The sled ride of my life
I notice that the last few winters in our area have been mild. Oh, we have had a snowstorm here and there but mostly the temperatures have stayed in the mid 30s and when it rained it would be a cold rain or sleet but not too much snow.
Growing up in Washington, the winters seemed to be colder and it seemed that we had more snowstorms in the winters that I remember.
The snowstorm that I remember fondly happened in 1952. My folks lived in District Heights, Md., which is in Prince Georges County and sits just out side of Washington D.C.
As a kid, I absolutely loved a surprise snowstorm. For some reason, I seem to remember them in vivid detail. Even as an adult, with all the associated inconveniences of an unplanned snow interruption, I still enjoy a good surprise snowfall.
In February of 1952, I was nine years old. As things go that snowstorm in February was just a minor one, which left less then six inches of snow on the ground. The worst snowstorm in the Washington Metro area was in February, 1899 when nearly 20 inches of snow fell on the Capital.
We lived in one of that prefab houses that sat on top of a long winding hill. At the bottom of the hill, the road intercepted into Marboro Pike, which was one of the major roads going to Andrews Air Force Base. Each winter when it snowed the road up to our house became impassable. The cars trying to make it up the long windy road could not make it past the first bend.
The road was just the ticket for sledding. Each year we would have a contest to see who could make it all the way down the road to Marboro Pike. The problem was to make the turn to the right and then a little further down a turn to the left, which would end up at the bottom of the hill.
In two years of trying, none of us had made the turn. This year the road was a little slicker due to an ice storm on top of the snowstorm. There were eight of us and we had only three sleds which meant that after each run we would have to make it back up to the top. That in it self was very tough to do.
It was starting to get dark when I took my turn. So far, we had only made it to the first turn in the road. Instead of trying to sled down on the right side I started on the left. As I begin to pick up speed I turned the handle a little to the right and slid sideways as I went around the first curve. The sled seemed to be picking up speed as I came to the second curve I shifted a little to the right and then to the left the sled almost flipped over but I kept going. As I came to the bottom of the street I begin to try and slow down but much to my horror, I don’t know what else to call it, I kept going out into Markoro Pike.
Because of the bad weather the road was almost deserted. As I looked to my left I saw a big snow plow coming. He was not going fast but to me he was speeding. Marboro Pick in those days was just a two-lane road. In a blink of an eye the sled was past the moving plow and I came to rest in a bank of snow on the other side of the road.
I was soaked and cold and climbed back up the hill. By the time I got home I was starting to shake. The warm house felt good. I did not tell my folks about my trip down that hill for several years even though I think my mother might have heard about it from another parent. For a few years after that, I was known as ‘Crazy Whipple’ who would try nearly anything. Needless to say that ride has stayed with me all these years. When I think of that sled ride so long ago it almost seems like it happened just yesterday.