few minutes to scrape the ice off of the windshield since the defroster in my nearly new ’67 Ford Econoline Van would not keep up. There was about a half inch of solid ice on everything and it was coming down fast. After one stop, I pushed the accelerator down and heard a snap. The throttle linkage had broken. We somehow propped the throttle open a little and limped into Dodge at about 15 MPH, which was a comfortable speed considering the conditions.

The Ford dealer said he could have the part in a couple of days. We called to cancel the gig, but the promoter had already cancelled due to the ice storm. Wiser folks would have checked in into a hotel, but we fashioned a make-shift throttle linkage out of coat hanger and headed back to Manhattan, 230 miles away, driving the entire distance on ice, holding onto a piece of coat hanger hooked to the carburetor.

We arrived home almost 24 hours after we left, driving 20 hours on ice, half of that with a hand operated throttle, having accomplished absolutely nothing.

Twenty years later, my wife and I decided that we had had enough white knuckle driving and enrolled in ice-driving school in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. ( There we learned about four-wheel drive, all-wheel-drive, front wheel drive, rear-wheel drive and the advantages and disadvantages of each. We spent hours driving each type on ice learning how to maintain control and regain control once you lose it. Since we were avid skiers, this made our annual winter trips to the mountains much less nerve racking.

Now I actually look forward to getting out and playing in the snow. The beautiful days we are now having with blue skies and fresh white powder on everything makes me wonder why we didn’t plan a winter vacation this year.