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The Daily Progress, Charlottesville, Va., Bryan McKenzie column
[December 18, 2010]

The Daily Progress, Charlottesville, Va., Bryan McKenzie column

Dec 18, 2010 (The Daily Progress - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- It was a beautiful September day, 70 degrees and sunny on the road to 14,000-foot-high Gray's Peak outside of Georgetown, Colo., and my old Subaru wagon with dual range four-wheel-drive and height-adjustable suspension, both fore and aft, crawled up the mountain road with the hardiest of Jeep CJs.

With a splendid view of Colorado's Rockies spreading out below me, I parked my car at the road's head and hiked about with my buddy Baron Theodore Von Beagle. We snapped some photographs. We howled at the wildlife. At dinner, we stoked up a fire, heated some baked beans, broke out the braunschweiger sandwiches, Coors Extra Gold and cooked s'mores while Billy Idol snarled from the cassette deck.

I was young, it was the '80s and nothing beat beagles, braunschweiger, Billy Idol and a night of atmospheric car camping.

Unless it was the surprise snowstorm that rocked the car all night, dropped the temperature into the 20s and laid 3 inches of fluff on the twisting, ancient railroad bed shelf road down which we had to beat our retreat.

No worries. We were prepped with extra food, a sleeping bag, blankets and a coffee can filled with emergency candles, cigarette lighters, a tin cup for melting snow into drinking water, aluminum foil, granola bars and flashlight, plus a gallon jug of water.

That's how we rolled in the Rockies, where snowstorms could strike any time and leave you on your own for a day or two. That's also how you should travel all winter in the Blue Ridge Mountains, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic.

"AAA urges motorists to have a winter weather kit in their car which can not only help to free the vehicle which may be stuck in the snow, but also to warn other motorists and keep the driver and passengers safe and warm," said Martha M. Meade, manager of public and government affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic.

Ms. Meade recommends packing an ice scraper, flares or reflective triangles, flashlight and extra batteries, jumper cables, something like cat litter or sand to toss beneath your tires when they spin, a shovel and a fully charged cell phone.

With the experiences of Thursday's snowfall behind us, Ms. Meade's recommendations make more sense. The biggest problem was slick streets, spinouts and ditched cars, which kept tow trucks busy. That's where the safety kit comes in handy.

The flares or reflectors could keep other drivers from slip-sliding your way.

The sand could help get you out of the ditch.

The blankets, water and non-perishable food could keep you warm, hydrated and happy until the authorities came to get you.

So heed Ms. Meade's advice and pack a few supplies in your trunk.

Then make some braunschweiger sandwiches and pack some Billy Idol CDs and not only will you survive, you'll party like it's 1985. -- 978-7271 To see more of The Daily Progress or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to Copyright (c) 2010, The Daily Progress, Charlottesville, Va. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For more information about the content services offered by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services (MCT), visit

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