I know I said so just the other day, but this REALLY is The Winter We Got Snow! Wow! There's so much of the stuff now that I didn't get last night's chores done until 1:25 this morning and then didn't get to bed until 2:30 AM! Here's how the day went:
We'd planned to meet up with some friends in town and then head up to the one friend's new cabin (in progress) about 60 miles north of town. It was snowy and the driving was a little slow, but, with 4-wheel drive, it was nothing to worry about. We arrived at our destination, greeted by the s-t-e-e-p driveway which had been plowed fairly recently by the construction crew. So, despite the new, falling snow, we figured we'd try to crest it.
You know how you get into the situation where you've a-l-m-o-s-t made it . . . but DON'T . . . and then start to think, "Uh, oh"? Yup, that's what happened.
We were sooooo close to having made it up the steep hill when the wheels all lost traction and started spinning. Well, no problem: we'd apply the brakes and then gently back down the hill for another go. Except, when the driver applied the brakes . . . which stopped the spinning tires . . . which were actually keeping us IN PLACE if not moving us forward . . . we started sliding backwards. And picking up speed with ALARMING quickness! The driver turned around to look through the back window. With four humans and two dogs in the Jeep, all the insides of the back windows were coated in frost. She couldn't see a THING! As we all let out collective "Aaaaghhhh!"s (some more glee-filled [mine] than others), suddenly BUMP!, WHOOOOOSH!, s-l-o-w s-k-i-d . . . and stop. The Jeep had performed a graceful, accidental, near-perfect 180° within the confines of the steep, narrow driveway, and we were headed down hill! The driver put it into drive, and we easily drove back down the rest of the driveway to park - facing the right way!
So, fast-forward a couple of hours and we were walking back down the driveway and out to the snow-covered, waiting vehicle to take us to dinner and then home. We drove the 30-odd miles to the great restaurant we'd been anticipating all afternoon, seeing NOT ONE vehicle the entire way. After a GREAT meal complimented by a FABULOUS waitress (who brought us all free, homemade desserts), it was my turn to take the wheel. The day's falling snow had mounted up a bit, and there were no plows out. I took it slow - really slow . . . mostly out of apprehension from driving an unfamiliar car in poor driving conditions. (I was VERY surprised by how light and not-very-well-controllable-in-the-snow the Jeep Cherokee [?] felt - anyone else out there a Jeep owner who has experienced this . . . or was it just my imagination?)
Anyway, we'd been on Moose Look-Out all day, and, just as we approached a blind corner and I mentioned, "We always used to see moose right here" . . . there was a BEAUTIFUL bull just stepping off the far side of the road into the snow-laden pines!
The drive continued, uneventful but long. At one point, a voice piped up from the backseat, in imitation of a little kid on a long car ride, "Have we passed the lumber yard yet?" (The lumber yard being a good reference point on the long drive.) The windows were so fogged up that only the two in the front seats could see much of anything. While the temperature had been 10° when we were up at the cabin, the car thermometer showed it rising and rising as we neared town and Lake Superior (which always tempers the rise or fall of mercury) - it was in the mid to high 20s!
We arrived back into town, never having seen a county plow out, a bit to our surprise . . . especially on the last Saturday night of the Holly Daze. All the open paths that our friend had shoveled out earlier in the day at her house were now drifted in by the blowing snow. While the remaining three of us settled down to after-dinner bevvies, she headed out to fire up her sauna . . . re-shoveling the path to get there.
A lovely, laid-back evening ensued, the other three taking what they exclaimed to be a "perfect (temperature-wise) sauna" while I curled up in a corner of the big couch to sip tea and nap, trying to pacify an argumentative gall bladder.
At about 11:30, Tom and I headed out into the weather for the drive home. We weren't aware of how bad the weather had gotten while ensconced in a sauna and beneath blankets on a comfy couch, but it was BAD! FORTUNATELY, we'd stopped at our mechanic's on the way into town to trade the Yaris for the 1-ton pickup which was finally ready, leaving the tiny clown car for an oil change. So, we were driving the best weather-equipped vehicle in our fleet.
After gassing up and hitting the Night Deposit Boxes at both the bank and credit union, we were on our way: me at the wheel because now Tom wasn't feeling well (he's been battling something the last couple of days)!
It was the worst, most white-knuckle driving I have ever personally driven in and only the 2nd worst weather I have ever been in (that being a blizzard that Tom drove us through during our honeymoon in Iceland). By now, the storm was a full-blown, white-out blizzard: a Nor' Easter flying down from Canada across the lake.
