On the Road with Ross: Driving in the Winter

Ann Kendall avatar

by Ann Kendall |

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(Photo by Brad Dell)

Lately, I’ve spent a lot of time driving on Interstate 95.

I barely like driving across town, let alone spending eight or more hours a week on one of the most congested stretches of highway in America. But I’ve joined the legion of long-distance commuters on the East Coast. Several days a week, I prepare for battle on multiple fronts — trucks, insane speeds, impaired drivers of all sorts, and my ultimate nemesis, the weather.

No level of preparation can assuage all situations on the road. No latte, seat warmer, or spectacle prescription empowers you to hurtle 70 mph down a straight stretch of road with drivers who either have a death wish or nary a care in the world.

My husband recently asked if I ever have time to think during these sojourns. I’m usually too afraid for my life to think about anything of substance. But I realized during my next commute that I reflect in the few quiet moments. Sometimes it’s when I first get into the car. Sometimes it’s when I’m preparing to accelerate onto a ramp. And sometimes it’s between mile markers when traffic dissipates for the briefest of interludes.

What do I think about? Plenty. But every time I am on the road, I think of Ross Pfann, my high school horticulture teacher.

Driving lessons with Ross

In high school, I traveled as part of our FFA team, competing in what we fondly called “dead stick competitions.” Believe me, somewhere out there a high school student is preparing for a floriculture or horticulture competition, learning the most obscure and rare facts about a twig that may or may not be alive.

Weekend competitions led to plenty of time in a 15-passenger van on two-lane highways — or, as I think of it, driving lessons with Ross.

Ross previously taught driver’s ed — his gray hair highlighted that fact. He was all about preparation and frequently reminded us that winter driving requires heavy gloves (for chain application and removal) and a sleeping bag (better than a blanket for body heat if you’re trapped in the snow on a mountain pass for five hours). His most enduring lessons involve water, which I remember every rainy drive.

Hydroplaning and hemophilia

Hydroplaning: that moment when your wheels leave the ground in a terrifying yet angelic adrenaline rush. You’re temporarily suspended, floating above the pavement yet desperate to reconnect.

The fix: Gently steer your vehicle into the watery skid. Slowly remove your foot from the pedal, and ease yourself into a glide that takes you beyond the soppy plane.

Hemophilia is the terrifying yet angelic suspension. The road to getting a diagnosis and living with a bleeding disorder is the hydroplane. Sunshine comes in the form of a friend’s compassion, a colleague who empathizes, or a column that honors and acknowledges your family’s struggle.

Ross had no idea, I’m sure, that his driving lessons would prepare his dead twig identifying students (a rarity among high school students, both then and now) for life with a rare disease. But I hear him in my head. My daughter does, too, every time she’s in the car with me when it rains. “Ross would say steer into it, Mom!”

If only I can remember that the next time I call about our insurance.


Note: Hemophilia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Hemophilia News Today or its parent company, Bionews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to hemophilia.


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