Monthly Archives: January 2022


Roads We Remember #8

After our initial stop in Nelson County Virginia, Elaine and I remain undecided about the next step in our extended south bound four-wheel winter walkabout. Will it be east to the Outer Banks or west across the Blue Ridge Mountains?

Regardless, events of January 4th in the Mid-Atlantic States reminded us of a harsh reality. WINTER CAN BE DANGEROUS! This realization came courtesy of a surprise winter storm that had frozen traffic cold, literally, for 50 miles on Route 95 in Virginia. It stranded unprepared drivers in snowbound vehicles for over 24-hours. In subsequent days new ice and snow storms as far south as the Carolinas made it clear that it did not stretch credulity that a February jaunt along the Blue Ridge Parkway or across the Carolina Piedmont could be interrupted by a powerful and unanticipated paralyzing storm. We would take the threat seriously and plan accordingly.

Tips on planning for the unexpected when winter turns ugly.


When blue highways turn white

The New York Times featured interviews with motorists that pretty much reflected the norm for unprepared travelers trapped and immobilized over night in the frigid grip of an unexpectedly severe winter storm. “It’s been so horrible,” said Arlin Tellez, 22 in an interview on Tuesday morning from her car stuck about 80 miles south of Washington, D.C.  Ms. Tellez explained to the New York Times that she had been trapped in her car since 5 p.m. Monday without any food or water, and was layering on clothes she had in the car.

Unlike Ms. Tellez, Elaine and I intend to be prepared. While we envision our trip as a party, we do not have in mind the Donner Party. As such I have assembled the Drivin’ News Winter Wander-land Preparedness Guide.

Some items for a winter survival kit are self evident, others not so much. Special emphasis will be given for considerations that may not be common knowledge. A list of all unmentioned items comprising a winter driving survival kit will be completed at the article’s conclusion.


Non-traditional winter kit items

Coffee can space heater

It is cheap and it works. It basically requires four items, an empty, clean metal (it must be metal) coffee can, candles (metal cup tea light candles are cheap and work well), matches (waterproof or wooden stick matches are easier for cold, stiff fingers to use than a match book) and a heat resistant plate.

Position the can on a flat, stable, level, fire-resistant base. Place three or four tea candles in the bottom of the can. Once lit, the tea candles will burn for up to four hours.

If alone or with one other occupant in an SUV or large sedan consider reducing the space needed to be heated by duct taping a  blanket from the headliner to the back of the front seat.

Non-lumping cat litter (5 lbs.) or carpet strips

Both provide improved traction when placed in the path of the drive wheels.


In a blinding storm a strong whistle (120 dB and up) can alert help to your location.

Whiskey stones (Cubes of solid soapstone that when refrigerated will chill your bourbon without diluting it offer a great advantage for preventing water from freezing.)

Adding un-chilled whiskey stones to your water will help to keep it unfrozen, particularly in sub-zero temperatures. Other options include floating a ping-pong ball, a citrus peel, or another floating object that will keep the surface of your water from freezing completely over.

Bivy (Bivouac sack)

Inexpensive and rugged. Bivies pack very small, can weigh under 6 ounces and can be used as a survival blanket or sleeping bag. On the inside it has a reflective polyester coating, which can efficiently reflect up 90% of your body heat to help keep you warm even in the worst of conditions.

Cell phone walkie talkie app

Cell phone walkie talkie apps can provide the capability to turns your phone into a walkie talkie during any disaster and can help speed up rescue efforts once the storm has passed. Examples of apps: Zello, Two Way: Walkie Talkie


Provides great insulation when placed between skin and clothing

Crank, battery, outlet, solar power radio

Compact sized units provide AM/FM and weather bands. It includes cell phone charging jack. Contains emergency light.

LED headlight

Small high intensity light that straps around the head frees hands while providing powerful illumination.


When stranded snowbound or in blizzard conditions your safety, even your life may hinge not only on what you do but what you choose not to do.

Recommended DON’Ts

Do not panic.

Take a breath. You will think more clearly. Assess your situation. If you are within 75 to 100 yards of an occupied structure consider bundling up and making the trip. If not, set up camp in your vehicle. Hopefully after reading this article you will have some supplies on hand.

Three reasons to not drink alcoholic beverages

Danger #1  -Alcohol is a vasodilator.

Alcohol causes the blood vessels just below the skin’s surface to expand. This creates a false sensation of warmth while actually stealing heat from the vital organs and decreasing overall core temperature. Thus, alcohol overrides the body’s defenses against cold temperatures which is to constrict your blood vessels in order to keep your core body temperature up.

Danger #2 – Alcohol is a diuretic.

Alcohol causes you to urinate more. This speeds up dehydration and removes heat from your body.

