What's The Scariest Place You've Ever Had To Drive?

Gif: YouTube

Things look really dicy on the roads of Texas and Oklahoma right now. We truly hope our southern friends are staying safe and staying home. The footage online of trucks sliding around helpless on side streets and freeways reminded me of a trip I took many years ago: I was on my way to Michigan Tech University to attend Winter Carnival, a huge outdoor party in the middle of one of the coldest and snowiest towns in Michigan, Houghton-Hancock. I was driving my 2004 Saturn Ion which is not a vehicle known for its handling in the snow. And there was a lot of snow. Houghton happens to be way up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, a good 10-hour drive from Detroit. It is also the only town in Michigan that has some seriously steep streets. Also also, some of these steep streets terminate at a huge drop off into a river. This can cause a whole lot of problems, as you can see here in this video that seems to makes its rounds every winter:

While driving in Houghton-Hancock in the winter is terrifying the absolute worst part is, before you can even make it to Houghton, you have to drive something called the Seney Stretch; a rail-straight 25-mile stretch of M-28 Highway that runs right through a swampy nature preserve. Not only is it the most boring drive in the whole state, but it’s also pretty dangerous. You’re a long way from any service station or help, cell phone service (at least back then) was atrocious and it was a very deserted stretch of highway. It could be hours before anyone came across your car should anything happen, and that’s if they can find it in the blowing snow. The lack of buildings or trees surrounding the Stretch means when the snow gets going (as it did when I went to Carnival) you can’t see a foot in front of your headlights. Thankfully it’s so straight that you can basically figure out where you’re going. Any time I was behind the wheel that weekend, I was white-knuckling it until I reached Flint and civilization.

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All of this to drink outside in the middle of winter. The things dumb kids do for fun. I would drive in Iceland again before tackling Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in winter. Anyway, what about you? What was the diciest drive you have ever had to handle?

Managing Editor of Jalopnik.

DISCUSSION

The minefield between Mauritania and Morocco / Western Sahara is quite tense the first time you drive through it. Stay on the soft sand - if you think you see a road surface, that’s more likely to have landmines.

In terms of other road users, pre-revolutionary Libya was pretty terrifying. It had the heady mix of (A) lots of overloaded 50-year-old trucks with no lights &c., plus the occasional donkey-cart, and (B) plenty of fast cars driven by people who have absolutely no respect for road markings or signals, and (C) random roadblocks manned by police who had a fearsome reputation. In other parts of the world you can find A or B or C but this was the only place I found all three, and they mix about as well as oil & water. There were even some folk who’d wired up their brake and indicator lights to flash like christmas trees, perhaps with some new colours added, so you could never be sure whether they’re turning, or stopping, or maybe they’re police who’ll drag you off to a secret prison if you don’t stop, or maybe they’re just having a party, who knows?