Snow Woes

Although Central Kentucky’s recent bout of winter weather was somewhat puny compared to the DC area’s recent Snowmageddon, it was not completely uneventful. And since I’ve had another extended spell of blogger’s block, I might as well break the silence with an account of some of the minor adventures created by the snowfall.

After a typical onslaught of dire warnings from weather prognosticators, snow commenced falling early Monday morning, many hours later than predicted. The timing was somewhat inconvenient, as it missed the pre-dawn window when many cancellaton decisions are made. At that point, roads looked reasonably clear. Hours later, when people began commuting on those roads, it was a different story.

I made it to work safely Monday morning, although the drive was a little tense. Unfortunately, my expectations of better conditions for the homeward trek were shattered. The continued snowfall, assisted by high winds, was covering the roads faster than the crews could clear them.

As I was creeping along one particularly nasty stretch of road, I met a line of oncoming vehicles, including a dually hauling a gooseneck 4-horse slant. With snow banked up on both sides of the road, passing room was somewhat tight. As I slowed even more and inched to the right, my right wheel embedded itself in the snow and I came to an abrupt halt.

Behind me was a Dodge pickup truck, who stopped momentarily and then veered hard to the right and roared around me, completely off the road. After pulling back off the road, it stopped and backed up towards me.

I was somewhat surprised when the driver got out to offer assistance. From the driving style, I was expecting a stereotypical redneck. Instead, it was a very professional-looking gentleman, stylishly and warmly dressed, sporting a neatly-tied necktie under his thinsulate vest. For a while, he and another driver tried to push my car back out of the snow, but had no success. Then he said he had a chain and could try to pull me out.

We hitched up the chain and he took off bravely, his truck fishtailing all over the road. He maintained enough traction to continue forward, dragging my car behind him. But my right wheel stubbornly refused to cut through the piled-up snow back onto the road. Finally, after about a half-mile of towing, we found a break in the snowbank and managed to get the car back onto a surface where it had reasonable traction on its own.

After unhitching, my savior continued on his journey, finally turning into a driveway just south of the home of one of my hunting buddies. A subsequent email to said buddy produced the name of the Good Samaritan, along with the information that he was a small-animal vet who owned a clinic in Lexington. The small-animal practice was a little surprising. With that truck and chain, he seemed more equipped to deliver calves than kittens.

When I arrived at my own driveway, I found that the wind had been a mixed blessing. The first part of the driveway had been swept clean by the crosswind, but closer to the house, it had drifted over. I decided to leave the car in a clear spot, and as I sank to my knees in a drift in front of the house, the wisdom of that decision was obvious.

I was enthusiastically greeted by Lilo, but Barry was nowhere to be seen. He’s a roamer, sometimes waiting until dark to return home, so that wasn’t totally surprising, but it was a little worrisome considering the possibility that he could have been swallowed by a drift. After feeding the horses and deciding I didn’t want to hassle with plowing the driveway with darkness approaching, I made a brief and unsuccessful reconnaissance tour looking for Barry.

Darkness arrived and Barry didn’t. I made another tour of the immediate vicinity, not really expecting to find him, but feeling like I had to try. Eventually I gave up and went to bed.

I didn’t sleep very soundly, arousing frequently to look outside and see if Barry had returned. So I was already half awake at 5:00 AM Tuesday when a cacophony of electronic tones brought the news that I had a little extra time before work. (See last year’s ice storm saga for a description of my employer’s alert system). So when daylight arrived, I made another brief and unsuccessful Barry search, and then fired up the tractor and cleared the driveway before going to work.

With the roads a little clearer, there were spots where I could reach almost normal speeds. And that brought another unpleasant surprise. At speeds over 50 mph, my car’s front end shook violently. It seemed likely that something in the suspension had been damaged by being dragged along the ground. When I noticed the same problem on the way home, I decided to take the car to a suspension shop the next day, before it completely shook apart.

After successfully traversing my driveway and parking in the garage, and greeting Lilo, I embarked on another Barry search, although it seemed obvious that if he hadn’t come home yet, he wasn’t going to. I started walking down the road and calling him. Approaching a neighbor’s house, I saw a black blur streaking through her back yard just as she turned into her driveway. The blur turned out to be Barry, who came running to greet me. Lisa told me he spends a lot of time hanging out in her barn. Apparently while I was stumbling through snowdrifts looking for him, and imagining all sorts of unpleasant endings, he was curled up in a nest of hay.

In Barry’s state of excitement, he was running in circles, and I wasn’t sure he would follow me home without dashing off somewhere else. So I decided carrying him was the safest strategy. After carrying a 50-pound dog a half-mile, I made a note to self that maybe next time I go dog-hunting, I’ll take a leash in case I find one.

Wednesday morning brought another pleasant surprise. On the way to work, as my speedometer crept past 60 mph, there was none of the vibration that I had felt the day before. Now it seemed likely that the problem had been caused by the tow cramming the suspension full of snow, which melted in the garage overnight. I decided to postpone the repair to see if I was right. On the way home, a smooth 80-mph run convinced me that, whatever had caused the problem, it was no longer a problem.

So now Barry is home sleeping on my bed (at least for the moment), my car is running smoothly, and the snow is melting, so all’s well that ends well. Now I just have to worry about the challenges that the mud will bring.

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