As the van with it's nearly bald tires reached the crest of the deep snow-covered mountain pass we were exhausted after pushing it up the last 100 feet or so. It was desolate and we all asked ourselves why in the world we would ever try to do this. In airplane speak it's called, "get home-itis". We just wanted to get back home more tha anything else, especially since we were thrown out of our beds at the "L Truck Stop".
We balanced there for a while as we pondered the decision to go down. Jimmy was actually looking at the bottom of the hill where he could steer into he loses traction. That was inevitable. It was time. With our lungs back to breathing normally Jimmy put the van into the lowest gear. Over the crest we go with a van filled with amplifiers, guitars, luggage, bandmates, wives and even kids.
We crawled slower than a worm on a driveway. With the right side wheels plowing the deepest snow at the very right side of the road so it could be slowed down and perhaps grab some traction from any gravel it could touch, we nearly reached the bottom when the tires let go of their grip. Down we slid like a taboggan on a ski slope. Jimmy expertly continued to correct the wild swerving back and forth on the way down. It was amazing because as scary as it all was there was hardly a noise inside the van. We were shocked and frozen in place. The curve at the bottom of the hill looked impossible to negotiate, especially when sliding and gaining speed.
Then from out of nowhere in the back of the van came this scratchy, hoarse-sounding voice. It was Snuffy Curtis, our lead guitarist. His voice had that unique graveliness to it. This time it didn't sound like singing. It was sheer terror coming from him. As loud as he could yell he shreeks, "We're gonna buy it!!!!" Just what we all needed right then. Our eyes opened wider than ever as everything got bigger and bigger the closer we got to the bottom.
Miraculously, Jimmy corrected the van with unbelievable timing. There's no way he could've planned it that way. The rear was swinging wildly left to right for hundreds of feet and it would've been impossible to time the alternations perfectly. As it turned out, it was perfectly timed with the van's rear end swinging from the right to the left side just as we needed to make a right turn at the bottom. It was like a power slide in slow motion.
There was a little one lane bridge to negotiate too with a small white rail on either side of the road. That was the scariest part and Jimmy flew right in between the railings. Amazing. Then the van swung off to the left side of the road where it plowed its own 5 foot snow bank to butt into. As we rocked back to steady there was stil complete silence. I think we thought we may have been in heaven because there was absoluely no sound at all. Of course, the deep snow insulated any noise plus we were all agast with our mouths wide open!!
The rest of the way home was frightening but we finally made it late into the night. Very happy to be back home, we had to face the fact that we lost a week's pay too. But, that's another story altogether.
Wow! I'm exhausted just reading this! All I can say is your guardian angel was putting in some serious overtime.
We were so young and foolish when we took those chances but that's youth for ya! I never forget that harrowing slide to the bottom. Let me remind you, brother Jim only has one eye and did all this negotiating!
I have never been so happy to hit a snowbank as I was that night.
I have had my time over icy roads but never anything like you experienced. As I read each word of your story, I could just feel your fatigue and white-knuckled fear.
Being thrown out of the "L Truck Stop" was prettty bad, guys and gals, but the rest of the story is stuff for nightmares for years to come. Perhaps Stephen King would like to interview you for a while!