Blizzard 2019

“Eight to ten inches of snow for southeastern Minnesota,” predicts the weather lady on the Saturday evening news, “followed by 45-50 mile per hour winds. There is a blizzard warning from 6 p.m. Saturday evening until 6 p.m. Sunday evening.”

            I groan. Not again! We have already received almost 40 inches of snow in the month of February. It is piled high along the sides of our driveway. More snow is the last thing we need. But like all Minnesotans we take the prediction with a grain of salt and hope for the best.

            Mother Nature has started to shake clusters of fat fluffy snowflakes past our security camera before we crawl into our warm bed. The storm has begun. Church has already been cancelled for tomorrow so it remains to be seen what the landscape will look like in the morning. I awaken several times during the night. The wind howls around the corners of the house. At least we don’t have to go anywhere being it is a Sunday.

            I peak outside in the early dawn of morning. The sky is blue, and the sun shines brightly. Judging by the stacked pile of white peaked on the deck railing, it looks like we might have gotten around seven to eight inches. The trees are whipping back and forth but otherwise, it is a winter wonderland out the bay window in the back of the house. It is a different scene from the front door. The wind drives sheets of white across what was once our lawn and hurdles them down the drive. Our snow fence and garden fence have disappeared beneath the ocean of blinding brightness. Only the tops of posts with specks of orange webbing peak out. So much for the snow fence effectiveness. The stone bench by the apple tree is no longer visible while the apple tree trunk has gotten significantly shorter.

            Hubby ventures outdoors to steal a few pictures and I follow him in a few minutes. Just how bad is this situation anyway? I step into his footprints as I trudge after him seeking to avoid making new tracks in the mid-thigh drifts. I am soon out of breath with this balancing act. Our whole driveway is covered to this depth. Neither of us go far in this labor-intensive march and turn back towards the house. The wind blasts us in the face and hubby disappears into the snow. “Help me up?” is the request thrown my way as I look back to see if he is coming.

            “If you really can’t get up, I am not strong enough to pull you out.” I worry out loud. This could be a life-threatening situation if one fell out here alone. The tracks we have made only a few moments before are almost filled back in already. I extend my hand and he is soon back on his feet. Together, we return to our warm cozy house.

            We have a plow truck, but an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness engulfs me. There is no way that we will be able to push these kinds of drifts. I make several calls to different neighbors looking for someone who has a large tractor snowblower or a tractor and bucket. Everyone is in the same predicament and not willing to venture out in this weather. There is not much we can do in this wind anyway. We both finally make the decision to wait until Monday morning when the wind has died down to tackle this impossible project. I am supposed to work at 9 a.m. but maybe I can negotiate a later time.

            The same white landscape with even deeper drifts greets us in the morning. Now the drifts are solid and unmovable. Thankfully, the wind has retreated, and the air is still in the almost zero-degree weather.

            “I am going to see what I can do,” Hubby announces. My stomach is tight, and I am tense. I know how this will end – being stuck. I watch the movement of the truck on the security cameras. Back and forth. Back and forth. I am constantly watching for a lack of movement. He needs to drag the snow backwards with the plow in small amounts and deposit it out of the way. He does this over and over because it is too hard and too deep to plow forward. I am just putting my boots on to go out and check on the progress when I hear the garage door slam. Uh Oh! That is a bad sign. Hubby has come to retrieve the shovel. I stomp heavily in his footsteps to the stranded truck.

            “Are you stuck?” I ask the obvious. The front wheels have dropped over the edge of the driveway in his effort to push the massive pile back from the edge. The plow is buried in the snow drift. Soon we have the wedged snow dug out from under the plow and the truck frame. But the attempt to back up only results in two deeper holes for the front tires and the back tires spin. The chains usually work wonderfully for traction but now are digging only deeper holes.

            “We’re done for!” pronounces Hubby. We stand and stare at our hopeless situation. But my ever-creative husband has an idea. He gathers all the tow rope that we own and ties the truck off to the other truck in the shed. Then he attaches his come-along. Neither of us are optimistic that this is going to work but we have nothing to lose. While he is doing that, I struggle back through the snow for a ½ full pail of sand and salt for the back wheels.

            “Get in the truck,” he directs, “and put it in reverse while I ratchet.”

            I let out the clutch and apply the gas until the wheels begin to spin. Then I stop. We do this a couple of times while Hubby tightens the rope with the come-along. Finally, he says, “That is all I can pull it. I think we are done. Try it one more time.”

            I let out the clutch and step on the gas – this time like I really mean business. Amazingly, the truck rises up out of the hole. I am almost shocked by our success. The extra tension and the pulling downward on the rear bumper were the ticket to triumph. My husband is a genius.

            I retreat to the warmth of the house while I wait for the next call for help. Another hour goes by before I hear the house door bang again. “I need your assistance.” In this last hour, Hubby has been able to clear out by the house garage. This leaves us with the access to his 4-wheel drive work truck, a significant improvement from our previous predicament. I drive the plow truck while he pulls with the other truck. Soon, I have been dragged backwards out of the snowbank and planted firmly on the drive again.

