Memo to Old Man Winter: You win.
For the second time in three weeks, I scrapped a planned trip to my old haunts in Northwest Iowa last weekend due primarily to weather concerns.
For my first planned trip, the prospect of seriously sub-zero temperatures and off-the-chart wind chills was enough to make me rethink my travel plans.
Last week heavy snow and and ice were prominent in the forecast.....which was enough to convince me to just throw in the towel and decide that July would be a more appropriate time to visit the Midwest.
Discretion, they say, is sometimes the better part of valor.....and I was glad to not have tested fate after a blizzard closed roads and airports throughout my planned destination last weekend.
But there turned out to be snow in my week nonetheless.
With my Thursday largely cleared because of my planned absence, I took a “snow day” of the reverse variety, skipping out of work to head up the hill with Kat, daughter Amy and grandchildren Kate and Sawyer for the youngsters’ first-ever real trip to the snow.
We had a blast, although everything didn’t quite go as I envisioned.
My thought was that we would get well into the Sierra Nevada on Highway 108, perhaps even as far as the snow park which, this time of year, is the end of the road.
But Mother Nature had other plans.
After a snowy, icy night Caltrans chain restrictions limited drivers starting at a point not far east of Sonora.
We had considered picking up chains, but were discouraged by both the expense (of purchase and installation) and by the inconvenience of actually driving with chains. I’ve only done that once, years ago, coming over Highway 50 from Tahoe in the middle of the night. I still recall the experience as being tedious, slow and generally inconvenient.
The idea of spending a lot of money on chains, only to face a much longer, slower drive up the hill, was not appealing, so we just turned off the highway at Soulsbyville and took a side road in search of “playable” snow.
Found one, a few miles up the road.....a nice spot where the kids could throw snowballs and make snow angels as we enjoyed our take-along lunch. That lasted a while, broken up eventually by a combination of factors including cold kids and the arrival of the property owner.
We had a lot of daylight left, however, so we drove around looking for more snow and eventually headed back up Highway 108 after Caltrans had moved the chain restriction point to just east of Twain Harte.
In Twain Harte we found a nice, snow-covered community park where the kids could frolic to their hearts’ content.....which they did with great enthusiasm.
We managed to build a snowman, throw a few more snowballs, climb some snow mountains left by the plows, enjoying the brisk afternoon until the kids had exhausted their supply of dry clothes and were ready to call it a day.
I thoroughly enjoyed Twain Harte. I’ve driven by on the highway on several occasions, but don’t think I had ever taken the scenic mile or so drive into the town itself.....the fresh snow, the crisp air, the evergreen bows bending beneath the weight of the snow.....very picturesque, to say the least.
I also realized that, while I might be open to an overnight winter stay, I don’t really have an interest in living in snow country.
There was a lot of the white stuff even at the Twain Harte level, and our day trip made me realize that dealing with snow on a daily basis in the winter months is not something I could probably handle again.
Talking to an auto parts store employee in Sonora about how icy the roads were coming down from his home at higher elevations.....watching people put on tire chains at Soulsbyville....seeing a chained-up UPS truck make the rounds in Twain Harte....that’s just a fact of life for people living in those areas.
I was also thinking back to earlier adulthood years in the snowy Midwest. Winter meant having to shovel the snow from sidewalks and driveways, waiting for the snowplow to come by and clear streets and negotiating our sloped driveway that in the icy winter months was all but unusable. I would have to park at a college a block or two away and, when leaving for work in the morning would “ski” down the icy drive and out into the street. Thank goodness those were the days before cell phones with video cameras, YouTube and social media.
We enjoyed our foray to the snow last week.
The scenery was gorgeous, and the kids had a blast.
We adults enjoyed ourselves as well.
But I was also reminded that these days I most appreciate snow from a distance.