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Space Travel

Predictions of a Thanksgiving-week snowstorm stranding a family member from California at our house put me behind the wheel on Saturday for the nearest grocery, 45 minutes west in Morgantown, W. Va.

Some people would consider our isolation a pain. But, we rely largely on local sources for the food we don’t grow ourselves, so big shopping trips in “town” are infrequent. But, with the growing season over, the larder runs a little low to board a visitor for a week.

Provisioning complete and headed home, the first snowflakes hit the windshield while ascending Cooper’s Rock, the one high pass on I-68 outside Morgantown.

Then: three cars in the grass; one on its top, doors open, with people standing outside; and a column of red tail-lights stacking in front of me. Something blocked both lanes a half-mile ahead.

The road surface on the mountain’s down-hill, windward side was sheer ice. Applying the brakes, I was instantly in a Weather Channel video — tractionless, rudderless, out-of-control — gliding past another half-dozen cars off in the median while maybe 30 others, spaced-out, crowded me, all in slow-motion. Edging to the shoulder, I used the rumble strip to slow my momentum, and everyone worked to not over-compensate and lurch into another’s path. Miraculously, no one hit anyone.

We sat for 20 minutes in heavy snow before cars started to inch ahead, now on pavement where idling had melted ice. Apparently, someone had slid across both lanes, without a collision. In 10 minutes, the column was moving, losing elevation, and in 10 minutes more, cars were back to highway speed.

Not for long, however. At every exposed hill-top, treachery ensued.

Petrified, I opted to exit and go cross-country on a small highway. It was just as slick. Twenty-five miles from home, my fear became meeting someone as they braked going down-hill.

So, two hours into the return, I elected a frightful gravel road for the last 6 miles — figuring there’d at least be traction.

Winemakers rarely drink spirits, but honestly, at home, I took rye straight from the bottle.

Small Biz Buzz Best Buy — Domaine de Bernier 2011 Chardonnay (Val du Loire, France). There really isn’t a wine like this anywhere in the world except France, and especially unique is that it’s a variety from a region known for something else (Melon de Muscadet). The unusual terroir alongside the ocean imprints this beautiful wine with a Muscadet-like character: a smell of sea-shells, with a tart, mouthwatering freshness that instantly brings to mind clams, shrimp, raw oysters. Then, a twist of lemon flavor, with a crisp but captivating finish, like a baby Chablis, and voila… you’re transported for the evening. It’s just simply beautiful. $11.