Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘commuting

Please Stop

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Just make it stop. Please.

When I stepped out of work yesterday, this is how my car looked:

It was snowing again, perfectly timed with the beginning of the afternoon drive. Lovely. Happy Valentine’s Day, indeed.

My commute home started well enough, considering the low visibility and slippery road surfaces, but in short order, progress slowed to stop-and-go, rolling along at a snail’s pace. That tedious speed lasted for more than an hour, during which I enjoyed a deep meander through my prized digital music collection on my phone.

With little in the way of driving decisions required, my mind was free to pay greater than normal attention to the music of my memories that was flowing from my car speakers. It served as adequate distraction from how extra-long the commute was taking, until the flow finally opened up and vehicles started moving at dangerous speeds again.

Somehow, I was able to steer clear of the two lunatics who were unsatisfied with the reasonable movement in the left lane and decided to race ahead in other lanes to cut back into the left again, disrupting everyone’s safety. One of them chose to cut off me, without the courtesy of a turn signal.

The other picked a driver who chose to “fight back” with a classic road rage tactic of “tit for tat,” racing ahead to cut back in front of the first jerk.

No problem, it gave me a chance to slow down even more to grant them plenty of space to take their grudge well ahead and away from me.

Beyond those two scares, the only other challenges of disaster I narrowly avoided happened to be three separate incidents of police and highway patrol cars precariously parked to protect vehicles that had crashed and spun out.

It took me twice as long to get home, but I did arrive without calamity.

Shortly after, the falling snow stopped, and the sun even appeared for a couple of brief glimpses before setting.

I’m going to visualize this as having been the last snowy drive I will suffer for the rest of the season. To help start this new run of luck in my favor, my goal this weekend (like it was on Tuesday, last), is to simply avoid driving my car at all over the entire weekend.

Here’s hoping I achieve that humble objective.

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Written by johnwhays

February 15, 2019 at 7:00 am

Risking Again

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After last week’s risky and dangerous commute home from work, I intended to be more cautious about venturing out when the weather gets wild and the roads are dicey.

However, there are some things that cause us to push that envelope of safety, like, say… a funeral for a family member. That is what we were faced with yesterday. The service for Cyndie’s aunt was at a church in Plymouth, MN, not far from the location of my day-job.

I stepped out to clean off the front steps yesterday morning, and soon learned the snow was coming down so fast that the areas where I shoveled were getting covered right back up in minutes. That caused an alert that our drive to the cities was going to take much longer than normal.

I rushed inside to let Cyndie know that we needed to depart as soon as possible, and anything she was hoping to accomplish before leaving needed to be immediately re-evaluated as to whether it was more important than possibly missing the funeral.

It was another day of crash-defying navigation in horrible visibility with heavy snow falling and roads slippery and snow-covered. Just the conditions I never wanted to find myself in again for a very long time. It’s exhausting.

To complicate matters, we needed to drive separately. We would both stay overnight in Edina, and I would drive to work this morning, while Cyndie will join immediate family at the cemetery for a brief burial service. After that, she will drive home to take over from our house/animal sitter, Anna, who stayed overnight at Wintervale for us.

I drove ahead of Cyndie, but kept a close eye on her in my rear view mirror. Together, we slowly made our way with barely a minute to spare, luckily avoiding the fate that we witnessed maybe a dozen times along the way, of cars losing control and crashing into the ditches all around us.

It was crazy making. It was white-knuckle gripping of the steering wheel the whole way. That kind of “edge-of-disaster” driving is really, really exhausting.

Follow that with heavy emotions of a funeral service, and that’s one heck of a draining day.

Wouldn’t you know, tomorrow we are due to get hit with another big snow event.

Something tells me I won’t be driving to work Tuesday.

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Written by johnwhays

February 11, 2019 at 7:00 am

Crosstrek Love

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Have I mentioned how much I love my Subaru Crosstrek? It virtually drove itself home yesterday in the heavy snowfall we received. I just pressed the pedals every once in a while. The car plowed through the deep snow easily, holding the lane even when I had no idea where the lane was.

My only complaint was the icing on the wiper blades, but I wasn’t alone. Everyone was having the same problem I was on the last leg, reaching out their window to attempt “thwacking” the blade as it swung near, and pulling off wherever possible to get out and knock off ice.

This was my view toward the end:

There was nowhere to pull over, as each spot I came to was already filled by two or three cars, creating a scary hazard of potential collisions.

