Snow or Summer Which Shall It Be?

The Lord gave me a huge gift this week-end, He routed the predicted snow storm away from Frankfort. We did have snow, cold, and wind but the inches of snow and ice did not get here. I”m sure somewhere north of us the situation is different. As a kid I loved snow, I couldn’t get enough of it. Snow  meant building snow men or snow forts, snowballs, and snowball wars. It meant sledding down hills and rolling off at the bottom. It meant getting so covered in the white stuff that our pants would be frozen stiff from the knees down. It also meant getting sick with sore throats, and fevers. If we were lucky we’d have some frozen ponds and then we could add ice skating to the fun.

As an old man, I love to look at snow, but despise having to go out into it. It means being cold, or getting the car stuck, and of course it means shoveling walks and driveways clear. It means parking a car is harder, and walking through piles of it from the car is a chore. I would much rather be in a warm sunny climate where snow is something that makes the mountain look pretty. One of my not favorite pastimes is shoveling the drive clear after the Village plow comes by cleaning the street and deposits the street snow onto my newly cleared driveway.

I love sitting in my nice warm house looking out at the bird feeder watching the birds as they feed in a frenzy. I also love seeing tracks made by the squirrels, raccoons, and deer. It is rare to see the actual animals but they are there because after a week the back yard looks like a children’s playground with all the tracks they leave.

Photography in the snow is another favorite passion for an old guy. Winter scenes are among the most beautiful on planet Earth, they project peacefulness and purity.

I guess there is a balance between what I like about snow, and what I don’t like about snow, and I am neutral to it, and if I get really tired of it, I’ll pile onto an airplane to fly to a southern climate. The problem with moving to a warmer climate is that my ass is too firmly rooted in Illinois with family and friends. I recall when I spent the winter months in Arizona with Peg experiencing a strange emotion that something was not right in the Valley of the Sun, I missed snow. Now that is crazy isn’t it? I found having endless days of sunshine without dark cloudy, rainy days boring. I did enjoy not having to bundle up to take a walk. I also enjoyed the greenery and the colorful flowers, but deep inside me there was this nagging feeling that I was out of place there.

Then the days began to get warm, I mean hot. By the end of April ninety degree days were the norm and we had an occasional hundred degree day. The greenery began to turn brown, and It was time to come home. In my mind I envisioned greenery, and colorful flowers and warm, not hot, sunny days. We loaded up and drove home, only to find it still cold, still freezing at night, and mountains of snow piled in parking lots. It would be another eight weeks before we hit the hot humid days of an Illinois summer.

All I can say at this point is that living in midwestern USA prepares one for every type of weather experienced on the planet.

The Good Old Days?

Oh the weather outside is frightful
But the fire is so delightful
Since we’ve no place to go
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow . . .

Today, Peg and I sat and watched the snow blowing outside our front window. We commiserated about winters past. My thoughts returned to 1961 the first winter I had as a married man. Barbara and I rented a three room apartment in Chicago on West 87th Street. The front of our house faced the border between Chicago and suburban Hometown, Illinois. We both worked and had long commutes. My drive(11.4 miles)took me to Danly Machine Company in Cicero, Illinois, Barb’s (12,5 miles)took her to the Westside VA (Veterans Affairs) Hospital in Chicago. I spent every dime I had to buy a used Volkswagen, and Barb did the same to buy her Uncle Tony’s 1954 Chrysler New Yorker. The apartment provided parking spaces perpendicular to 87 street which is a CTA(Chicago Transit Authority) commuter route for busses.

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Winter snow began in December with regular snowfalls followed by very cold temperatures. It snowed in January, February, March and April too for an accumulation of over 50 inches for the season (avg. Chicago snowfall is 39 inches). What I remember most was digging the cars out after the CTA snow plow pushed the snow off 87 street into a mound behind our cars. It seemed like every morning I’d be exercising by shoveling snow from behind two cars. In the evenings when returning from work we had to turn sharply and gun the car to plow through the mound to get back in. Many times my VW lifted off the ground and I had to shovel snow from under the car to get the wheels back onto the ground.

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The joy of owning a Volkswagen to save gas which was selling for under 2o cents per gallon at the time, was the German engineer’s idea of efficiency. VW’s used the air that cooled the engine to heat the car and to defrost the windows. It didn’t take me long to use my knowledge of thermodynamics to conclude that air-cooled engines don’t make it for heating in a Chicago winter. When it is thirty degrees outside and the engine transfers thirty degrees to the air, the passenger compartment gets sixty degree air. When the outside air is zero degrees the engine still puts in thirty degrees, and the driver gets a chilly thirty degree breeze blowing into his face. That winter we had ample days with sub-zero temperatures which meant scrapping ice off the inside of the windshield to see the road. I took a blanket with me to wrap my legs for warmth.

