What Are The Harshest Conditions You've Survived Driving Through?

Illustration for article titled What Are The Harshest Conditions Youve Survived Driving Through?
Photo: Justin Westbrook

The Jimmy John’s sandwich chain of restaurants trains all of its franchise store managers out of its headquarters location in Indiana. That’s why my best friend and myself were caught driving my rear-wheel-drive 2003 BMW 325ci on all-season tires across the country during 2014's so-called “Polar Vortex” storm, and reader, it was a journey.

I grew up in the South. Born in Tennessee, with stops in Arizona, Texas, Virginia, I finally aged into driving in North Carolina — so my winter driving experience was limited. I found myself working at a brand-new Jimmy John’s franchise after high school with my best friend at the time, and with some plotting, both of us were quickly hired to be the store’s new managers.

For training, the company pays for managers-to-be to travel — at the discretion of your franchise owner’s method of choice, hence me having to drive the entire way in my own car — to the company headquarters in the state of Illinois, where we went through a two-week training program.

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The drive up from our store in North Carolina was during the 2014 Polar Vortex storm, one of the worst in recent record, and I got a crash course in pulling out of driveways in second gear, catching the car in a drift (or dare I admit the occasional spin), and the creative art of just trying not to hit anything.

The worst of it was I loved that car and had a then-undiagnosed stress disorder, and was achingly worried I would total my baby the entire time. I also had to let my friend drive it on his own every day for work, which was like leaving your newborn with “Lisa” from the Accounting division while you make sandwiches. Fortunately, this was before I put 19-inch wheels on it, and it still had 16-inch wheels with some good rubber on them. My friend and coworker, who coincidentally grew up just across the state border in Wisconsin, had the time of his life driving my BMW when I let him, naturally.

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Photo: Justin Westbrook

Many people have terrible storms they’ve survived a treacherous journey through, so it’s time to share. This story from Jalopnik’s Mercedes told this morning I had to also share here:

I was at my favorite place in the world at the Illinois Beach State Park. As I enjoyed my day in the sand I spotted a massive storm brewing in the distance. Watching the opera that’s a building storm made my beach day even better, for awhile. However, I realized that strong storm was headed right this way.

Instead of driving home, I decided to give chase in my Smart Fortwo. The power of this storm was beautiful. Wind speeds were so high the rain was horizontal and the hail could be driven with a golf club. The car rocked in the wind but was amazingly unaffected by the drama happening outside. I followed the storm across state lines and even through towns with sirens blaring. My adventure only came to an end when I hit a flooded — but passable — road way too fast and ripped off my side skirts.

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Sounds like those people you see on the local news channel doing exactly what the newscaster is telling people not to. We love to see it.

What’s the most treacherous weather you’ve survived driving through?

Reviews Editor, Jalopnik

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Live in Minnesota, nasty cold and snow every winter. No Mountains though. This was up in the UP. We went snowboarding in Lake Effect. It sucked because it was so cold the snow was like sand