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Medium Dawn Felagund of the Fountain

O What a Night

The (Cyber) Bag of Weasels

bread and puppet




"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

O What a Night

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hugo reyes--dude
Today, I spent a few hours at the library because we switched Internet providers this weekend and so were without Internet for a few hours. However, I had schoolwork to turn in and stuff to do on the SWG site, so I went and used Carroll County's wi-fi that my tax dollars pay for. When I emerged from the library some three hours later, it was snowing and the cars and pavements were lightly covered.

It was one of those strange snowfalls where it is snowing and sunny at the same time, so the snow on the main roads was melting pretty quickly, so it was a simple matter of using a little extra caution in case there were slick patches but, otherwise, an uneventful drive home. When I got home, Bobby was still tinkering with the Internet, so I did some reading in the living room. It kept snowing ... and snowing. When Bobby got the Internet running, the first thing he did was check the forecast. "Less than an inch," it said. (2.5 cm for you sensible, metric-using folks.) We had plans to drive to Hunt Valley (about a half-hour away) to get dinner at Cheeburger Cheeburger and go to a specialty grocery store to stock up on organic/vegetarian food, and since the forecast was unimpressive and my experiences driving home from the library had underscored the fact that the snowfall was really uneventful, then we set out around 6:30.

As soon as we passed out of Manchester township, it became clear that the roads were pretty much untouched and snow-covered, so we decided to call off Hunt Valley for the night. Instead, we figured, we'd stay close to home and have dinner at Genova's, then go home and potter around on the new Internet and watch some movies. So we turned around and headed back into Manchester and turned onto Route 30, which is one of about a half-dozen "major roads" in Carroll County. ("Major roads," of course, are those that actually go somewhere directly and are used by multiple people in any given hour and on which one is less likely to get stuck driving behind a tractor or combine.) Route 30 was pretty backed up, but this is Maryland (even if we can spit into Pennsylvania), and as soon as Marylanders see a snowflake, their cars spin out of control and get into accidents. It's just a reality in this state; we didn't think much of it and joined the queue of cars lining up to head south on 30.

Our part of the world sits in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains so, by its very nature, is quite hilly. When we were looking to buy our house, our next-door neighbor pointed out that one is unlikely to find such a large flat piece of land in Carroll County. He did not jest. Heading south on 30 from Manchester, the road dips about thirty feet into a gully and then rises just as quickly to resume its former height. As we crept through town and approached this point, we realized that the backup wasn't caused by an accident but because this gully--the uphill and down--was frozen into a solid sheet of ice.

It seems that our little snow shower earlier caught the Highway Administration by surprise. The day was nice and warm and sunny enough to make--and keep--the roads wet, but as soon as the sun went down, the temperatures dropped well below freezing, and the roads froze before the State had a chance to send out salt trucks. We made it into the gully just fine. Once we started up the other side, though, we weren't doing so well. We were fishtailing from side to side until Bobby managed to get over to the side of the road and put on his emergency flashers. We were soon joined by other cars; one guy in a Mercedes pulled in front of us and got out of his car and proceeded to slip and slide as he walked into the street.

We pondered our options. We were about twenty feet up from a driveway into a dentist's parking lot; we decided that it would be best to try to pull the car into there. In any case, we weren't going any further up the hill; Bobby tried twice with the result that the car turned perpendicular to the direction of traffic as soon as he let up on the brake.

By now, we were both famished. We'd had Subway sandwiches for lunch some seven hours earlier, and Subway doesn't stick with a person for long. We managed to back down the road and into the parking lot and weighed our options. We could walk home where--by virtue of having been on our way to the grocery store--we had very few palatable dining options, or we could walk the mile or so south on 30 to Genova's. Bobby and I truly enjoy walking--when we lived in Ellicott City, we used to make the three-mile walk to our favorite restaurant for the fun of it--so we decided to do this.

Meanwhile, both sides of 30 were barely moving on account of people heading both north and south getting stuck in that gully. As we walked, people seeing that we came from the direction of the hold-up rolled down their windows and asked what was going on. I told Bobby that we should have made sandwich boards for ourselves before leaving the car that announced THERE IS NO ACCIDENT BUT ICE ON THE HILL. I felt terribly sorry for most of the drivers; it was clear that they weren't going anywhere for a while, and it's one thing to be stranded in the ice a mile from home, as we were, and quite another to be stranded in the ice an hour from home in a backwoods farm town that doesn't even have a motel. As we traipsed through the snow on the shoulder, a middle-aged couple pulled up next to us and asked if they could give us a ride.