The day's snow had been scrubbed across the highway to create ice. On top of that, the fine snow had been blown into hard waves which made the driving feel like we had 3 flat tires. Then, the howling winds and falling snow dizzied and blinded anyone trying to look out into it. All you could do was try to make out the snowbanks on the sides of the highway (often only being able to see - and barely! - one or the other) and keep it between those wind-scoured mounds. I don't think I was able to get it up to 30 MPH once during those 20 miles. We made a quick stop at our mechanic's on the way home again to put the Yaris keys (which we'd forgotten to leave the first time around) in the car. But, even given the shop's wide-open parking lot, I wasn't willing to leave the highway. So, I just stopped there right in the middle of the road while Tom ran the keys to the nearly buried car.
By now, we'd had to stop a couple of times in our drive for Tom to jump out and clear the snow and ice from the windshield. That's how hard it was coming down. Knowing the winds were howling off the lake, I couldn't wait to arrive at our turn-off which would take us due north away from the lake. I knew the conditions would be better then.
Were they? Well, yes and no. The sideways winds were gone - mostly - but the snow was deeper on the road and heavier. Much deeper.
As we slowly climbed the hills leading away from the lake, I could feel the truck slipping on the icy blacktop as the wheels churned through the deep snow. A friend of ours - gone for work (but not before telling us where the house keys were hidded) - lived at the end of the blacktop - right where the road turns to gravel. I turned to Tom and said, "Do you think we should stay at Big View's tonight?" He thought I was joking. I took that as a good sign of my driving: I'd obviously been hiding well how bad the conditions were! Too, as long as the snow wasn't TOO deep, I knew our traction would be better once we were finally off the blacktop and onto the snow-packed gravel roads. So, we drove over the gentle Ka-LUMP that indicates we've left the tar and plodded on.
For the first 7 miles, there were old, wind-blown tire tracks that I could still see to use for guidance. Past that, it was every (wo)man for him/herself. SEVERAL times, I had to slow to a near crawl (not much of a change from my driving speed, to tell you the truth) to get my bearings. Where was I on the journey, and where was I on the road? The cascading snow and wind gusts were making absolutely white-out conditions. But, by this point, the only direction there was to go was forward towards home. (Besides, what's life without a few adventures?!)
About a mile before the turn-off to our 4-mile winter driveway is a big, 90° curve. I was so blinded by the conditions that I had to ask Tom, "Have we gone around the big curve yet?" I couldn't tell WHERE we were! (And, he didn't know, either!) Finally, I saw the partially-covered yellow road sign indicating the corner and recollected my bearings, and soon we had left the main road and turned onto the entrance to our winter driveway.
Now, to tell the truth, this was the part of the drive I was most concerned about (once we'd left the ice-glazed highway and the possible need to share it with other blinded drivers . . . I think we did see 4 other cars). With snowmobiles cutting down the snowbanks on either side by riding on top of them . . . or jumping over them . . . I had limited direction of where the road actually was. And, with a snowmobile trail paralleling the road - with only a 2' span between it and the road in the widest of spots and NO delineation between the two in the worst - I couldn't tell where the hard road ended and the soft, 1-ton-pickup-trapping snowmobile trail began! About all I had was dead reckoning. On the up side, we were nearly home, and I knew we could easily walk those last 4 miles if we did get stuck (although it certainly wasn't the best of weather to be slogging through!).
So, on we went. Again, I had to stop from time to time to try to figure out WHERE we were. It's hard to drive by dead reckoning when you can't recognize the trees and landmarks around you!
Then, we hit the 2-miles-left mark. A much easier walk if we yet drove off the road.
One mile left. The windshield was getting covered again and the wipers weren't clearing my line of sight.
The forlorn plow left alongside the road from when we'd had to tow the pickup those two long weeks ago. "We'll be back to get you tomorrow," we promised!
The bridge. On a clear day in the winter, you can see the house from there.
Around the big corner (don't cut it too close to where [you think] the ditch is), u-u-u-p that last, slippery, chock-full-of-snow hill . . . and we MADE IT!!!! Wahooooo! We turned into our actual driveway. We were home. No walking required. No having to go back to pull the stuck truck out today. I unclenched my knuckles from the steering wheel, turned to Tom and said, "I think I'll go have a BIG Whisky-7 now!"
* * * * * * * *
I never did make it to that drink. Once I'd changed into my chore clothes and done my evening chores and Tom's - shoveling just to get INTO the chicken yard and then coop - it was about 2:00 AM. Tom got a reprieve from his chores since he was still NOT feeling well . . . but the poor guy will more than make up for it today with the massive amounts of shoveling and plowing that we need to do.
So, Happy Winter to you all! There's never a dull moment . . . and I wouldn't have it any other way! (However, I AM very, very, VERY glad that Tom's home for this particular snowstorm and not traveling as he's been in the past!)