Ben's Babbles: I'll leave the spinouts to the pros, thank you very much

January 21, 2012

I grew up wanting to be an astronaut. Or a baseball or basketball player. I don't think rally car driver was amongst them. And after Sunday, it still probably won't be.

As I was returning to Hood River Sunday night I passed through a snowstorm between Corbett and Multnomah Falls. Then the snow gave way to clouds, and the clouds to clear skies as I traveled east of Cascade Locks.

I was thinking to myself how easy this trip wound up being considering I was expecting snow the whole way.

Then as I came down the hill just west of Mitchell Point, I looked down at my odometer. I was speeding up, and I didn't have my foot on the gas. Nor did I seem to have much control of the car.

I was on black ice.

I slid toward the ditch on the right side of the road, corrected, and then hit another patch.

The result of that was a 540-degree spin. I just missed the center divide once, and then missed it again on the next spin around and wound up facing the wrong way on the freeway.

It's funny what goes through your mind as the world spins. My first thought was to wonder which way you turn in an ice skid, with it or against it (go with the skid). Then as I saw the center divider slide past my windshield my next thought was: "Oh come on, I just paid to have the windshield replaced; can we not do this today?"

Thankfully, the oncoming semi was far enough away that it was able to go around, as were the three cars behind it. I was able to pull a three-point turn, remove myself from the cloud of burned rubber smoke, and get home.

I saved any thanks to my guardian angels until after I was already home; I figured anything more than a brief "Thanks" while sitting on the highway would be inviting another semi to come along.

At least now I?can say I've done a spinout in my car. It may not have been in victory lane, but hey, we take what we can get.

I have now driven alongside an actual rally car driver, Ken Block, and done a semi-decent ice impression of it myself.

Now about that professional baseball contract, or astronaut training ...

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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