All during our stay that was the picture. The usual sunshine gleaming through Jerry's glass insulator collection was missing. All the way up I89 heading to Jerry's on Friday I encountered snow showers and squalls, and the snow showers and flurries remained through the weekend, despite Saturday being the first day of Spring.
Saturday night the temperature warmed considerably, so although there was snow where Jerry was at a slightly higher elevation, it was raining in town. We didn't pay particularly close attention to the weather forecast for the remainder of the weekend, but we figured it would be more of the same.
This 21st century schizoid weather was an omen that we did not heed.
On Sunday we made plans to head to an Asian restaurant in Burlington, VT for some late lunch before Ken and Frank flew out and I hit the highway south. The way over was a pleasant 27 mile jaunt through the back roads of Vermont. Ken Merbler joined me for the ride to Burlington, and I had #1037 in the car, ready to head south after lunch.
We had a delightful lunch at the Mongolian Grille in Burlington, Vermont where you can create your own meal. They will take ingredients and spices you select and stir fry them for you on a 6-foot wide stone cooking surface. All you can eat! Yummy!
I kept looking out the window and was amused by the snow beginning to stick to my windshield. Gee, it had been a bit warmer earlier and had been snowing a bit of wet snow, but it was mostly rain. But by the time we got out to the cars, we discovered that the above freezing temps had taken a nose dive well below the point at which water freezes and nerves frazzle. We got the cars scraped off, and Jerry, Mali, Frank, and Ken motored over to the airport. I drove down the street and topped off the gas tank, gleefully unaware of the condition of the Interstate a few miles away. I did notice, however, the parking lot of the gas station being a bit icy.
I drove down the road further and attempted to get onto Interstate 89 to head south. Apparently the temperature dive did a number on the Interstate, as cars were crawling by on the frozen snow now solid on the pavement. This was not going to be fun. I clutched the steering wheel and watched as cars lost the grip on the road here and there. There were several ambulances about, some tow trucks, and an SUV driving backwards on the median strip. At least two cars had gone off the side of the road. Two people were out by their cars exchanging papers. And this was in less than three miles after I'd made it onto the Interstate!
Enough was enough. Travel was not possible, and I bailed on the next exit with the intent of returning to Jerry's for the night. But he and Mali were at the airport, and I had no way to tell if they were going to drive all the way back to their house in this awful weather. I made it back to the airport and took a quick look around, but I didn't see them. Anxious to get underway, I hit highway 15 east and hoped I could hold it together until I got to Jerry's.
And at one point I lost it. Coming to the top of a hill just east of Burlington, a police car with lights and siren going was in the middle of the road coming my way, trying to get around several cars that were spinning out trying to get up the hill on the other side. I hit the brakes, and the anti-locks kicked in, but there was absolutely no grip on the road. Nowhere to go, I noticed the side of the road had a small curb and beyond that some little twigs sticking up through the snow. Perfect! I dove for the side of the road, and as soon as I got two tires over the curb and onto the sticks, the car stopped, and I was out of harm's way. Given the trouble people were having coming up the hill, I began to seriously doubt getting down the hill---let alone making it 25 miles to Jerry's house.
I let a few cars pass, then I started off again and crept down the hill. I passed several cars on the other side of the road that were spinning their tires trying to get up the hill--it was amazing. I kept debating whether or not to just find a hotel and crash for the night, but by then I was far enough outside of Burlington that there weren't any hotels around. So I decided to keep driving route 15. Fortunately the further east I went the more snow there was (versus ice), so the travel was a bit easier.
At around 5:30pm I turned onto the road that leads to the road on which you'll find the Korb Ranch. This road has a number of sharp turns and hills. My car, although front wheel drive, isn't really designed for the snow, especially with the tires it wears, more designed for smooth dry pavement than slick Vermont roads. It was tough going in spots, and at times I had to charge down one hill to make it up the next, but I finally made it to Jerry's road...
...and I almost didn't make it up Jerry's road. Jerry lives on a dirt road, and there's a long slope at the beginning. There had been few cars along, and, of course, no plows, so trying to get up the slope was not a picnic. At one point my car started to veer off the road to the right, but I fought it and got it back in the middle. Earlier in the week it had been warm enough to start melting the ice-laden mud to create ruts, and my car found some of those, and that kept it somewhat straight.