Danger #3 – Alcohol impedes decision making abilities

Alcohol reduces the ability to make reasoned decisions. A bad decision in a life threatening situation is just that, life threatening.

Don’t drink coffee, tea or other beverages with caffeine

Coffee with caffeine may be hot but caffeine like alcohol is a diuretic. You will need to urinate more, thus, unnecessarily losing heat from the body.

Don’t go to sleep with the car running

A stranded car should never be left running for more than 10 minutes every hour. If no one is awake in a running car it can easily become a death chamber. Carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless, and deadly gas produced by the engine can build up quickly inside a vehicle, poisoning anyone inside.

Recommended DOs

Stay with the vehicle. Yes, I know about Sir Ernest Shackleton and his Antarctic heroism. Few of us are Ernest Shackleton and in this day and age no reason exists for any of us to aspire through heroic efforts to prove we are.

Unless a home or building stands close and clearly reachable, stay put. The car provides shelter and protection. It is far more visible to searchers and by your having read this article it should contain supplies to help you survive until help arrives.

Clear exhaust pipe of snow

A blocked tail pipe can result in carbon monoxide entering the stranded vehicle.

Move supplies from trunk to car

As soon as you realize your situation, set up camp. Transfer all necessary supplies to where they will be easily accessible and not require going outside.

Colorful cloth on antennae

Tying a brightly colored cloth to an antennae or roof rack enhances the visibility of the vehicle.

Crack window

Leaving the two windows open slightly will assure ventilation and a supply of fresh air

Run engine a maximum of 10-minutes per hour

Run the engine sparingly to preserve fuel while generating and conserving heat.

Keep feet off floor or put paper or cloth down for insulation

Put paper or blankets on the vehicle floor or keep feet off the floor to protect loss of heat through feet.

Put on extra clothing right away

If you see that you are stranded, layer on all the clothes you have right away. Do not wait. Staying warm is much easier than getting warm.

Loosen tight clothing

Once fully dressed, loosen clothing tight to the skin. Loose cloths retain more body heat.

Remove metal jewelry

Metal jewelry can chill quickly and leach heat from your body.

Eat a snack of high calorie food before sleeping

Consuming a snack of high calorie food before sleeping will stimulate your metabolism and increase your heat production.

Tether yourself to car if you must go out

If you must leave the vehicle in a blinding snow storm tie yourself to the car with parachute cord (Paracord) or nylon rope so that you can find your way back to the vehicle.

Drink plenty of fluids

It is just as easy to become dehydrated on a cold day in winter as a warm day in summer. Dehydration makes a person more susceptible to the potential health hazards of cold weather.

Winter emergency kit content list (additional items)


Plug in and solar cell phone charger

Chemical hand and foot warmers


First aid kit

Fresh batteries


High energy food (Long shelf life)

Jumper cables

LED flashlight

Paper maps

Pen & Paper

Reflective triangle

Six-pack 30-minute road flares

Snow brush/ scraper


Toilet paper

Tool kit w/Leatherman

trash bags (Large)

Warm clothes

By |2022-02-03T12:43:12+00:00January 20th, 2022|4 Comments

Roads We Remember #7

I always possessed a bit of envy for people who had a passion since childhood that swept them into the future much like a strong wave powers a surfer towards the beach. Marv Albert always wanted to be a sportscaster. Since childhood, Neil Armstrong looked to the heavens for his future. Diving before he was a teenager, Jacques Cousteau yearned to explore the ocean’s depths. For me, no powerful plan or compelling dream drove me towards a future already being shaped in my fertile imagination. At best I relied on a process. If an idea seemed to make sense and connected enough dots, I yielded to its influence and allowed it to carry me for a time until its force dissipated. Each force urging my life into the future, rather than a powerful wave, was more like an available current that helped me drift towards a better tomorrow.

Over the years as my process matured it gave birth to a simple self test when faced with dots in need of connection. I would ask myself, “if not this, what? If not now, when?”

With the arrival of 2022, I find myself facing a constellation of dots seeking order.

Blue highways, back roads – If not now, when?

Materially I have what I need in life. Some have more. Some have less. I am blessed. What I fear lurks in the rear hall of my consciousness. Its form takes shape as a lazy sameness where my soul succumbs to the dulling inertia of mind numbing predictability. No way! Figuratively and literally connecting the dots for 2022 will begin by taking Drivin’ News on the road.

