Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Winter Arrives and It Is Good to Stay Home

Winter arrived today.  Well, technically, the calendar states that it is still autumn.  What I really need to say is that it snowed today, and it has been very cold.  It feels like winter.  On days like today, retirement is appreciated more than ever.  I spent the day working at my desk.  As I gazed out the window all I could see was white.  The earth and the sky seemed to have blended into one color.  The sameness of the scene outside my window was disrupted as I noticed a huge buck walk past.  He was covered with snow and seemed to just be out taking a walk through the neighborhood without his entourage of doe.  I guess he wanted a bit of peace and quiet.  

I admit I get a bit jaded and cynical when it snows.  The news stations only seem to report one story after the other about what to do if you are out in the snow.  There are stories about how to drive in snow, stories about making sure your pipes don't freeze, and stories about keeping the sidewalks cleared.  I want to say, "Come on people, we live in Colorado. We are in the mountains.  Learn to drive in it or move."  

I recently wrote on facebook that I was grateful that my father taught me how to drive in the snow.  We lived in Leadville, Colorado when I learned to drive.  Leadville has an elevation of 10,152 feet.  According to wikipedia, Leadville has an average of 142.7 inches of snow in a year.  I've seen it snow on the 4th of July in Leadville.  So, living in the mountains of Colorado meant that it was essential to learn to drive in the snow.  

When I was in college, my father was once driving me home on roads that were snow packed and icy.  With no other cars in sight, he stopped the car on a patch of black ice.  He then told me to get out of the car, walk to the driver's side, bend down and touch the ice, and then take over as driver.  He wanted me to see just how slick the black ice was.  He wanted me to remember that I should expect black ice when I was driving in winter conditions.  He also taught me how to navigate mountain passes in snow by using my gear shift to slow the vehicle down.  He insisted that I learn to drive down a mountain pass without using my brakes.  His words of advice about never relying on my brakes when driving in the mountains still ring in my head when I drive mountain passes.  I think his advice has saved my life a few times when I have driven over what seemed to be totally impassable snow covered roads.  

A few years ago, my husband and I were caught in a terrible snowstorm on Monarch Pass.  When we started up the pass, we knew a storm was on the way, but I hoped we could get over the mountain before the thrust of the storm hit the hardest.  I insisted on driving since my husband does not drive in the snow.  Unfortunately, we were caught in the worst of it.  As we ascended the pass, the thick driving snow made it nearly impossible to see more than a few feet ahead of us.  The storm hit fast and hard.  Soon, I was forging my own path through the snow.  Beneath the thick blanket of snow, the road was covered with ice which made the travel even more treacherous.  Trucks and cars were sliding backwards as they tried to climb the mountain.  I shifted the automatic transmission into low gear and keep on going.  I loved my trusty Subaru that day.  

This photo was not taken by me, but it was taken on Monarch Pass.  This give you an idea of the conditions I am describing with this post.  
My husband sat beside me wringing his hands.  Occasionally, he would make a sound that would startle me.  With my heart racing from all the adrenaline I had running through my system, I turned to him and said, "Stop making me nervous.  Don't say a thing.  Don't make sound.  Just shut-up and let me drive."  I wasn't very nice, but I needed all my concentration on the road with no interruptions from my passenger.  

Finally, we got to the top of the pass.  The snow was at least two feet deep in places, and the wind was blowing.  It was hard to find the road.  I pulled off to where I knew a parking lot should be and stopped the car and rolled down the window.   My husband asked what I was doing.  I said, "I am cooling down and calling up my courage so I can drive us down the other side of the mountain."  In someways, I felt more confident going down the mountain than I had been while going up the mountain.  Going up, the sheer cliffs on the side of the road seemed very scary when I saw the cars around me sliding backwards.  Going down, I felt I would have more control over my traction and speed by using my gear system.  Whispering a little thank you to my Daddy, who had passed away a few years earlier, and who had taught me how to drive in snow and in the mountains, I pulled out onto the highway and headed down the mountain.  

We made it home safe and sound.  I made a promise that day to myself.  I promised myself that I would never again knowingly put myself in the position of driving over a mountain pass in the snow.  I had done so for over forty years as I traveled back and forth over the Continental Divide to be with either my parents or my children during the holidays.  I made up my mind that I was getting to old to do this kind of driving anymore.  