I glance at my watch. 10:00. If I am going to arrive at work by noon which was my re-negotiated start time for today, I will need to leave in an hour. The drive is only ½ cleared after three hours of plowing. My decision is made. I need to let go of my guilt and life-long instilled drive to always meet my obligations. I will make my first road call ever. I am already stressed to the max over this situation and the sheriff’s department is saying many roads are still closed with huge drifts in places.

One more episode of needing to be dragged backward out of the snowdrift on the side of the drive occurs in the next hour before Hubby announces, “I’m through. I can get out. I need to go on a service call though. One of my customer’s barns collapsed. You can try to widen the path a little if you want while I am gone.”

I have no desire to get stuck while he is gone, and I have no one to pull me out. However, I have this bright idea that I can go to town with the snowplow and fill the truck with gas. The roads are snow covered so the chains won’t be so hard on the blacktop and it will give me a chance to see what the roads are like. I switch over to 4-wheel high gear and off we go. The chains do make for significantly more chattering of the tires, so I drive slowly. Several spots in the road are one-lane only but otherwise, the road is in fair condition. One mile out of town, I notice that the “Coolant Low” light is on followed by the “Engine-Overheated” light. Great! Just great! I am frustrated as to why the truck should be overheating. We have plowed all morning without a problem. I pull over, turn the key off, and pull the hood lever. I do have extra coolant with me. I know that one is not supposed to open the radiator lid when the engine is hot, but I think that I can turn the cap just enough to let off some of that pressure slowly. I stand back and slowly turn the cap, allowing the scalding coolant to sizzle gradually around the cap. But the boiling liquid has other intentions. Like a volcano, the cap shoots into the air following by the trapped geyser like those found at Yellowstone National Park. I stand there in horror and watch the spouting liquid cover the plow, the engine and the front of my coat. It does not stop until most of the coolant has been spewed into the air.

“Can I help you? Do you need a ride?” the voice is that of a gentleman who has stopped.

“I’m good,” I say, “it just overheated, and I wanted to add more anti-freeze.” I am not about to admit that I am a total idiot for taking off the cap while hot but I’m sure it is obvious from the state of my truck. The engine is steaming, and the plow is covered in orange-yellowish liquid. He wishes me well and drives away. I am left to dump what remaining anti-freeze I have with me into the holding tank. It does not begin to fill it. If I can only make it to town, I can buy more. Now to find the missing cap. I look under the truck and all through the engine compartment. No cap! “Lord, help me,” I breathe. This is an utterly ridiculous pickle. I turn around and look up the road. There it lays on the shoulder of the road six feet in front of the plow. “Thank you.”

The temperature gauge has dropped back into the safe range when I restart the truck. If I can just make it this last 1 ½ miles to the gas station. No sooner have I started out again than the temperature begins its climb and the “Coolant Low” light comes on. I barely make the city limit before the “Engine Overheated” begins flashing again too. Frickit! This is not going at all like I planned. There is nothing to do but stop and walk to the gas station to buy coolant. Walking down the icy street because the sidewalks aren’t cleared makes me feel totally conspicuous. The middle of the street is piled high with the remnants of the storm making me an even more likely target for unwary motorists. Soon I am able to buy more coolant and stroll back to the truck. This does allow me to reach the gas station where I buy another container of coolant to empty into the bottomless hole. A full tank of gas and a full container of coolant later, I am ready to begin my journey home. The temperature stays in the acceptable range. Thank you, Lord. But as I make the last turn into the drive, that pesky “Coolant Low” light comes on again. Ugh!

The drive is passable, the truck is gassed, and blizzard 2019 is over. I am so done with this storm. And we are left with memories of a lifetime.

Another Day of Dealing with Winter – It Has Arrived!

MaySnowstorm2013 020What does one write on a zero temperature January day? I hear the wind howling around the corners of the house. At least it is cozy and warm in my chair, especially since I am leaning on a nice warm heating pad.

The last few days have been a struggle. On Saturday, as I scurried about my usual life’s activities, I bent over to move a piece of clothing from one wash pile to another. I felt a separation in my lower back followed by a stabbing pain. Oh, no! Now is not the time to have my back go out. I have an appointment with my daughter to go wedding dress shopping in the afternoon and my hubby and I will be leaving for Florida on Wednesday. But backs do not ask what our plans are before giving up on us. And so for three days, I have been wearing a back brace and walking bent over like an old lady. Every step is a painful struggle.

