Sunday, November 11, 2007

Well, I think winter has arrived in this part of the world.
Reminds me that I should be planning the next trip south to where there is no snow!

But, alas I was still working last week and the snow was here.

My crazy day started with a run north of Lake Louise on the Icefields Parkway towards Jasper. I had heard that it snowed a lot there overnight and that there were some vehicles in the ditch awaiting tows.

The first few kms were OK, but the snow accumulation quickly built up and was in the 15-20 cm range after a while. My work truck is one of the few that has survived the down-size, two wheel drive 'tonka truck' move that seems to have taken over the government. So I was getting along fine, even though my 3/4 ton's belly was dragging in the snow in a few places.
I located the first vehicle in the ditch on it's side, but the people were out and the tow truck was attempting to get the wheels to the bottom where they belonged. I found another pair of vehicles and their occupants who had spent the night in a roadside pull off, now completely covered in snow. I continued on to the Warden station at the junction of highway 11, where I 'took possession' of a guy who had caught a ride there - to initially report the accident and request a tow. He had been well cared for and fed at the station, as is customary! (I know some readers from Ontario who are smiling now)

I then headed back south with this guy and met his party who had been successfully extricated from the roadside woods by Sammy's Towing. On the way south I checked another abandoned (or ice climbers?) vehicle on the side of the road, looked into the closed Waterfowl campground, retrieved a 'bump' sign that had gotten knocked over by the snowplow on it's first run north, and chatted with a bunch of excited skiers who were about to either enjoy a first run of the year, or trash their skis; or both.

On my trek south I came across another vehicle that had just gone into the ditch a few minutes prior. The driver did not speak any languages that I do, so I gave him a ride back to the nearest phone, so he could make his own towing arrangements. There is NO cell coverage in this area to the chagrin of almost everyone who discovers this fact AFTER they have run out of gas or hit the ditch!
Anyway, I was nicely back in town when I realized that my cell phone was not on my belt where I was sure I had place it earlier in the morning. Great! Just great.
After the usual pocket-patting, truck searching and memory replay, the phone still had not shown up. So I was pretty sure it had fallen off into 15cm of snow on the road in one of about 10 places I had gotten out that morning, and had since been blasted into the woods by the next plow to go by. And I was expecting a call!

Rather than have lunch, I decided that I would at least make a futile trip back up the road, and look in the likely spots - that I could remember.

The start of the road north was starting to improve, so everyone ignores the flashing lights on the sign that indicates the road condition is only one notch above closed; POOR.

I soon stopped at the vehicle whose driver I had earlier given a ride to town and poked about in the snow there, knowing the chances of finding anything were slim to nil. They were nil.

As I was just headed back north I observed a pickup truck coming towards me. Backwards - sideways - forwards - sideways - backwards, you get the idea. Snow was spraying everywhere.

Wow; before my eyes the vehicle hit the ditch and proceeded to roll - ending up on it's roof.
I made a quick call to dispatch in Banff to send out the 'troops' - which consists of the fire department, the RCMP, and some more wardens, and an ambulance. This surely would prevent me from continuing the search for my phone. What would I get to replace it?

Fortunately, I was able to get to the vehicle in seconds and cut some seat belts, and after ensuring there were no injuries to the occupants, managed to get them out and got them into my truck where they would have some defence against the next out-of-control vehicle to arrive.
Eventually the troops all arrived and took over control of the scene. This allowed me to free myself and put up some warning signs on the approach to slow down the speeders and hopefully prevent further carnage.
When I stopped to re-check the 'bump' sign that I had earlier moved, I grabbed a snow-brush to dig with, when 'who woulda thunkit', there was my phone covered in the fresh snow. It was not even melted or soaked - and is once again working just fine!

But the day was not over. I saw one of the snow plows coming down the road on the southbound leg and I was about to move my accident warning sign briefly off the shoulder so the plow could properly clean the road there. But the road and the shoulder and everything was pretty much ice, so before I knew it, even my good 4x4 had slid its behind to a position perpendicular to the edge of the road while trying to move out of the way of the plow. Even the 4wd was no match for the ice, so I backed off the road into an area that I hoped would have some gravel underneath and provide some traction for a run at the road. After a few minutes of 'driving' around in this area, it became clear that in spite of any direction I gave the vehicle, it was inevitably moving downhill towards the trees and some ugly rocks, and a small drop-off.
Fortunately, my good truck comes equipped with good tire chains, so I shovelled away the snow and put them on - making sure that my cell phone stayed in a safe location inside! Even with one set of chains on it was SO slippery that the front wheels pretty much refused to steer, so I had to do some creative driving to make it back to the road surface. But hey, I hadn't really hit the ditch, I hadn't needed a tow or any assistance, and more importantly, there were no photos!

But because of all the other action this day, the only pictures that I did have time to take, were a couple shots of the truck that I had watched hit the ditch and roll.

Later on in the afternoon, I was back on the road for the third time - but in this case it was a planned, uneventful trip to Jasper for a week-long course

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