Unfortunately, I haven't kept that promise.  There was a trip to Utah in a snowstorm across Wyoming a few years back that made me wonder if I had lost my mind for heading out when a storm was on the way.  We made to our destination that time also.  I wondered if we would at one point as we slid sideways across an icy bridge in Rock Springs, Wyoming.  As I began the drive across the bridge, I realized too late I was driving too fast.  It was covered with black ice.  (I forgot my father's teaching for a moment.)  Other cars were sliding all around me.  The bridge began to look like a bumper car area.  
There was nothing I could do but slide along in the car and hope we didn't get hit, didn't hit the side of the bridge, and that I didn't somehow roll the car on its top or side.  Cars on either side of me seemed to just move out of my way as I slid out of control.  To this day, I have no idea how the car came to a stop, but it did stop just before it would have hit the bridge.  I was able to again head the vehicle in the right direction, and drive off the bridge in one piece.  Perhaps it was an answer to the prayer I screamed out asking that angels surround us and protect us.  I'm pretty sure it was an answer to one of those "foxhole" prayers that I shot up.

So, today, it has been good to sit in my nice warm house and not venture out when the snow flies.  As I said, I am grateful for retirement.  While I know how to drive in wintery conditions, it would take an emergency for me actually take to the roads and travel out of town when the weather gets snowy and icy.  I had to laugh when I saw this quote by  Kelly Armstrong regarding winter:  

“It reminded me of what Dad said after every snail’s crawl home from
Albany when snow hit.“It’s New York, people. It’s winter. We get snow. If you aren’t prepared
to deal with it, move to Miami.” ~ Kelley ArmstrongDangerous

I'm not moving to Miami.  I'm not even moving to Phoenix even though at times I would like to.  Instead, I will stay where I am: inside.  It is nice to be an armchair expert on being prepared for winter at this stage in my life.  Tomorrow, if it remains snowy and icy, I plan on doing much of what I did today:  read, write, cook a tasty beef stew, bake cookies, and give thanks for a husband who braves the snow and takes the dog out for a walk.  

26 comments:

The Furry Gnome said...

After that story, I understand why you enjoy being able to stay inside!

thisisme said...

What a great post today my friend. I am so glad that you haven't got to go out in the snow today. You have done more than your share of snow driving I would say! You are right of course, that if you live in areas where you get a lot of snow, you must learn to drive in those conditions, and your dad obviously taught you well! I am grateful that we don't get snow very often in Devon where I live and, if we do, I am fortunate that I do not have to go out and drive in it anyway. Yes, I too am happy to be retired! Keep warm Sally.

rosaria williams said...

Lord, I so admire those people who can drive in the snow. I'm not one of them; so, I try to keep quiet and let my husband do the driving whenever we need to go over the mountains with snow falling. Fortunately for us, winters here are quite mild compared to what you experience.

BLissed-Out Grandma said...

Great description of driving through an icy mountain pass. Flat roads are bad enough. We had to go across town for a medical appointment yesterday. It was slip-and-slide all the way. There were 500 accidents in our metro area yesterday. Thank heavens we weren't one of them, but we came very close about six times. Like you, I'm not driving anywhere unless I have to.

Jeanie said...

I have also experienced those heart stopping drives through the mountains in a storm. I'm not sure I did it with your skill but fortunately, despite a few close calls, I made it through.
Being able to stay in and stay warm in this weather is certainly a blessing.

Jean said...

I've driven many times in snowy conditions, but I suspect I'm not the driver you are. I also appreciate staying safe at home since retiring. That said, I hope we get snow in this part of Maine before long. I need a White Christmas.

Olga said...

Oh, boy, I found it scary to drive some of those western mountain passes in dry conditions! My dad also taught me to drive in all kinds of conditions and to this day I still feel him sitting in the car with a calming presence when travel gets hairy.

DJan said...

Oh, I know Rock Springs, Wyoming, all too well. Many times coming home from Arizona to Colorado, we would need to stop there because the weather was so bad. You are so courageous! And smart to realize that it's not safe out there, Sally. Love you!

Sandi said...

Oh Sally! What a great post! I haven't had nearly as many opportunities to drive in the snow, as we have to go looking for it around here and sometimes it's just too much trouble. But, my dad also made good use of the opportunity to teach me how to drive in it, as the year I learned to drive we had a heck of a winter.
I laughed out loud at you telling your husband to hush and just let you drive.
This year I'm praying for snow to drive in with my new Subaru!
Big hugs to you!

Linda Reeder said...

I'm impressed. Here in the PNW, west of the mountains, we don't get enough snow for most of us to be experienced in driving in it, so when it snows here, it's a mess. That and we have hills everywhere and very little snow removal equipment.

troutbirder said...

Great post, Sally. I'm convinced winter mountain driving is the worst. Yes we have dangerous blizzards here on the flatlands of the Midwest and they are bad enough but sliding down a mountain.... no thanks.

Terri Tiffany said...

