Sunday, December 28, 2008

Snow Removal

Shoveling snow is a fact of life this time of year in northern Idaho.  If it's a good winter, we are having a storm come through every two to three days.  This is great for the snowpack, and makes for a lot of incredible powder days on the boards, but it also means that many mornings start with having to clear the driveway.

I look at shoveling the drive in two ways.  The first is that it is a matter of pride.  I am no great white hunter, so my idea of providing meat for my family is going grocery shopping.  I do take great pride, however, in the fact that I keep my driveway clear of snow.  The second thing is that it is a great workout.  I have about a pretty good size drive, and it is a 30 to 45 minute job to clear it.  I start with a 7 minute stretching routine, followed by 2 minutes of jumping rope, and then it is off to shovel.  I shovel steady and hard, clearing sections at a time, constantly changing from pushing snow to lifting snow, so that I am varying the stress on my back.  I work quickly, so that I can keep my heart rate up, and I only stop to stretch my back when needed.  

One other point is, I don't own a snow thrower.  My neighbor across the street has one, and my neighbor next door has one.  They are great machines, and my back would probably be much better off if I had one, but I feel like I need the exercise of manually shoveling snow.  It is not easy getting a whole lot of physical activity this time of year. The roads are generally too bad to ride or run, and I am not the indoor trainer type.  So, 2 days a week skiing, and 3 to 5 days a week shoveling is about it for 2 months of the year. 

However, there is always that temptation to break down and buy one.  Two weeks ago, when we had that 30+ inch snowfall, was one of those times when the temptation was great.  When I opened my garage, and saw that wall of snow, I had no idea how I was going to move it, and, in fact, I only cleared half of the drive with my shovel.  Shannon, my neighbor from across the street, used his snow thrower to clear the road enough so that I could get to work, and then Reid from next door came over that afternoon with his thrower to clear the berm left by the snow plow, and then cleared the other half of my drive. 

Then came the worst of it.  I awoke at 1:30 am the day after Christmas, knowing that I had the stomach virus that was going through the care facility where I work.  I spent the next 24 hours in bed, or in the bathroom.  I was miserable, and very sick.  I lost five pounds in 24 hours.  And the whole time I was sick, it was snowing.  On Saturday morning, my wife went to the store for coffee (or to get away from me for a few minutes).  While she was gone, I got on line and started looking at snow throwers.  I had to get my driveway cleared, and I knew I was too weak to shovel 8 inches of new snow.  I knew we didn't have the money, but there was a little room left on the credit card, and this was an emergency.  I called every place in town.  No one had a single snow thrower left in stock.  The lady at home depot told me it would be 2 weeks before they had any.  I thought, MY GOD LADY, we will have starved to death by then!

It was at about that time in my panic, that my wife came in and told me that she had buried the car in the snow berm left by the plow.  I dragged myself out of my death bed, put on some clothes, and went out to start shoveling.  The couple from across the street were already using their snow thrower and shovels to clear the car, and I grabbed my grain shovel and we got it out in just a few minutes.  I then finished shoveling the Subaru's half of the drive and got the car back into the garage.  I went across the street and helped Betty clear the snow plow berm from the end of her driveway, and then I went back inside and went to bed.

Today I woke up feeling pretty good.  I had breakfast, drank my first cup of coffee in three days, got dressed, went down stairs and did my stretches, jumped some rope, and then went out and finished shoveling the drive.  The weather has warmed quite a bit, and the snow was wet and heavy.  It was a hell of a lot of work.  I had a great workout!  

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Blue Christmas

Don't get me wrong, I had a great Christmas.  It started last night with the Christmas Eve service at the church, a beautiful, spiritual service.  I love taking communion with that many people.  There is something incredible having all those different people coming together around the Lord's table.  We then came home and had our traditional dinner of frozen pizza rolls (I know, a bit strange, but it seems to work for us), watched "the Snowman," and then opened presents.  Today, we slept in, and then just hung out together, most of the day spent in or around the bed, with both dogs and the cat.  A family.

