SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany --
It's wintertime, and you're most likely dashing over the river and through the woods to get to where you need to go.
But what if you find yourself spinning on black ice into a frightening nightmare before Christmas off a desolate farm road? What would you do next and how long do you think you could be stuck?
Well, I'll be the first to admit I am no safety expert. As a first-term Airman, I'm reminded nearly every day I have much to learn about the Air Force. And as a photojournalist, I'm aware that many articles I write -- no matter how important the subject -- may not always connect with readers. And if they didn't bother before, why should they now?
However, when it comes to driving in the snow, there is one thing you should know about me.
I'm from Wisconsin.
Yessir. I was born and raised in the Badger State. I've been to the state fair at least 10 times, I own a foam cheesehead to root for my Packers and I occasionally pepper my phrases with 'Donchaknow?'
When it comes to my native bona fides, you need only hear the way I pronounce elongated vowels like in "bag" and "wagon."
-ging" along with that state pride is another reality: snow, snow and more snow. Believe you me, I've been stuck in three feet of snow on the road and had enough closed school days to make up another summer vacation.
While I may not be in a position to prescribe or necessarily persuade any one to take action, I believe my experiences, both good and bad, as a seasoned Wisconsinite driver could benefit anyone driving the winding roads of the Eifel Region. So, just look at this as a helpful suggestion from your friendly neighborhood Cheesehead at Spangdahlem.
As it happens, my advice is simple, affordable and built on my experience. Ya ready?
Ya gotta put junk in yo trunk!
I ain't talking about eatin' too many cheese curds - I'm talking about your car. I've come up with a list of things I recommend everyone keep handy and also include when to use them. Some of them are pretty basic like a blanket and water, but have you ever considered the potentially life-saving benefits of kitty litter and a shovel? Let's take a gander....
THE JUNK-IN-YO-TRUNK LIST
- Say your car gets stuck in more snow than it can handle. A nearby shovel and some elbow grease can save you a lot of money and time instead of having to wait for a potential rescue.
- Seriously. Assume you're stuck, and, even after you've dug your way out with your shovel, your tires aren't catching any traction. Well, by golly, it's time to make your own traction! This nitty-gritty stuff is the perfect texture to simulate gravel and can speed your way out of a ditch. (As a bonus, some of the scented bags make for a dandy air freshener.)
- If your vehicle is light in the back, weighing it down with sand bags can help you from sliding off the road. It also can be used to make more traction, but I have had less success with it than with kitty litter. (As another bonus, how many people in Germany can say their kids built a sand castle in the middle of February? Well, now YOU can.)
- Y'know those little wrappers that have big pieces of tin foil, right? They're actually quite helpful. If you need to hunker down in your car for a while, these babies absorb your body heat much more efficiently than a regular cloth blanket.
- These are self-explanatory, but when Jack Frost comes nipping at your nose or other body parts, it's nice to have these to shoo him away.
- You might have a hard time bettering your situation if you can't see.
- They might freeze, but water eventually melts. Getting yourself out of a ditch is not an easy feat, so please stay hydrated.
- These are the military's "Meals Ready to Eat." They're made to supply troops with a full day's worth of calories and endure harsh conditions in deployed environments. (Plus, the Chili Mac is quite exquisite.) They don't go bad, and, in the cold, they mean a hot meal. I'd recommend having a few in case of your duration or if you have passengers.
- Assume your phone has no service, you've exhausted your resources and you still need a hand. A bright flashing flare can ensure you're seen at great distances.
So, whether you're driving in the Badger State or through the Eifel Region, having these tried-and-true tools tucked away in your trunk certainly couldn't hurt. It's a rough day when you're waiting on a farmer or a truck with a hitch to come along and give you a pull.
All of these items can be found for purchase on base or in local German stores. While some may see the cost of these items as sticker shock, the real question is how much would you pay for one of these AFTER you've been stuck?
And that's the main reason I've written this, because I wish someone shared this advice with me before - whether they were a fellow Cheesehead or not.
If you have a suggestion for more items for your 'junk-in-yo-trunk' collection, let us know on the Spangdahlem Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/SpangdahlemAirBase so others may benefit from your experience!