Oh wow. You had me on the edge of my chair through your story. I'm sitting here too looking out the window at our fresh snow feeling very thankful I don't have to go anywhere today. I hate driving in snow and did slide once years ago. After living in Florida for 12 years I have a healthier and maybe not so good fear of snow now. I could never do what you did. Wow again!

Friko said...

Phew!
For once I cannot say I was right there with you. No thanks. We don’t get snow like that and I would never set out in such weather either. all appointments are cancelled. Our hills are low compared to your mountains, but still I’m not prepared to try them. On top of it, no one in the UK ever has winter tyres or snow tyres.

You were a very brave lady and your description of the drive over the pass had me holding my breath.

Isabelle said...

Well, I don't think I'd ever get in the car in winter if I lived where you do! Argh. Stay safe!

Jeanie said...

I love the bumper cars photo -- what a perfect analogy to driving on ice.

We're in the South -- missed the ice storm in TN yesterday as we left in plenty of time on the road. But it's cold as all get out here and I wouldn't be surprised if there is more to come. We leave Monday -- hopefully all clear by then!

I'm so glad you know the ice tricks. I'm not sure I could do that well!

dkzody said...

Oh, the thought of driving in the snow makes me crazy. I'm glad it doesn't snow here. YOu are a brave woman and a good driver. I would be happy to ride with you and keep my mouth shut.

Dee said...

Dear Sally, a wonderful post to read today here in Missouri where we expected a big snowstorm and got only a dusting. But the day is cold and the wind chill colder. And I'm ensconced in my home, putting up the Christmas tree, listening to carols, and sipping hot chocolate. I so agree with you about retirement.

But unlike you, I am not a confident winter driver. In fact, I'm a sissy. I didn't learn to drive until I was 36 and that was in Dayton. Rike's a department store there had a driver's ed course and I took it and got my license. But there was no instruction about snow and ice. So I'm a neophyte.

Even living for 38 years in Minnesota didn't teach me much of anything about driving in winter weather. I really am a sissy! Peace.

Perpetua said...

Heavens, Sally, your account of driving over that pass had me on the edge of my seat! I hate driving in snow, as so often we don't get enough in the UK to be able to practise properly. In fact for over 15 years from the early 1990s we hardly had any snow at all in most of the country, though recent winters have been harder. Also, as Friko says, we just don't have winter or snow tyres as mostly we have no need for them.

As far as I'm concerned winter starts on December 1st as that's when the meteorologists say it does. :-)

Linda Myers said...

If we come to visit you in the winter, YOU get to drive, okay?

Kay said...

Oh my goodness, Sally. I got tense just reading this post! Yikes! We've had to drive in snow when we lived in Illinois and it's always scary, but at least it's flat. Sheesh! You are a brave woman.

Betsy Adams said...

Yipes… I'm one who has never even seen a lot of snow very many times--muchless driven in it. The few times I have had to drive in snow/ice, I was scared to death…. SO--guess I'd better keep living down here in the south… ha

Had a nice service for Dad Adams yesterday --and got to see many old friends and family members. We also enjoyed a family lunch together. Dad is in a better place now… Thanks be to God.
Hugs
Betsy

Mage said...

Yes, inside is wonderful stuff when the roads are ice.

Vagabonde said...

That sounds like such a scary trip over the mountain. I learnt to drive in Paris but never had to drive with snow. While living in Philadelphia there was a snow storm once and I drove our VW Beetle at 10 miles per hour and was so scared. Here, in Georgia, when it snows, everything stops and there are many accidents. It is good that you can just stay indoors and be safe. I’d like to see some snow this year though – have not seen any here in two years now.

Cape Cod Kitty said...

Oh, my, Sally, you've had some scary drives. Staying in is just fine.
The worst drive I ever had in snow was on the new York Thruway. Blinding snow for endless miles, and trucks either speeding by us or flying off the road around us into ditches. What a mess and there was no where to stop so we just had to keep going.
In talking with my sister last night, you've certainly had some very severe winter weather the past week out there. She's had some awful drives to work.
We had snow yesterday and I was so happy to drive the one mile home and be in the warm house.
I must say i did love getting up and seeing the winter wonderland this morning and all the trees sparkly from ice. Roads were clear for me to drive to work as the sun lit things up even more.
Take care....may the rest of your winter be mild.

Deb Shucka said...

I loved reading about your driving in the snow. Such a gutsy and strong woman you are! Glad you're enjoying this winter in a warmer safer manner. Hope your holiday preparations are going well, and that you have a wonderful magical time, whatever your plans. Sending lots of love to you.

Maggie May said...

Oh, I'd be useless in all that snow. I can only put up with it on pictures. Looks lovely but can be treacherous.
I don't blame you for sitting behind your desk and letting it pass. The question is....... how long is it likely to last?
Maggie x

Nuts in May