I came from a close family.  My parents were married 56 years, and I am still close to both of my brothers and my sister, in fact, I talked to all three today.  The thing is, I am 3000 miles from my family.  Or what's left of it.  My parents have both passed, and it is just us kids left (kids? I am the youngest at 50, and my sister is probably in her 70's (I'm just kidding)).  I have lots of nephews and nieces, and now even a few great nephews and nieces, but they are all on the other side of the country.  It has been 13 years since I have been home for Christmas.  Last night, I talked to my nephew's new wife on the phone.  I have never met her, and I don't know when I ever will.  Now, if you are not from a close family, that won't mean anything to you, but if you are, you will know what  I mean.  It's just not right.

Understand, this is all by my own choice.  I wanted to leave home, I needed to leave home.  I have always had this inner drive to be on my own, and as the son of a man who was the son of a man that needed to be out west, I had to move.  Granted, it took awhile to get the balls to actually do it, but I truly don't think that I would have ever found happiness if I had not made the move, and I thank God on a daily basis that I am here.

However, I never had any idea of the cost, and I am thankful for that.  I was 3000 miles away when my Dad passed, and I was just as far when Mom passed.  There is not a day that goes by that I don't feel guilt for not being there when she died.  And, I will never forget how my dad looked the day we left to move out here.  He seemed so old and small.  His youngest was leaving, and for a man who spent his whole life taking care of his family, Idaho was a world away.

It was five years before I got back to Georgia.  Over the years, I have been back a handful of time, mostly for funerals.  Again, by my choice.  When we get to take a vacation, we want to go to places in the west;  mountain biking in Moab, or Gooseberry Mesa, or Orcas Island, ect.  I spent my time in the South, I have no desire to go back. Except, for family.

Well, there you have it, my Blue Christmas piece.  If you came to this blog expecting to read about bicycle commuting, or backcountry skiing, I sincerely apologize.  This is all Lark's fault.  She sent me a video of Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here for Christmas, and it got me to thinking about family, and all that we left behind.  On nights like this, I do Wish I Was There.  I would love to sit in my brothers house, amongst the mayhem, and soak in the joy of family.  But my life is here now, and looking around at my sleeping wife, and a bed full of animals, I can honestly say, It's a Wonderful Life (again, I apologize). 

Sunday, December 21, 2008

What a Wimp

As you know, my imaginary reader, I have quit commuting to work due to snow. The roads are bad, the trail is covered in deep snow, and I have no inclination to have a 2 hour commute. You will also notice in my links column, that I read the blog, Up in Alaska, regularly. If you follow the link to that blog, you will discover that Jill already has over 500 miles for the month, and as you look at her incredible photographs, you will realize that she is riding in some pretty horrid conditions.

Now I ask you, is it because she is tougher than me, more dedicated than me, or a stronger person than me? I will answer you with an emphatic NO! It is because she has the one thing that I don't have (no, not those): a Pugsley. Yes, if I only had one more bicycle, then my life would be complete. I would be able to sell my gas guzzling, insurance dependent, constantly needing costly repairs, old, worn-out truck. I would ride my bike to work everyday of the year, no matter what. Yes, I would finally be auto free.

Except, now I need to go to the store to get groceries. Ahh, what to do, what to do. I've got it! Another bike. Yeah, that's it! I need either a Kona Ute, or a Surly Big Dummy.

That would solve all my problems. With the right set-up, I would be able to go to the grocery store, the farmers market, even take my mountain bike with me to work, so that I can ride Canfield after work. Yep, all I need is a Pugsley, and a long bike.

X+1=Y. That is the formula for bike ownership (not my creation). X is the number of bikes owned, Y is the number of bikes needed. Always one more, a never ending quest for bicycle fulfillment. Or maybe I should just learn to be contented with what I have. Yeah, that's it. I just need to go to Amazon to buy some books on how not to be so caught up in consumerism...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

It's Here!