They were also heading for Genova's so we gratefully took their offer. They had been heading north to Hanover and had passed Genova's a half-hour earlier and hadn't even reached Manchester yet when they decided to make a U-turn and go back. Genova's is about a mile from Manchester; that is how slow traffic was moving. Bobby had talked to a guy coming from Hanover earlier, in the dentist's parking lot, so he told them what he knew of Hanover, which was none too good, much to the dismay of our saviors.

Genova's was packed; I suspect that a lot of people (especially locals like us) had the same idea. We had hopes that the roads might have cleared by the time we were finished dinner, but as we left the restaurant, we saw that was certainly not the case: Traffic heading north was bumper-to-bumper and no cars were heading south except for those frustrated by their lack of progress north who were hooking U-turns.

We started the walk back north. Luckily, because I loathe the cold (in sentimental moments, I affirm that the only reason I am not running half-clad through a jungle on the Equator but was born as offensively far north as Maryland is because Bobby was born first and born here, and so I had to be born here as well), I was dressed in my usual garb that resembles what Laura Ingalls would have worn while schlepping to the barn in the winter. I had on a floor-length layered skirt with a slip underneath, boots that come almost to my knees, a thermal shirt, a full-length coat over top of it all, gloves, and a bandana to keep my hair tame but also convenient for pulling down over the naked tops of my ears. Walking briskly to keep up with Bobby, I was quite comfortable.

In fact, it was a rather nice walk. The night was cold and crisp, and there were farms to the right of us and, most importantly, we were not in the interminable line of unmoving cars heading north on 30. I have been stuck in traffic before where a pedestrian on the shoulder outwalks the waiting cars, and I've no doubt that Bobby and I earned the curses of a few drivers trying in vain to get home tonight. It seemed no time at all before we reached the point where we turn off of 30 and head for home.

Here, the fun began. Our house is just down the road from the highest point in Carroll County, which means that no matter how you go to our house--unless you get airlifted onto the hilltop just up the road from us--you are mostly walking uphill. Now, as I said, Bobby and I like to walk, and we're not discouraged by uphill treks, but when I'd chosen my shoes for the night, I'd had in mind going to Cheeburger Cheeburger and walking around the grocery store for a half-hour. The boots were wonderful for keeping my lower legs toasty, but they also have a low heel, and by the time we had started up the mile-long hill for home, my baby toes were starting to feel a little raw. We were also now walking into the wind; my coat kept blowing open and my wrap-around skirt as well, and the wind was having its way with my naked knees. And my face and ears, despite the bandana. About a half-mile from home, the climb gets steep, and I kept my eyes on the top of the hill and my strides long and fast and tried my hardest not to think of my poor toes, which felt like ground meat by now inside of my boots.

I always thought that, one day, I would like to walk with Bobby to Genova's for dinner and then home. I just did not expect it to be on a below-freezing night with the roads a sheet of ice while wearing boots with low heels and after leaving the car abandoned in a dentist's parking lot. Alas, sometimes life deals interesting cards.

We made it home. I was never so happy to see our Christmas lights at the crest of the hill. I was cold and sore and exhausted by this point, but when I took off my boots and peeled off my socks, there was no blood, which was good, just a lot of raw skin scraped away in places. My cheeks are bright red and windburned, and my knees burned with a feeling like sunburn for a half-hour as the mostly frozen skin got re-acclimated to the warm temperature inside of the house.

But, as Bobby and I said, we had an adventure that we will remember for some time now.

It's funny to think that that a light snowfall could cause such a mess but, as we walked home, there was a cop parked at the bottom of the gully with traffic stopped both ways, a tractor trailer facing the wrong way, cars stopped and turned helter-skelter coming down the hill. It was just the perfect storm: the roads newly wet at a time when they would have literally frozen beneath the wheels of people driving home as the sun set. And, as near to us as Baltimore, they got only a dusting of snow and no ill effects, at least according to my in-laws.

To make the night even stranger, when we let the Goldens outside upon arriving home, Bobby went to the door to find Alex standing on the patio with a freshly killed rabbit hanging out of his mouth. It's the first animal either of the Goldens has ever caught and killed, to the best of our knowledge. We managed to lure him (with dead Bugs) into the house with a promise of canned dog food, and Bobby tossed the ex-bunny into the trees in the side yard for some other critter (probably another neighborhood dog) to make a meal of.

In the end, it was as the forecasts promised, and we have less than an inch of snow.
  • Good grief, Dawn! I was going to post to complain about my trip to the Bronx and back today, via car and subway, but after reading your account mine sounded pretty tame.