When I reached my driveway, I paused to clean my windshield so I could see to stay as close to the center of the pavement as possible. There was no guarantee that I would make it all the way up to the house.

After I parked in the garage, I noticed the back of my car was so coated by snow that my brake lights were hardly noticeable. I had been running with my 4-way flashers on during the craziest portion between River Falls and home, but they probably weren’t making a big difference in visibility.

After dinner, I went out to plow and poked a yardstick into the snow up by the house to check the depth. It was a little deeper down toward the shop garage, but this reading was a solid 8.5 inches.

That melty snow of last weekend is a thing of the past now. We have a fresh dose of the real McCoy. According to the forecast, this batch of flakes was just the warm up. Tonight and tomorrow, we are supposed to receive even more than what fell yesterday.

I’m not sure where I will put it all when plowing and shoveling. The piles are already impressively tall.

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Written by johnwhays

February 6, 2019 at 7:00 am

Contrast Comparison

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Let’s review.

Last week, polar vortex:

A few days ago, February thaw:

Yesterday morning, the commute to the cities was an ice adventure. On one of the close-to-home country roads, my tires lost grip and the Crosstrek started to float at a bit of a sideways angle. At the wee hours of morning, there were no other cars around, otherwise, that slide could have been a head-on collision disaster, as I encroached into the oncoming lane.

After a short distance, the tires re-gripped and the car violently responded with a sudden jolt of physics reality, returning without trouble to rolling straight forward, aligned in the proper lane of travel.

I adjusted my speed accordingly for the rest of the commute.

The residual trepidation that gripped me after that brief adventure in free flight was the possibility, or probability, of someone driving toward me losing traction like I had and then floating uncontrollably into my lane. Luckily, there were only a few cars that approached while I was on two-lane roads. After that, it was all divided highway.

I witnessed no crashes driving in the 5 o’clock hour, but my nerves were further rattled by a radio report that 4 salting trucks had slid into ditches in the county just north of our home.

I carefully pulled my car into the parking spot at work and breathed a sigh of relief. When I stepped out onto the glazed pavement, I was startled over how slippery it actually was. I couldn’t walk up the tiniest incline of sidewalk to the front door. I needed to “penguin” my way over to some snow and walk on that.

A coworker had the best solution for all this crazy winter weather we’ve been facing lately. Humans should be genetically engineered to hibernate during winter.

This is how I am able to recognize I am truly aging. That idea actually sounds appealing to me.

I suppose in a few more years, I will start talking about moving south over the winter months.

It’s enough to make my 20-year-old self roll over in his hypothetical grave. There are days I miss that guy.

I gotta admit, though, the sight of my 60-year milestone approaching on the horizon has me leaning more toward liking the looks of that future snow-bird guy a bit more than the young winter athlete of years gone by.

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Written by johnwhays

February 5, 2019 at 7:00 am

Mist, Continued

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I don’t have anything particularly dramatic to add to yesterday’s narration, but a couple humorous tidbits that Cyndie shared last night continue the themes.

I carefully (slowly) made my way to the interstate in the morning and didn’t have any problems driving the rest of the way. I texted Cyndie when I got to work, letting her know travel was possible, as she needed to drive through the cities, as well.

In the afternoon, she was miles ahead of me on the way home, and she sounded the alert that road conditions of the last few miles were still bad. She couldn’t even make it up the driveway. Her car just slid sideways on the slope by the shop garage.

She parked by the barn and precariously made her way up to the house to get driveway salt to scatter.

My car rolled right up that slope without slipping. I’m just sayin’.

I’m ready for a change of weather. Unfortunately, the forecast is all about a polar vortex of Arctic cold headed our way next. Snow seems to be a slim probability.

Later in the evening, after Cyndie returned from closing the coop, she had this to report: As usual, there was a hen squeezed onto the 2×4 over the side window, but this time, it was one of the Australorps. That top perch is usually claimed by one of the Wyandottes.

Cyndie said there was a lone Wyandotte on the near roost gesticulating obvious dissatisfaction with the arrangement.

It’s not just the horses who are wrangling over who’s highest in the pecking order around here.

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Freezing Mist

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Now, this. What did we do to deserve this? My commute home from work yesterday afternoon was one of the least complicated in my memory, right up until the last ten miles. Then things got serious.

Thank goodness for my Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive Subaru vehicle with Traction Control and an Anti-Lock Braking System. Before the changing road conditions were even visible, my car alerted me to the increasingly slippery conditions.

