Friday, January 05, 2007

Those Holidays. We had a White Christmas, just like the ones I used to know. Treetops kind of glistened. Children more or less listened. We even slid into the snow.

But not initially. No, my mother, who really should have some sort of Weather Channel delivery device implanted in her skull lest she miss a second of the action when she goes to work or nods off for the night, was tracking winter storms like some sort of enraged hound dog chasing a fox across an English moor. At 12:33, Tuesday, December 19, I received the email. She was following a winter storm warning, and it did not look good for our planned Wednesday drive across western Kansas and eastern Colorado to the parents' abode west of Colorado Springs. The phone call from her weather assistant (Dad) followed. The parents suggested we leave early, to get ahead of the storm.

I called the wife with the news. I should note that she is of German derivation, which might have something to do with the fact that though we had planned to drive out Wednesday, she had already sorted, bagged, and alphabetized all that needed packing for the trip. Informed that the Prussian General Staff had plans available for an early invasion of the west, I made the command decision to go, despite the rain/freezing rain front that preceded the promised blizzard.

I left work, and we drove into said front shortly after nightfall. I can say with all honesty that I've driven in all kinds of conditions. My first car was a 1973 VW Beetle, with an engine in the rear to help accelerate the spin on ice. To avoid legal troubles with the people who owned the lawn right at the bend of my old street, let's just say I've done my fair share of sliding. But I've never been quite as scared behind the wheel as I was that night as we crossed the Kansas - Colorado border. The entire front of my car was covered with an inch thick clear coat of ice. The rain froze to the wind shield wipers and made them bow and become useless. The entire highway became black ice, even as snow plows dumped sand and salt on the roads in preparation for the blizzard. After we slid into the gas station in Burlington, Colorado, the end of the driver's side wiper blade broke clean off as I tried to knock off the ice. I bought a replacement blade, which helped enormously, but forgot to remove the three inch broken piece from the hood of the car. For about a ten mile stretch of Interstate 70, we saw no less than ten accidents, a semi on its side, a flipped SUV, three ambulances, and a dozen police cars. I told my wife that if it didn't clear up, we were driving to my sister's place just south of Denver.

It did clear up; we did get through the front by the time we turned southwest on Highway 24 at Limon, Colorado. It was clear sailing from then on out, at least until we arrived at Ute Pass in Divide, Colorado, where the snow started to fall.

And fall it did, all that night, and all through the next day. We arrived at my parents' place at three in the morning, slept in a bit, and weathered the storm inside. It sounds strange, but the snow wasn't as bad up in the mountains as it was down on the front range. Still, we woke up Thursday with 10 or 12 inches on the ground, the sun shining, and with that piece of the windshield wiper still frozen to the hood.

From my parents' driveway:

Believe it or not, this was the first significant snow we had seen since the elder boy has been upright and mobile--we split last winter between Virginia and Kansas and got no white stuff--and we were not going to let this opportunity pass. We looked up "s" for snow gear in our luggage, bundled up the boy, and sent him outside with his Papa.

But wait, that's not it, not only was there snow, but Papa went and got himself a tractor. A John Deere tractor. With a blade like a bulldozer. To move the snow.


Unlike the then 2 year old, I was not allowed to drive the tractor. And it was too cold for the 1 year old, so I shoveled the driveway while he watched from inside. A wonderful time was had by all.

But that was not why we were there. We were there to celebrate the majesty of the birth of Christ by teaching children at least four of the seven deadly sins. My dad took his FJ Cruiser to Denver to pick up my sister and her three kids, just because her minivan couldn't get over the two feet of snow piled on her street and driveway. My brother-in-law, who had wisely flown to Dallas just before the storm, had to rent a car and drive back to have any chance of making it for the holiday.

Everyone arrived, I'm happy to say, and the gift unwrapping orgy began. I won't bore you with all the details, and nor will I post any more pictures than this one, but suffice it to say that over the course of our trip, we took nigh on 500 pictures, and the five kids unwrapped presents like tazmanian devils on crack for 45 minutes straight. It was pandemonium.

Were we done? Ha.

On Christmas Eve we drove back to Divide to the wife's parents' place, also in the mountains, even higher, and with several feet of snow all around. Along the way, we managed to glide into a ditch on my parents' road, wherein the snow only went up to the passenger side window. So there I was, in tennis shoes, attempting to dig out the front of the car with a window scraper. No cell signal. Altitude: 9,000 feet. 9:00 PM. Two year old saying "Uh oh Mommy."

Then two angels in a Ford pickup came rumbling down the road. They had a shovel, and they had a chain, and they had the know how to pull an idiot out of a ditch. They only had one request, which I pass on to you--if you ever see any cattle loose on County Road 77 or in the Lake George area, give the Gilley's a call. They are good people.

Most importantly, we got to the in-laws' place, so the kids could open a few hundred more gifts.

The older boy now has a fleet of Tonka vehicles, or he would if the last of the seven (7) packages we shipped home because they wouldn't fit the car had arrived yet.

He's rather fond of those vehicles, as you might gather.

To be continued...

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