Storm driving: the base jumping of motorsport

I’ve got one eye on my sock drawer. The other is glued to the TV where the weather pundits are striking terror with news of the “storm of the season” barrelling east from Ontario and Quebec. It will “shut down” New Brunswick and most of Nova Scotia.

Of course this is not what I want to hear as I need to drive to Toronto to swap out a car and deliver a load of Christmas presents left behind by two of my daughters who live there. I have 48 hours to get to Toronto and, with Big White about to do its nasty, thought it prudent to get packed and get up the road.

The rationale is simple. I will be driving west and the storm will be blowing east, so if I make Fredericton, 465 kilometres away, the worst of the storm might blow through while I sleep the night away in a cosy hotel room. Safe. Not foolhardy. No problem.

I load my ride, a 2014 front-drive VW Passat TDI, with a mountain of bird houses, lamps, wall hangings, baking goods, pots and pans, then check the tire pressure on the grippy Continental snow tires and head out.

It’s well into the evening when I pull into the Big Stop in Salisbury, N.B. The fuel sipping 2.0-litre turbodiesel Passat still has lots of fuel, but Big White is starting to blow, so I fill up and grab a coffee. For a brief moment, I consider finding a hotel in Moncton, but hear myself mutter: “How bad can it be 150 kilometres away?”


Garrys ride, a 2014 front-drive VW Passat TDI, was entrusted with getting him through the storm of the season.

Garrys ride, a 2014 front-drive VW Passat TDI, was entrusted with getting him through the storm of the season.
Source: Garry Sowerby,

An hour later I’m crawling along at 20 km/h in whiteout conditions. I have not seen a car or truck in a half-hour and snowdrifts are building across portions of the Trans Canada Highway. A mantra is starting to haunt me: After all these years, is this the night I spend stranded on the road in a snowstorm?

Although the Passat is not an all-wheel-drive model, it is surprisingly composed and soldiers on. I set the destination on the navigation system to the Fredericton hotel and slowly count down from 87 kilometres. It becomes a game and keeps me from being too hard on myself for getting into such a predicament. At least it is a four-lane, divided highway with wide sloping shoulders.
Caution is the word as adrenalin hones my senses and I fight the fury of Big White that, at times, is nothing but a festering wall of white dancing in the headlights.

I recall drift-jumping stories my father regaled us with about battling school-day-off storms on the way back from jobs in northern New Brunswick. Then there was the time road crony Ken Langley and I were stopped for a closed road in at the New Brunswick/Quebec line. There was no going anywhere for two days and when the road finally opened, half the cars in the motel parking wouldn’t start because of the cold.

Only 41 kilometres to Fredericton now. Still no traffic but Big White is letting up and I feel the adrenalin subsiding.
“Hey, this could be a sport!” I’m getting irrational now, but it’s fun.

Storm driving! It will be the base jumping of motorsport. When the weather folks fearmonger the public, “storm driver” teams will charge through the weather bombs, nor’easters and Arctic vortexes in hopped-up rigs of all sorts and see how far they get.

Storm drivers will become mega media stars. Mattel will market storm driver dolls. The board game Monopoly will move over for Storm Driver. My daughter Lucy’s blog, Food & Games, will have to review the hot new Storm Driver video game.

The absurdity of this thought keeps my spirits up and about midnight, I finally arrive at the Fredericton hotel.

Early the next morning, I check the TV and the Trans Canada Highway through northern New Brunswick is open.

There are no warnings for drivers to stay off the roads so I get back at it. It’s not snowing, but there is virtually no traffic and the Passat rolls along on freshly plowed roads. I only see a few trucks over the next four hours as I drive slowly and enjoy myself.

The road is closed at the Quebec border. It has been since before sunrise that morning, but I have to wait for only a half-hour. The sky finally clears when I hit Quebec’s Highway 20 along the south shore of the Saint Lawrence River. Somehow I knew it would.

I have been on the road 24 hours including a six-hour stop to sleep.

That’s 18 hours of driving and I’m less than halfway there, but the VW Passat TDI beat Big White real good.

Sure. Big time storm driver.

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