When the temperature dropped below fifteen degrees, I removed the battery from the bug and took it into the house to keep it warm and charged. How did I learn to do that? Trying to start a VW with a six volt system in sub-freezing temperatures is next to impossible. There was not enough power in a cold battery to turn over the engine. I learned another trick from the German mechanics when I complained about the terrible starting situation. “Did you put five weight oil in the engine? No, well no-wonder you have trouble, we always use five weight oil in the winter.”  Duhuh.

By the end of that winter I became proficient at dealing with both cars, what worked for the VW also worked for the Chrysler, and we somehow managed to survive.

“Why didn’t you take public transportation,” people would ask? I tried taking busses and the elevated, and learned that waiting for, and riding CTA buses in sub-zero was not fun. Even if I caught the buses without waiting, it took me two and a half hours to make it to work, and that was in an era when the CTA service was better than it is today.

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Yes, I sang the song lyrics above while looking at the snow swirling about in a thirty mph wind and recalling the “good old days.” The only thing good about them is that they are old and gone forever.

I Give a Rat’s Rear

The 2015 Monet Vision is in its Blizzard White phase, and I could care less. The snow is pretty looking at it from the warmth of a house, but it becomes a hazard when outside. I don’t care about snow at my age. I’ve seen enough to last the rest of my lifetime. No longer do I rush outside to shovel the drive or the walks. I tend to let it accumulate and hope the sun melts it off. That however, is a dream. It’ll be May before we get the temperatures to melt off a snow pile. Instead, I will drag myself out with shovel in hand to push the snow off the walks and the drive. If I don’t, then walking becomes hazardous, and tedious. I’ll just let the beauty of it all soak in a while longer before I venture out with shovel in hand.

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One Word Changed My Mind

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Today’s plan had us getting back to Interstate 70 to cross the Eastbound Vail Pass. We will have to climb from the town of Vail at 8120 feet elevation to the crest of Vail Mountain at 10,662 feet. The pass is twelve miles long, and half of that is uphill to reach the peak. My I-phone alarmed a travel advisory this morning. It said it snowed last night, is still snowing, and there will be snow showers most of the day on the pass. Packed ice covers the road, and there are gusting 40-50 mph winds making driving conditions dangerous and treacherous. The last word did it for me. So, Peg and I are sitting it out for another day watching all the adventurous drivers pass us by headed for the pass. At my age I take words like treacherous seriously. I no longer ache for the adventure of driving in hazardous conditions to get some where. Another day on the road will not hurt us at all, while one slip off a road above 8000 feet might hurt us real bad.

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This is the third time Peggy and I have experienced poor driving conditions while commuting to and from Arizona. The first time we followed a storm front across the west from Flagstaff, AZ to Albuquerque, NM. Each morning we awoke to a cloudless sunny day only to catch the storm in the early afternoon, and be shagged off the Interstate by the State police. The second time we met a snow storm in Oklahoma while driving west. We sat a day waiting for the storm to pass. The next morning we bravely got on the road to learn that the road was hard packed ice for one hundred and twenty miles. We holed up again for two more days to wait for the storm to pass, and for the ice to melt. Last year, our plan had us on this very same route, but a winter storm advisory (I didn’t know that late April thru early May is still considered winter in these parts, and they are serious about it.) caused me to detour back south going two hundred and fifty miles out-of-the-way to get away from the delivered twelve inches of snow dumped on Vail Pass to Denver. The third time is now.

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What do they say? “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”

Light Speed to Reality

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This morning we left a chilly rainy 65 degree day in the Valley of the Sun. Two hours later we reached the top of a 7500 feet high peak and moved through a snowy white out. The car thermometer dropped to 28 degrees. The weather followed us to our first destination city with two additions, wind, and hail. The wind-chill drove the last spike through my Phoenix warmed heart, ugh. We will follow a major weather pattern across the United States and we might even meet some severe rain storms with possible tornadoes. I don’t need an adventure like this anymore, packing the car was adventure enough.

I often tell friends “in May when I return the weather is colder than the weather I experienced in Phoenix in January.” Another big difference is that in May, Illinois doesn’t have many flowers in bloom, while in January, the valley is abundant in flowers.

Our last week in the Valley had us basking on the patio enjoying 90 degree days. I don’t think I will see another ninety degree day for another three months.

How deprived am I?

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