Then it was time to cross the Rubicon (not Rubycon, as the Tangerine Dream folks out there may be thinking). Just before Jerry's driveway there's a downhill with a slight left curve at the bottom and a steeper, taller uphill slope on the other side. If my car didn't make it up the other side, there was probably little chance of getting back out after going down the first hill. And if I didn't get enough speed at the first hill, I wouldn't make it up the other side, but the only way to get enough speed was to chance sliding through the left curve and winding up in the swamp!
I chanced it and got up a bit of speed, made the slight curve, and roared on up the hill on the far side...
...at which point my car's wheels started to give up and lost their grip on the snow and started spinning. Oh, joys, and me on the left side of the road but 20 feet from Jerry's driveway, still not quite at the top of the hill. What's worse? Nobody was home at Jerry's house.
I had resigned myself to sticking around for the long haul, and fortunate for me I had plenty of fleece to put on. But just as I'd started to take inventory, some headlights appeared in my rear view mirror! Jerry and Mali somehow made it over from Burlington!
Jerry and Mali told me how the police had started shutting down some roads in and around Burlington, probably that road where I almost nailed the police car. Jerry and Mali found their way around back roads and managed to get home.
They could see that I was rather stuck and told me I was welcome to spend the night, which, ironically, was going to be the plan anyway if I wasn't in such demand at work. So I backed my car out of the driveway, let Jerry pull in and drive his minivan up the driveway all the way, and then after an attempt or two to get my car the rest of the way up there, we just shut off the engine and called it quits.
Jerry, Mali, and I moseyed on into the house for a nice, quiet evening, warmed by the wood stoves and viewing the videos Jerry shot of his work on the Pindertron. Outside it continued to snow a little more, but then the wind kicked up and blew everything around, creating drifts here and there. But we were oblivious to it all. The only indication that something was amiss was a call from Ken Merbler. His flight was canceled, so the airline got him a cheap hotel room in Burlington. Eventually Frank's flight bit the dust, and he was put up as well.
In the morning Mali made us some breakfast, and Jerry and I wandered outside to see what awaited us.
Overnight there was little more snow, but what was there was light and fluffy, and it had drifted. Part of the driveway had a foot of the light stuff, but a lot of the driveway had five or six inches of powder, which was just enough to cause me trouble the night before.
Jerry and I broke out the shovels and started digging out the 540' of driveway (plus the wide parking area at the top). Fortunately it was just powder, so it went easily (what didn't blow back at us), but there was a lot of it. Jerry brought out the videocam for some silliness and a greeting for Frank, who was looking forward to seeing the snow (eat my shorts, man!). Eventually Mali came out and helped us dig, despite my protestations.
But it was a beautiful day. It was a bit cold, and there was a breeze, but the sun was out strong. It was a pleasure to work outside for a change (I've been chained to a desk for years now). We got the driveway cleared, and despite the temperature being below freezing, the ice and snow on the driveway started to melt a little. Much earlier on the plows came down Jerry's road and cleared the way, making it possible for the school bus to ramble on by. It was at that point that I new it was time for my vehicle and I to make our way back to Boston, leaving this beautiful early Spring day behind. But not 'til after lunch, of course. It's always hard to leave that place. :-) My departure was delayed by a call from Martin, too, who rang Jerry up to see how the weekend went. Nice to hear from you, ol' chap!
I am grateful to Jerry and Mali for giving me a place to crash on Sunday but also for all the help with #1037 as well as the wonderful hospitality throughout the weekend for MONEYPIT 2004!
Oh, by the way, when I left Vermont, my car had two "fenderbergs", one on each side. A "fenderberg" is a collection of snow and ice behind the wheel. The snow tends to stick there and freeze during snowstorms. No amount of brute force was going to dislodge these doozies---they'd have to melt off. The one on the passenger's side finally fell off in a rest area about half way home. The other? Well, the bloody thing hung on until I made the turn into the driveway of my condo complex! I heard it let go and in my rear view mirror saw it crumbling and spinning about on the ground, the last of my snow trophies gone.