Last night I was one of the thousands who was stuck at Pearson Airport in Toronto, due to a wildcat strike by Air Canada ground personnel. I could rant for a long time about this and other Air Canada stunts, but this is not the place.
Anyway, Air Canada was simply canceling flights left and right and giving virtually no information on what to expect or how long it was going to last. I absolutely needed to get back to Montreal for this morning – so I planned for the worst.
M work colleague and I decided to rent a car and drive the 401 to Montreal. We got a new Taurus wagon and headed out. (My own car is a LGT Ltd wagon 5A).
The weather in Toronto at 7PM was ok and the Taurus did relatively well in that. But about 10 miles east of Toronto it started to snow - and kept snowing right into Montreal. The temperature was between -12C & -18C all the way. Snowplows where everywhere, but still could not keep up with all the ice on the road and the low temperatures which makes salt less effective: this was black ice hell. The Taurus was on some all season crap - which do not even begin to compare to my Blizzaks. I can’t believe that there is not a law in Canada requiring rental companies to put dedicated winter tires on their cars in the winter…
Driving that car in those conditions made me feel like I was walking on a skating rink in leather soled shoes. And we had 400 miles to go in the middle of the night.
We saw two really bad accidents, one which closed the 401 and caused what looked like a 10 mile parking lot: 3 semis & about 8 cars were involved. The accident site was a 90 degree long downhill sweeper with black ice in the left lane about 30% into the turn. One of the semis was a dual trailer thing – how can they let those things on the road in blizzard conditions? The cab of the lead semi was completely destroyed – I don’t know how the driver survived. – maybe he did not…
The other major site was outside Kingston, where a pickup & about 6 other cars were involved. It was once again on a curve (uphill this time) – which was completely covered in black ice. When I passed the accident site going about 15 mph, I gave it a bit of gas and the front wheels just started to spin like mad – no friction at all – and that Taurus was no torque monster. And still 150 miles to go at 1 AM.
All in all, we probably saw 20-25 vehicles involved in accidents.
If you wonder why trucks are so often involved in those multiple vehicle pile ups, well some of those guys simply drive like lunatics. We were scared to drive much more that 45-55 mph – and sometimes a lot less. Some of those trucks who flew by us were probably going 75, while others were doing about 35 with full hazards going – I don’t get how the speed differential can be so large. We saw one semi, who was tailgating a car which passed us going about 60, and then swerve to pass that car in the right hand lane just after he got around us and then swerve back pull into the left lane in front of the car, just in time to avoid ramming the back end of another semi who was going about 40 with full hazards on! I guess we can blame Just In Time inventory management for a lot of those unnecessary risks the truckers seem to need to take.
Anyway, what was supposed to be a 5 hours trip took 9 hours, we were both scared s**tless on several occasion and I can’t remember the last time that I was that wired.
And all the way, I kept thinking about how much I missed my Legacy. Guys can complain that it doesn’t have memory seats, or navigation or some of the the other toys, but last night, my Leggy could literally have meant the difference between life & death. I would have given a lot to have been driving it (and my Blizzaks) rather than that Taurus.