As the new year dawns, my life partner and co-conspirator Elaine and I find ourselves blessed with good health and a clear schedule. I have come to fully appreciate that my friends are my family. I derive great joy from the community that has grown around the “Collectible automobiles as a passion” class that I team teach with Bob Austin and Fred Hammond. More than anything else I hunger to keep these relationships and activities fresh and populated with the uplifting and unexpected. Over the years Elaine and I have found some of our most meaningful experiences take place as happenstance encounters along “blue highways.” For those unfamiliar with the term, “blue highways,” it represents the spider web of two-lane back roads that serve the expansive countryside bypassed by major high speed interstate traffic arteries. Unlike the hypnotically dull interstates that made blue highways obsolete for high speed transit, blue highways, with the power of an evocative piece of slower paced music, re-calibrate a driver’s mood and expectations to a rhythm more in sync with the life, energy and surroundings to which this serpentine ribbon of black top belongs. Time spent attending to the dips and curves of blue highways actually engages a driver with real life experience rather than blowing though a countryside like the blur between subway stops.

Elaine and I have come to be forever bettered when time allows us to avoid interstates by stitching together a journey on blue highways. No interstate leads to a weathered country store that stands strong, proud and alone while projecting a gritty confidence that it belongs to be exactly where it is. Such structures remind me of a bricks and mortar version of a role mastered by an aged Clint Eastwood.

Often encountering a proprietor worthy of a Norman Rockwell illustration, my first question pretty much cuts to the chase, “What’s your story? I’ll ask. If not a general store, then a gas station with a rust trimmed Dad’s Root Beer sign or a hillside of sixty and seventy-year old Cadillacs with trees the size of schooner masts sprouting from hoodless engine bays. Regardless, there always seems to await a story ready to be shared.

Drawn by the magnetism of the rough hewn authenticity of the man or woman who calls our roadside discovery his or hers, Elaine and I with palpably honest fascination tease out personal histories. Often little known tales enrich references and characters that larger histories have already introduced. The tellers at their best weave color, character and detail into the fabric of what should be proudly celebrated as true Americana.

A late 1940’s pickup truck caught my attention while heading north towards Panguitch, Utah. Panguitch is a native American word for “big fish.” Despite my best fishing efforts, I had to take their word for it. He stood in the foreground of a vast field of deteriorating Detroit iron. As I walked up, he had his attention focused on a 1963 409 Chevy that he later informed me that he had once owned in high school. On the downhill side of 60 he claimed to be Jeremiah Johnson’s fourth great grandson. With a countenance worthy of a Dorothea Lange portrait, his sun bleached saddle leather skin framed a large and proud smile. Shy, yet deliberate in manner and presentation, he wove a great story of his life and the lives of family members that came before him.

At a farm stand off the Blue Ridge Parkway, we met Bill. Genial and engaging, after introducing himself, he whisked Elaine out onto the dance floor. A terrific band of mountain musicians had just fired up their instruments and before my eyes transformed a roomful of people pleasantly chatting into a gyrating bluegrass flash mob.

Later, with band members now packing up their instruments, Bill explained how he had spent many years as a NASA engineer working on projects of some renown including Apollo 11 and a system that would later become known as GPS (Yes, that Global Positioning System). Once retired he, together with his sister, decided to buy an orchard near the Blue Ridge Parkway, make it a not-for-profit 501c3, and use it to preserve and promote the culture of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Bill explained how each year spring through fall the Historic Orchard at Alta Pass put on over 160 shows. Bill just smiled as the crowd that had packed the old red farm stand/dance hall filed out, many carrying with them fresh baked goods and all holding happy memories.

Blue highways are rich with delightful people possessing great stories that eagerly await discovery like diamonds in a DeBeers mine.

Interestingly sometimes a blue highway leads to a treasure trove of profoundly moving stories with the strength to stand on their own without benefit of a storyteller. Atop a sand dune poking above a sea of beach grass at the end of a two lane that terminates on a North Carolina island stands a mailbox. Written on its supporting post are the words “THE NOTEBOOK.”

Opening the mailbox reveals a stack of neat note books where people have left their stories to be shared with strangers. On these pages raw, honest, heartfelt feelings find a home. Page after hand written page reveals the depth of human emotion in stories of love lost and found, of children who passed far too young, of friends never forgotten, of joy found, of faith renewed.

Possibly the isolation and anonymity of “THE NOTEBOOK” empowers its story telling ability. Left behind by tellers who have been swept on to the future by the tide of life, each story possesses the strength to stand on its own.

I remember from geography class in grammar school (yes I know there are no more geography classes and, yes, that makes me crazy too. But I digress.) I learned that each year the Nile River would overflow its banks. In so doing it replenished the fertility of the soil and promoted a cycle of renewed vitality. And so I now seek the same for myself.

Elaine and I intend to pack light and hit the road. With faith in serendipity and happenstance, we will set out with the goal of missing every mile of interstate possible in an effort to flood our banks.

I hope you will find the time to join us as I take Drivin’ News on the road.

By |2022-01-21T21:39:06+00:00January 6th, 2022|13 Comments