30 inches in 24 hours and still falling.  The biggest 24 hour snowfall since we arrived in Idaho 13 years ago.  Also, the first time in 13 years that I have missed work (at least for this morning).  I used the grain shovel to clear the driveway from the garage to the street, but there is no way the Subaru is going to make it through the 30 inch wall of snow that is our street.  I know, I tried.  

Rebecca called to see if I was going skiing.  She was going to try to make it.  I told her good luck, and then said a little prayer for her.  She'll need it.  This is tough on powder heads.  24 inches of fresh, light, cold powder, and no way to get to it (although I'm sure a lot will try, and some will be successful).  A true champagne powder day!  If this was in February, with 24 inches of champagne powder on top of a deep base, it would be a truly epic day.  As it is, as nice as this snow is, it's just a good addition to the beginning of what we hope will be another incredible ski season.  As they say, Hope Winters Eternal.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

...and so it begins.

Rode home in a snow storm yesterday.  It was great!  The streets were a mess, I was getting sprayed every time a SUV passed, and people were generally driving like idiots.  I had a smile on my face the whole way home.  The only downside is that I know it might be my last time commuting this year.  Once they start plowing the roads, the bike lanes go away, and it's just too dangerous for me.  If the snow comes as predicted this winter, I probably won't be back on the roads until mid February.  
Oh well, with the end of cycling comes the beginning of skiing.  Lookout Pass opened today, and I will be up there tomorrow.  

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Still no snow.  All the ski junkies in the area are doing snow dances, hanging out prayer flags, and basically doing a lot of whining, but to no avail.  It's like this every year that winter is late in coming.  We all start to panic.  

Last year was an epic year.  122 inches of snow in the valley, and well over 450 inches in the mountains.  It seemed that every ski day was a powder day.  In fact, for me it was the first time that I had ever experienced trying to ski in too much snow.  It is hard to move when the snow is mid-thigh deep.  We learned to follow the snowboard tracks until the terrain got steep enough to gain some momentum.  We knew that there had to be some use for snowboarders.  There was a certain amount of enjoyment in skiing past them as they floundered in the deep snow.

The snow will come, it always does.  It may not be as epic as last year, but we will still get in plenty of ski days.  In the meantime, I will keep riding.  I still have slim hopes of making 3000 miles for the year.  Not bad, considering I had to spend so much time off my bike because of my "little problem."  It all depends on the weather.  There is snow forecasted for the weekend,  and the low next Monday morning is predicted to be 4 degrees.  I rode once when it was 9 degrees, and it was the most overdressed I have ever been for a ride,  I literally wore everything that I owned, including my Patagonia puff jacket.  I was miserable.  You might want to check out my post monday night to see if I actually rode, and if I did a better job of dressing. 

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Dark Times

December in northern Idaho is a dark month.  By the middle of the month, sunrise is about 7:30, and sunset is before 4:00.  This makes for some cold, dark commutes.  I really don't mind riding in the dark, in fact, I kind of like it.  I especially like night rides in mid-summer.  Mountain biking Canfield Mountain in August is a blast, especially if there is a moon.  I do worry a bit about mountain lions and such, but that just goes with the territory. 

It has not snowed yet in the valley, and not much in the mountains.  On the one hand, I am psyched that I am still commuting into December, my rule of thumb being that I will continue to ride until they start plowing the roads.  On the other hand, I am ready for ski season, as are all of my ski buddies.  This morning, I listened to a message on my voice mail from Rebecca, bemoaning the fact that we aren't skiing yet.  The irony is, I was listening to the message as I sat in the Denver airport waiting on my flight that was delayed due to a snow storm raging outside.

I was in Denver, because my company had sent me to Tampa for a one day software training.  It was sunny and relatively warm there.  I spent all my breaks out standing in the sun, which, unlike north Idaho, is still warm in Florida this time of year.  I even went for a short run at the end of the day.  It was seventy degrees, but I had trouble enjoying it, knowing that tomorrow morning I will be crawling on my bike and it will be in the upper teens.  I don't mind the cold, but I don't need to be reminded of what warmth feels like, when I know it is going to be another 5 months before we feel it again around here.