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2-wheel drive adventures: paying it forward

Published: Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013 11:58 a.m. CST

Back in the fall of 2010, my dad and I had one thing in mind as we browsed the used car lots of northern Indiana in search for a vehicle properly equipped to brave Iowa winters: four-wheel drive.

As the oldest of four and perhaps not the most sensible driver, he’d saved me from effectively stranding myself with everything from late-night flat tires to ill-advised winter donuts in subdivision cul-de-sacs.

He’d heard horror stories of Iowa winters and even experienced an April snow on my parents’ wedding day in northwest Iowa 24 years ago, so he realized the importance of this feature on whatever car I’d soon head west in.

Two days and hours of haggling later, we’d brought the price down on a compact SUV to a near steal, and although it looked like it could perhaps take on the snowiest of midwestern Decembers, it, alas, was but equipped with a two wheel drive train and a puny four-cylinder engine – two things that served me just fine until Wednesday morning.

After spending the better part of five years in central Iowa, I tend not to be too wary or cautious of winter storm warnings – to me, the kind of weather outside your windows today in Newton is the norm, not the exception – so when I heard warnings about Tuesday night’s blizzard (or, per the Weather Channel, “Winter Storm Magnus”) roll in, I shrugged it off.

Perhaps, had I heeded the warnings and maneuvered my vehicle a bit more carefully, I wouldn’t have found myself hopelessly stuck in a snowbank along the sqaure in the early hours of Wednesday morning. I tried to remember what my dad had taught me – rock back and forth to gain a little traction, dig out from under the front tires – to no avail. I must have looked like enough of an idiot trying to back out, however, as two passerbys stopped to help.

“Want me to push you out?” hollered a man in a white pickup. I sucked up my pride, realizing the possibility of me pushing an SUV out of a snowdrfift was probably a slim one, and accepted his offer. With the help of a second man passing by, we were able successfully counteract my dismal winter driving skills.

As you can probably assume, my experience yesterday was not a unique one. From the Love’s Truck Stop on the east side to the stoplight at Highway 14 and South 12th Avenue West on the west side, I noticed not only temporarily stranded motorists, but people equipped with tow straps and pickup trucks stopped to lend a hand.

Part of me wants to extend a thank you to these – at least in my case – mystery snowstorm Good Samaritans. Another part of me, however, wasn’t at all surprised by their prevalence: I grew up surrounded by Midwest hospitality, and it was out in full force yesterday.

Both witnessing this and experiencing it firsthard made me think to myself, maybe it’s my turn to pay it forward and pass it along. The next time the opportunity arises, you can bet I’ll be looking to do the same thing two strangers did for me – although I can’t guarantee that I’ll have the strength to help pull your car out of a ditch.