Most of the day was a dreary, gloomy gray, with temperatures just above freezing, and a hint of wetness in the air and on the ground. When I left Plymouth, MN, it just seemed damp outside. I barely needed to use wipers throughout my drive, as the moisture wasn’t collecting on the glass.

Things changed after I had turned southeast and passed through River Falls, WI. Within five miles of home, I slowed to make a lazy left turn from the state highway to a county road. However, I hadn’t slowed enough for the invisible icing hazard, which triggered the Traction Control to suddenly kick in and instantly grab my attention.

I touched the brake to drop some of my momentum and the Anti-Lock vibrated for added emphasis. I would drive the rest of the way home with extreme care.

After turning off the county road onto the local streets, I came over a rise and spotted the telltale marks of tires sliding in an oscillating fish tale pattern, and the car perched up ahead in the first few rows of a harvested corn field. I couldn’t stop to offer any support, because there was nowhere safe to pull over, and I wasn’t sure I could get my car to stop.

Luckily, it was close to two farms where they would have equipment to help. I wouldn’t have been able to offer more than moral support.

Poor Delilah lost her feet right away on the front steps when we headed out for a walk. The conditions on our land have gone from bad to worse. Areas that were icy before are now glazed smoother than a freshly resurfaced hockey rink. Rocks, cement, and asphalt, all have a coating that is deceptively and heart-stoppingly slippery.

The absurd wickedness of navigating around here on foot has gotten morbidly comical.

As darkness set in, I very carefully made my way down to close the chicken door to the coop. As we always do, I opened the big door to peek in and count hens. Eight. I found eight. Dang it! There were just nine of them milling about around there fifteen minute before.

I counted four times, then made my way up the treacherous climb to the house to get a flashlight. Slipping my way back down again, it struck me that I had only looked at one side in the coop, toward the roosts. There were seven on the roost and one that is typically up on the 2×4 framing over the small side window.

Aiming my flashlight through the window to the opposite side, I found hen number nine, deftly perched above the other side window. Whew!

As I climbed back up toward the house one more time, I captured a shot of the shiny glaze forming on the driveway and the wisps of mist reflecting in the beam of my flashlight.

I expect driving this morning will be a real slippery trip on the local back roads.

It might take me more than the usual hour to get in to work today.

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Festivities Underway

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The week after the winter solstice has become a time of amplified car commuting in my mind, ever since we moved an hour away from family in the Twin Cities, to rural countryside in western Wisconsin, where we have animals that need tending.

For some occasions, we have been lucky to find sitters to live in our house and care for our horses, chickens, and dog, but holidays are a tough time to ask others to do the job, at the expense of their own family gatherings.

Generally, that means we do the hour drive to participate in a few hours of holiday festivities, and then duck out early to make the hour drive back home again. Although the commute has become second nature for me to get to the day-job, the short time between trips each day around Christmastime makes the driving seem much more significant.

And, on Christmas day, we do it twice in one day.

It is not ideal, but it is always worth it, on both ends. We never regret time spent with our animals, and the time with family is forever priceless.

This year, we have an added bonus of relatives visiting from Norway. That wouldn’t be my relatives. The Fisknes family are from the Ravndal clan on Cyndie’s family tree. Cyndie’s great-grandmother was a Ravndal. We drove out to Eden Prairie last night to greet the family of five who are initially staying at the home of Cyndie’s brother, Steve.

After Christmas, the plan is for them to spend a night or two with us at Wintervale.

We don’t have oodles of snow to show off, but that might just change right in the middle of their visit. Precipitation is coming, but there is a sad chance it could be rain and snow mixed. Yuck.

The horses are enjoying the lack of snow cover during their brief forays onto the frozen grass of the back pasture. Yesterday, when I opened the gate for them, Delilah and I lingered in the field with them to appreciate the moment.

All three horses emptied their bladders in quick succession, and then followed that up a short time later with a rambunctious roll on the ground. Seemed like a very business-like routine in preparation of an afternoon of free grazing.

I am getting prepared for some free grazing of my own. Our kids will visit us this morning for our little personal family Christmas brunch, and then we drive to Edina for Christmas eve gathering with Cyndie’s cousins on her mom’s side.

I will sneak out early to drive home. Christmas morning, I finish chores and drive back for the Friswold gift exchange extravaganza.

The festivities are definitely underway.

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Written by johnwhays

December 24, 2018 at 8:11 am