The March 2008 issue of Down East features seven skills that are essential to making the most in Maine (click here
to buy the issue).
Here are three additional ones that we think are pretty important, especially in the dog days of winter." Shovel Snow
Flinging snow from your driveway may seem simple enough but it's actually a serious workout. And it provides you with plenty of opportunities to hurt yourself - according to the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission, 31,000 people were treated for snow-shoveling-related injuries last year. (That probably doesn't include the back strains and hamstring pulls of Maine, where people are often loathe to go to the doctor.) Get yourself prepared before venturing out by doing a few stretches. Touch your toes, bend side to side and bend backward to limber your lower back. Then don the body armor of a Maine winter, and grab a decent shovel, preferably a long and light one with a bent arm. You might consider using silicon spray on the blade to prevent snow from sticking and weighing down the shovel. If you have trouble shoveling heavier snow, get started early and make a couple of passes on the job rather than trying to do it all at once after the storm is over. If the storm looks likely to change over to rain or ice, clear the walkway before it does, so you'll be lifting powder rather than heavy wet snow. Push snow rather than lift the stuff wherever possible. And for goodness sake use your legs to do the work rather than your back." Make a Ready Kit (for the Car)
Maine is still a rural state, thank goodness, which means that if you break down on some backroad somewhere you never know when help may come along. Which is why it's essential for Mainers to have emergency kits in their cars. These can be purchased commercially from places like AAA or at your local auto parts or hardware store, but you can also go to Reny's or Marden's and fashion one of your own. It should include at least the following: a basic first aid kit; matches or a lighter; blankets, 1 wool, 1 space; poncho, hat, and mittens; jumper cables; flashlight and batteries; electrical tape; rope or bungees; kitty litter or salt; and a collapsible shovel. Other good ideas include a flashing beacon, playing cards, bottled water (leave room for it to expand when it freezes), and nonperishable food items. This all sounds like a lot but if packed compactly it doesn't take up much space at all - and it could mean the difference in a dire situation." Drive on Snowy Roads
The keys to safe winter driving are no big secrets. Most are as obvious as a cracked windshield. Give yourself extra time to get where you're going; stay alert at all times; make sure you scrape all the windows on the car; don't tailgate; and the biggie - go easy on that accelerator. This last is the number one culprit for problems on snow and ice. "On dry roads, speed is cited for about 6.5% of [accidents]," says the DOT's Duane Brunell. "For crash reports related to wintry conditions - unsafe speed is noted as a factor in about 35% of [cases] - a strong indication that we don't slow down enough when road surfaces are less than perfect." To avoid becoming a statistic yourself. Make sure you have snow tires - and get four. They have deeper grooves than all-weather tires to better throw snow, and they are made of softer materials so they grip the road more surely. Put some kitty litter in your trunk - it'll be handy if you get stuck and adds weight (which is especially helpful if you have a rear-wheel-drive vehicle). When you head out, turn your lights on to make yourself more visible to other vehicles. Shifting on level ground will help you both ascending and descending hills. Do everything as gradually as you can. Brake gently and avoid applying the brake on curves, and if you find yourself losing control, it's better to steer out of it than brake out of it. Give yourself at least triple the space you would normally when following behind other vehicles. And assume the other drivers on the road are maniacs, giving them as much room as you can. The DOT's Brunell has one last piece of advice: "Before you head out determine whether you really need to make the trip." If you really do, he recommends a visit to the DOT's travel information service - www.511maine.com
- to check road conditions.
Illustrations by David Jacobson.