Blizzard Diary: 2011 Lexus RX450h

Cheers to the RX450 hybrid, our winter comrade. Lexus’s site reports that its traction control system “improves straight-line control in rain, snow or ice.” We had all three for three straight days of driving. Its GPS located snowed-out roads in rural Vermont (and directions in Montreal’s defiant non-grid).

On Boxing Day an easterly gale swept slowly across the continent. Freezing rain in fine hard needles incessantly spat down unrelenting for 18 hours. Lucky us, we drove east, stopping to visit relatives overnight twice, allowing the blizzard to catch up and envelope us regularly.

The trek
We slid from picturesque Huronia south to the ugly 401. This Highway of Heroes is a tedious drive at the best of times. Marry it with holiday traffic and a storm declaring God’s vengeance and you get an emotional first: drawn-out bored panic. We stopped overnight first in Napanee (home of Sk8tergrrl) then Montreal.

Day 3: Visibility was crap to nil
Our destination was Jay Peak, a ski resort in Vermont. Rain became driving sleety snow — winds charged up to 50mph. What should have been a two-hour drive from Montreal became four.

The aforementioned TRAC feature kicked in regularly, braking spinning tires, straightening us. The RX450’s all-wheel drive saved us several times — but this feature doesn’t make drivers invincible. SUVs full of baffled urban skiers littered the ditches of Highway 105, stretching the local emergency authorities’ capacities.

6pm: It all came to a halt in the dark
Three miles from our final destination (a postcard chalet near the resort) after three days of driving, the weather finally stumped us on a severely inclined two-lane highway. Four cars had spun out on black ice, blocking all traffic. On this precarious windy perch, cars idled single file, hazards blinking like worried Christmas trees.

This same storm had left drivers in other sections of the country marooned for over twelve hours. Thankfully, the cops cleared this inaccessible mess within one.

7pm: Finalement
I didn’t notice the first beer but savoured the second while removing luggage. Jay Peak sells its own locally brewed ale.

Cheers! We toasted the Lexus RX450h. Without it, that may have been ‘bottom’s up.’

Next column: part II.

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