Today, I knew I needed to get some things done as we are leaving tomorrow. But how am I going to do that. My back is stiff and painful, though less so. I still cannot pick anything up off the floor. How am I going to plow the drive, sand the drive, and shovel the sidewalk? I am overwhelmed just by the thought. But at 9 a.m. as the thermometer still displays -6 degrees F, I ever so slowly pull on my boots and bundle up. As I trundle through the cutting wind to the unattached garage, I hope that the plow truck will start. I don’t even have the strength to push the garage door up. This is just dandy. The truck stares at me open mouthed. The open hood reveals the battery charger in place. Maybe, there is hope. I turn the key, but only a half a turn of the engine breaks the stillness followed by a click. Well, there is nothing to do but to trundle back to the attached garage for the car and some jumper cables. I want to sit in the truck and cry. On a good day, jumping the truck would not be my first plan of the day but with the cold, cutting wind, and aching back, this is the last thing I want to do.Snow2014 008

I am soon parked facing the truck and with fumbling gloved up fingers, have the jumper cables attached. A turn of the key and my ears are rewarded with the welcome sound of a rumbling truck engine. Goal one completed. Back to the garage with the car and I am ready to plow. Now to get the plowing done without getting stuck or stalling the truck. I am convinced that if I stall it, it will not restart without another jump. As proof of this, each time that I try to raise the plow, it empties the battery of power and all the warning lights on the dashboard say “hello.” Twenty minutes later, I decide to call it “good enough” before I have pushed my luck to far. As I am backing into the garage, the inevitable happens. I stall it. A click is the only response I receive from turning the key. I sigh. I almost made it. Ten more feet and it would have been back in its designated place. So off to the house I go again for the car and jumper cables. One more jump and the truck is parked. Goal two completed.

MaySnowstorm2013 062Now, I just have to sand the hill and the drive will be good again for a few days anyway. I don’t think my back will allow me to lift the heavy buckets of sand and salt that I have stored in the garage for this task but I am determined to get this task done too. But as I eye the 5 gallon bucket and the distance between the ground and the car trunk, I know that I can’t lift it in my current shape. Suddenly, it hits me. I can be resourceful. I will take 1/2 of the sand out of the full bucket and put it in an empty one. Then I can lift them. I am proud of myself for thinking of this. As I back down the drive with my precious cargo, I meet the Grainger truck slowly backing down after a failed attempt to make it up our hill. At least, he didn’t put himself in the ditch. Soon the drive is sanded and ready for the next attempt by unsuspecting visitors.

And that plow truck has made ANOTHER trip to the repairman to determine what ails it. Maybe by spring we will have a functional plow truck.

 

Getting the Plow Truck Ready for Winter – Part II

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One dark night – eclipse

The calendar declares the date to be December 13. Outside, the sky sags with heavy fog towards the blackness of the road beneath. The prediction is for heavy rain today. I thought this was December in Minnesota but there is no sign of snow. For this I am thankful. Yesterday, we finally attached the snowplow to the truck again for the third time. Now the truck sits securely in the garage- I hope finally ready for winter if we actually have one.

After not being able to start the truck with our numerous previous attempts at different antics, a tow company was commissioned to haul the disabled vehicle to Plainview. The repairman’s first report was that it was not the “passkey” theft detection system that was the problem so all our attempts at resetting that would never have resulted in success. The problem was that a couple of very pesky mice had decided to make a nest in the wiring. They found the wires to be tasty chewing material as well. OK mice, you have made enough trouble for this year. Once the wires were put back together, the truck happily sputtered to life. The only problem left was that the lights, which worked before the truck was started, went out once it was running. This left the repairman scratching his head.

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Someone else’s really bad day with a truck

As I was telling this to our college age daughter, she said, “Did he flip that switch to ‘truck’ instead of ‘plow’?” Oh yes, the switch. How could we forget? When our daughter was just 16 and soon after getting her license, she took the truck to a school function. By the time she was ready to come home, it was dark and the truck lights would not come on. What to do? She very wisely asked a friend to drive in front of her and a friend’s parent to follow behind so she could get home safely. But wouldn’t you know, in that 6 mile stretch of road to get home, she passed a highway patrolman. Pretty soon, there were flashing bubble lights behind her. The patrolman was very understanding when he found out that she was driving her father’s truck and was not responsible for its maintenance.  Even so, a very upset young lady came storming into the house. “D.. A.. D!!!,” she shrieked, “What’s wrong with the truck lights?” An investigation revealed that the switch had never gotten put back on “truck” after dropping the plow off in the spring.

Once the information about the switch was conveyed to the repairman, all was soon restored to proper working order. On the eve of Thanksgiving, Daughter and I went to pick up the truck and bring it home as it was forecast to snow the next day. Yahoo! We have our truck back. Thanksgiving morning, hubby and I went out to attach the plow again and get ready for the coming storm. Because of the manner in which the plow was removed, it was sitting somewhat helter skelter. I was commissioned to inch the truck forward and slam on the brakes to hold it in place while hubby snapped the pins in place. But the truck kept rolling back.  “Just hold the brakes,” I was earnestly instructed. “But I don’t think the peddle is supposed to go all the way to the floor,” I protested. He finally got into the truck himself and realized we now had no brakes. So off came the plow for the second time. And where does one take a disabled brakeless truck on a holiday weekend? Taking it to Millville would mean going down a ½ mile long steep hill. Really bad idea! Taking it back to Plainview would mean driving through town. Also a bad idea. So to rural Elgin was the decision – only one major road crossing with no brakes. The trip was made safely.

So another week of tersely waiting passed with one ice/snow event going by but nothing major happening. All new brake lines later, the truck was home again. Now a bright little light on the dash declares “maintenance required.” Seriously!!! We have decided to ignore it for now – as if that might be possible.