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An ode to winter driving 

Ranger Rich

I was coming home from Denver last week and it began to snow on Monument Hill just north of our village, so I immediately began driving the way I always drive when I encounter winter conditions on Monument Hill — sideways with a lot of loud screaming as I tried to climb out through the driver's-side window.

I wasn't alone, of course. Thousands of other astute motorists, all trying to beat the storm by driving 140 mph, had already careened off the road and were now wandering across the fields with their trousers on fire, holding one shoe in their hand and mumbling about "black ice" just as we are taught to do in driver's education classes.

I'm an old pro at this driving on ice thing, having just celebrated my 20th year living in Colorado. (Footnote: For some perspective, when I arrived Manitou Springs was little more than a strange place filled with tarot card readers, fortune tellers and guys wandering from tavern to tavern with food in their beards. I don't think I have to tell you today how much that has changed.)

Anyway, once, during a particularly bad storm in January 1996, I drove 14 miles from my home to downtown at an average speed of 85 mph. Backward. Visibility was so poor, to use the old expression, "I could barely see the hysterical school crossing guard clinging onto my trunk."

And so, last week, I began to think. And somewhere, a sarcastic and insensitive angel got her wings. No, really, I began to think about what we could do about this dangerous problem of driving over Monument Hill.

After ruling out anything ridiculous and far-fetched such as heating the roadway with small doses of radiation, warming the molecules of the pavement with laser beams from military-controlled satellites or asking the villagers to slow the #@&* down on the icy road, I did some research.

What I discovered will, I believe, amaze not only you but also the diligent highway maintenance workers who make an almost super-human effort to maintain our roads during the winter by leaving for Hawaii in October and playing golf until they return in June.

What I'm trying to tell you is that we have the technology now — today — to convert icy roads into non-icy roads, to take frozen, slick highway pavement and transform it, miraculously, into a safe and non-slippery surface.

Scientists call it Silica Adhesion and Navigation Defense. Or SAND.

This might get a bit technical, but try to follow me here. SAND, I found out, is "a naturally occurring granular material composed of finely divided rock and mineral particles."

Here longtime loyal readers of this column are probably asking the obvious question: "So, Roger, is this SAND you speak of, SAND you say we could somehow scatter onto our roadways, is it the same as the SAND that got into my eyes last week when I tried to listen to Mayor Steve Bach's riveting speech about fire safety and tree planting?"

Answer: No. That SAND is brought by the SAND man, who rubbed it into your eyes to make you sleepy when Mayor Bach, talking about the Waldo Canyon Fire evacuations, actually said this: "People in fact stopped at stop lights when we wish they would have gone through to get out faster. That's one of our lessons learned. If you have to evacuate, certainly stop at a stop sign or stop light, but then proceed cautiously."

Frankly, it's like having our very own Winston Churchill.

Anyway, back to road safety, we turn to the website eHow for an explanation — I am not kidding — of how this incredible new scientific discovery works.

"Town and highway crews," eHow claims, "have large trucks that empty the sand out onto slick road surfaces through the bottom of the truck by use of a spreader. The sand needs to stay between the vehicle tires and the ice on the road in order to work efficiently."

Sounds like witchcraft if you ask me.

Rich Tosches (rangerrich@csindy.com) also writes a Sunday column in the Denver Post.

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