This morning, I was that jerk whose 4-wheel drive didn’t save him

EDITOR’S NOTE: Neal Augenstein did finally manage to get on the road once the plows came through his neighborhood.

LOUDOUN COUNTY, Virginia — You know that annoying reporter who says “don’t drive if you don’t have to”?

Well, this morning I’m that jerk who figured, “Oh, I’ve got 4-wheel drive; it doesn’t matter that my street hasn’t been plowed yet.”

I had spent most of Sunday shoveling my driveway and digging my work SUV out of a 6-foot drift so I’d be ready for WTOP snow patrol.

My wife wondered aloud how I’d be able to get to work, since the plow hadn’t been down our subdivision street. I assured her my trusty work vehicle could bust through the snow so I could get onto the larger roads, which have been plowed.

Instead, within 40 feet of my driveway, I was grounded.

I grew up in Connecticut, where we know how to drive in snow, and where learning to “rock her back and forth” is a rite of passage, I was sure my Yankee finesse and the pure power of my monster truck (OK; it’s a Hyundai Santa Fe) would let me bust through, and I’d be on my way.

Umm, no.

Despite making sure my wheels were straight, rocking forward and back, accelerating lightly, accelerating strongly, I wasn’t moving, and I was starting to smell more car exhaust than I should.

So I turned off the engine and realized I was stuck.

On the upside, I wasn’t exactly stranded in remote wilderness. I could walk through my garage and be in my heated bathroom in 30 seconds.

On the other hand, I had to make the sheepish phone call to my boss and tell him I wasn’t able to be on the roads by 5 a.m. And I could envision the scorn of neighbors if a plow driver decided to skip our street because of the SUV stranded in the middle of it.

So there was only one solution — dig myself out, so I could retreat to my driveway.

According to my calculations, it wasn’t the slipperiness that was spinning my wheels — I had too much snow under the car’s frame.

It didn’t take long, but was a bit awkward, scooping as much snow as possible from under the car, and around the tires.

This time, when I started the car and shifted into reverse, I could feel momentum, which turned into movement, which turned into reversing through the snow, and backing into my driveway.


My neighbors will likely never know that I was stuck in the middle of our street at 4:30 in the morning, and that my car’s presence could have delayed the snowplow.

But, my wife knows,  and there’s no way she’ll let me forget it.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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