Sunday, December 05, 2010

Bearsville Ice Incident of December 1978

My "Clint Eastwood" moment, December 1978: PSG was block-booked in 'B' tracking "Wave". It was just after Christmas and I had to get to the studio. It was snowy and rainy; I had snow tires on my 1968 Ford Fairlane - and paid the weather little regard. George wanted a ride in; so I picked him up in Mt. Tremper as evening became night. Many times, I had driven along Wittenberg Road at the limits of adhesion and well beyond any limit of good sense. Nothing seemed unusual. (Historical note: This was about two years before I discovered studded Hakkapeliitta tires.) I recall purposely teasing a little fishtail as we made the left turn at the Wittenberg store. As Geo and I chatted away, we were oblivious about our transition into a textbook icing situation. I recall only glancing to my left as we rounded the corner by Maria's house, touching the brakes lightly, and realizing something was terribly wrong. I drove on snow a lot, constantly touching the brakes to test the limit of adhesion. We were going maybe 25 MPH, but I knew in an instant things were out of control: We were at the top of a 300 foot grade as Wittenberg descends to the East. I touched the brakes. No traction! None! I look at Geo and we both scream. There were cars stuck in the ditches on either side of the road; failed hopes of their doomed ascent attempts. At first I was worried of our seemingly-imminent crash; but I quickly feared more the killing of an innocent; a ditch-bound pedestrian or emergency responder. The screams aside, I stayed cool - playing an energy-management game of potential vs kinetic energy. Getting some traction by finding lumps on the margins; and at more than one point, almost broadside. I was determined to stay in control; focus and fate. By the time we got down to the hard left at the bottom, seconds that seemed like an eternity, we felt as if catastrophe had been averted. As high as I've ever been on adrenaline, and probably why I remember it so vividly, we cautiously made it to the Cafe and had a Remy. ... And much later got stuck in the Cafe's parking lot.

1968 Ford Fairlane at Manitou House (1977)

1 comment:

Suzanne said...

I LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!