Icy Road Conditions Almost Left Bad Driver Out in the Cold

I’m up and at ‘em. The day starts when my sister, who has been staying with me for six days to help me clean out my condo, reminds me that I need to get going to drive her to the airport.

Fact: There is an ice storm happening right outside my window. It’s a rare occurrence in St. Louis.

Fact: For those who know me, I’m a terrible driver. One of the reasons I am excited to move to New York City is….I won’t have to drive.

Fact: Driving on ice is not driving. It’s sledding. Fortunately, I have an SUV with four-wheel drive. But there is no traction on ice. Fortunately, I have new tires.

Fact: I must be very careful, or I’ll be introducing my sister and me to the concept of death.

Getting in the car: My garage is climate controlled. I get outside and barely make it up the steep driveway. I remember my late husband’s instructions. His voice in my head says: Put the car in D2. It chugs up, up, up. It reminds me of the children’s book: The Little Engine that Could.

Fact: I drive like a little old woman—and that’s in good weather. I inch along at about 15 to 20 mph on the highway. This is crazy.

Fact: Get cool Meg. I think I am tough and resourceful. So, when I stop to contemplate the fact that the most challenging part of my day might be to actually stop (phew!), I pretend that the drive isn’t so bad. I was never a good actress evidenced by the fact that I am white-knuckling the steering wheel.  I am not as brave and self-sufficient as my father always said I was.  

Breaking a sweat: Although the temperature is in the teens, I am sweating like a hog. I am hyper focused on driving. I am nervous. I forge ahead. The entire time my sister is trying to calm me down. “Meg, stay focused. You’re doing great.” Suddenly I realize…OMG, there’s a car coming up behind me with the hazard lights blinking like a neon sign. What am I doing?

My sister, who values her life, cautions me to ignore those around me. “Keep your eyes on the road,” she suggests. To keep focused, I tune her out at some point. The fact that I am still moving and not skidding is motivating. As we near the airport, forced to take some side roads that are a sheet of ice, my sister volunteers to get out and walk carrying her two suitcases the rest of the way to the airport. I ask her where she put her skates.

Fact: No one else is crazy enough to be out driving in this ice storm. Good news! I am relieved that at least I won’t be hitting anyone. Yikes, no one else is out driving!!! And those who have tried, line the sides of the highway unable to make it up ramps or have skidded on bridges. My heart is pumping like a Tarantella. We’re almost there. I must remain steadfast in my resolve to make it to the airport in one piece.

Arrival: We made it. Now I must get back home, alone.

Drive back: I break out in a sweat again. No radio. No cell. No distractions. I plunge ahead at about 15 mph blocking out everything except the icy road ahead. A typical 15-minute drive takes me almost an hour. I choose a route that will avoid any side streets to get to my apartment.  Making it back home is the highest achievement of my week. It took creeping along, making sure there were no cars close to mine and slowing down at overpasses, ramps and bridges.

I walk into the apartment determined to unplug and unwind. If it weren’t 9 a.m., I’d chug a half bottle of wine. I need to totally disconnect for a few hours. Again, no cell. No phones. No iPad, No laptop, nothing. No talking. Oh, there’s no one to talk to. My sister is waiting at the airport. I forage in the fridge for anything with carbs. That will make me feel better. I have cookies in the freezer. Heaven.

Check in: About an hour before my sister’s flight is scheduled to take off, she calls. The flight is cancelled. I tell her that if she plans to come back to my apartment, she’ll need to take a taxi or try a sled. Driving back to get her would give me a heart attack. She doesn’t expect me to pick her up. I check in every few hours to make sure she’s okay. Do they have heat? Is there food? That kind of thing. So far, so good. The flight is supposed to take off. If it doesn’t leave, I don’t know how I’ll get to the airport to pick her up driving in the dark on icy roads. She says she’ll just sleep at the airport. I feel like she’s in that Tom Hanks movie, The Terminal.  

Sitting around. My sister sits. She waits. She is grateful to be alive after our drive to the airport. We laugh.

Me not sitting around. When I’m nervous, I hit the road running. I walk on my treadmill. I write. I catch up on emails. See if I won the lottery. I never win anything. I wonder if anyone on my floor wants my old pots and pans that I am getting rid of when I move. I return calls I haven’t made all week while my sister was visiting.

Dinner. I feel guilty. She’s probably eating gelatinous turkey from some food stand. I eat delicious Chinese leftovers.

After: I watch a taped version of Downton Abbey. It helps me relax and appreciate the craft of making such a fabulous series. How did they get around in the icy weather, I wonder? Oh, they had drivers; it wasn’t their concern, but someone else’s. And they had all those fireplaces and servants to light them.  

Ping. Text: My sister has boarded the plane. Hallelujah!

Bedtime: I can’t sleep until I get the text that her plane has landed.

Text: She’s made it to LaGuardia Airport and her luggage is lost. She shrugs it off and reasons she’ll get it the next day. (She does.)

Bedtime: After a half glass of wine, two minutes of mediation and balance while brushing my teeth with my electric toothbrush, I take an Advil for all the aches and pains of packing, sorting and lifting. I’m out like a light.

Today: The roads are still icy. Do I dare drive? You bet. It’s time to get my hair colored. Nothing will stop me—not even icy roads--from doing that!

Bad Weather Driving Dos and Don’ts

  1. Be prepared. Carry in your car a scraper, de-icer, blankets, flashlight, food just in case and some bottled water.
  2. Tire check. Make sure your tires are in good shape and the treads are good enough that they grip the road.
  3. Full tank of gas. A full tank of gas adds weight. The heavier your car, the better traction you’ll have in the ice and snow. 
  4. Do not tailgate. The rule of thumb is to leave about 100 yards between you and the car in front in case the car in front has to stop suddenly.
  5. Drive slowly in case you have to stop quickly.
  6. Don’t break if you’re turning and if you skid, turn into the skid. Don’t fight it. If you’re sliding to the right, take your foot off the brake and keep turning right until the car comes to a complete stop. 




  • savitri jain

    I really can relate to your driving experience.

  • Lynn Marks

    I live in downtown philadelphia so I try to rarely drive in bad conditions. But appreciate these tips. Thank you

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