    I got stuck in slow traffic (turning a 45-min.-max car ride into an hour and a half) in a nice warm cab. (I only took a cab because I was alone and carrying a lot of prepared food for a party.) When I left some five hours later with Laura, Gabriel and Baby Fingon, we found it was snowing in the Bronx and Brooklyn also. So we had the choice of taking the subway home or risking another slow, extremely pricey cab ride. (The only reason to take a cab would be to save time.) So we opted for an extremely long, crowded and slow, but uneventful subway ride home. No near-frost bite, mangled toes or uphill climbs.
    • Last night, I would have much rather been hiking around outside than in your situation: sitting in traffic, which most people affected by last night's ice were doing. (Our next-door neighbor was at the church down the street from us--about five minutes away--and it took her an hour-and-a-half to get home.) I think that sitting in traffic is one of my least favorite things in the world (I doubt I am alone in that). The walk, at least, was interesting and good exercise--which I get very little of lately, since my butt is always parked in front of a computer doing either warrant investigations, schoolwork, or fannish stuff--and plenty of people wanted to talk to us; there's nothing like a minor crisis to make people lift up their heads and notice their fellow humans! :) It was actually kind of fun.

      Now, this morning, when I was awakened by my flayed baby toes screaming as they touched the sheets ... not so fun. :) But they're nice and bandaged now and healing up for more walking tomorrow!
  • Hmmm. Well, I will definitely not be inviting you to Chicago until the winter goes away in June! We're on our third snowfall of the month, the first having arrived promptly on December the first.

    Of course, Chicago knows snow, and there's salt and grit all over the place, and no hills.
    • Snow doesn't bother me at all; I often say that if it has to be cold and miserable and winter, then it might as well snow and look pretty. :) It's the mismanagement of winter weather common to this state (where central Maryland gets maybe two or three snowfalls of more than an inch accumulation; we get much more than that where we live and this was our second "snowfall" that covered the roads and grass this year) and ice that bother me ... and that latter, of course, comes primarily from mismanagement of the roads by the State!

      However, I think I'd much prefer Chicago in the summer nonetheless. ;)
      • Depends. How do you feel about living inside a bake oven?

        Chicago is out on the prairie, with absolutely nothing to protect it from the sky. That's why it gets both booger-freezingly cold in the winter and egg-frying-on-the-hood-of-your-car hot in the summer. Biggest temperature differentials in the entire country.

        But yes, we sure do know what to do about winter weather!
        • I'm all good in the heat! Our temperatures in Baltimore are usually in the mid-90s to low 100s in July and August, with high humidity, so a nice dry heat sounds rather nice. ;)

          One of the good things about where we live, though, is that it's about 8F cooler here than in Baltimore, so when they have hundred-degree days, ours are in the low 90s. The humidity is lower as well. I grew up in Baltimore weather, so the change in the summer has been nice.
  • Oh, Maryland...

    We were at home all day, so i just looked out & went, "Oh. Snow." (We did get only a dusting, but you know, stuff starts falling from the sky & people around here instantly forget how to drive.)
    Tomorrow, though, parents at least were thinking of going to the Senator because they're showing old Christmas movies (i am not interested in "Scrooge" & "It's a Wonderful Life," plus i have a painting final to work on), but think they're second guessing because of tomorrow's possibility of things melting & then refreezing. We live on a hill that rarely gets visited by salt trucks, if ever. That's nice when you don't want to go somewhere, bad when you do. Think once my father had to crash the car into the island at the bottom of the hill because it was sliding down & there was no traction. Skippie.

    But at least you had an adventure! Ehehe. (Grinding Ice? xD (is smacked))

    I like the cold, though, much better than the heat. It's the only time when i think i can feel remotely comfortable.

    And as for MD, i think i'm just territorial. There's no other explanation, especially when i want to assassinate the state politicians. Plus, i like how i figured out that we're a crossing-place, but that's just me being geekily giddy.
    • I grew up on such a hill, back when it was our neighborhood and a few farms, i.e. the "communities" of McMansions that have sprung up in the last decade or so were non-existent. I remember many times when we didn't see a plow or salt truck for days, and we could not leave. People would not believe us until they saw the hill we lived on. Then, "Oh ..." ;)

      My dad slid down our hill and into Belair Rd/Route 1 once; luckily there was no traffic coming, but like your dad's island experience, it made us think twice about that hill when it was icy!

      Speaking of Maryland politicians, did you hear that State employees are being furloughed the day after Christmas and New Year's Day? Merry Christmas to us! *is a State employee* *is pissed*
      • Heheh, yeah; it was always a hope that, even if BCPS didn't close, we were stuck. So tragic. ;)

        Ohh, yeah, i heard. (father is also a state employee) Merry fuckin' Christmas.... not. :|
  • Can I be appalled for you that your roads dept was surprised in DECEMBER?!?!?

    Albreda, in Vermont
    • Lol, from a Vermont point-of-view, absolutely! :D We usually don't get much snow before January here, but it's still profoundly silly that they were incapable of figuring out wet roads + below-freezing temperatures = ice, maybe?

      Trust me, much to my chagrin, you Northerners are perfectly justified in openly laughing at the behavior of most Maryland residents and our State government to winter weather.
      • Not expecting something and being surprised by something aren't the same thing, and I'm sure you pay plenty of taxes for them to not be suprised by much of anything at all. Phooey on them.
  • Ah Winter in Maryland and after knowing you for so many years, the Highway Administration still goes like: owww snows, that won't be so bad. I am glad you guys didn't crash into other cars while slipping because that sounded typically for icey hills. So for this year on the xmas wishlist: snowboots for in the car and a small sleigh so that Bobby can pull you uphill? *big hug*
    • *hugs back* How sad is it when my overseas friends know the incompetence of Marylanders in the snow? ;)

      Bobby and I wished last night for a dog sled and the Goldens; time for them to earn their keep! ;) Doing things other than ridding our garden of rabbits, of course.
      • Yeah I don't think it bodes well for those guys when even foreigners go like: oh the Maryland Highway Administration mess up every wintery thing that might occur. But I also recall that once you shared that the moment a snowflake appeared, Marylanders turned into weird drivers. That must have been when you still lived in the city.

        And oh for the dog sled, am I bad to giggle at the thought of the Goldens giving the two of you glares like: you have to be kidding me, pulling that??? ;)
  • You know, it would be so much easier for me to avoid succumbing to schadenfreude if you didn't write stuff like this:

    We were also now walking into the wind; my coat kept blowing open and my wrap-around skirt as well, and the wind was having its way with my naked knees.

    The wind having its way with your naked knees sent me into hysterics.

    What an ordeal. I sympathize with you greatly since this sort of thing happened around Cincinnati -- a hilly place -- now and then, which also was dicey at times with salt and such, but fortunately, I never got caught in something as wretched as that.

    Although I agree with frenchpony's assessment of Midwestern winters (being a born and bred cornfed -- hey, that rhymed -- native of Illinois) I will note that once the temperatures go below freezing (32F), the human body can easily start flirting with hypothermia; it's just a matter of how quickly it happens. The tips of my fingers got frost-nipped after rowing out on the Charles with cold wet snow falling and temps at 34 F. Not really all that cold, but my exposed hands (grasping the oar) got hit. I hope that your exposed skin is OK. The tips of my fingers hurt for a few days afterward so that's how I knew they got more than just cold.

    [Old lady let me tell you sonny back in the day yammering] When we lived in Madison WI, a city, I will note, whose efficient snowplow crews blow Chicago's out of the water (most of our property taxes in the 1980's went to snow removal), high temperatures, yes, high, ambient temperatures of -5 to 5 F were not uncommon. That doesn't take wind chill into account. [/Old lady let me tell you sonny back in the day yammering] But when you go to areas where snowfall is less common, certainly all bets are off!

    Look at it this way. Like fegie said, you've got inspiration for the crossing of the Helcaraxë!
    • Oh, and one more thing...

      What does a vegetarian order at Cheeburger Cheeburger? *resists the urge to say Pepsi Pepsi Pepsi!*
      • Well, Pepsi Pepsi Pepsi is always an option. ;)

        IIrc, they will make any of their cheeburgers with a vegetarian patty. I seem to recall getting the patty melt a few times. But, even better than that, they have a massive build-your-own entree salad. Normally, I am opposed on principle to "salad for dinner" (which keeps the meat-eaters in my life from abusing my patience by taking me only to steakhouses where they enjoy great, dripping gobs of almost-raw meat while I have a baked potato and side salad and a pout), but this thing proves that there is an exception to every rule!
    • You know, it would be so much easier for me to avoid succumbing to schadenfreude if you didn't write stuff like this

      Hehehe ... well, I write up my misfortunes so as to make them entertaining, so enjoy the schadenfreude! :D

      I will note that once the temperatures go below freezing (32F), the human body can easily start flirting with hypothermia

      I was lucky in that, aside from the wind having its way on a couple of occasions with my naked knees ;), my only pains today are my feet, which are run from tender to raw in places on account of a mile-long uphill climb in low heels. Because I am so bloody hypersensitive to cold, even sitting in a restaurant near a drafty door can ruin my entire evening for the convulsion-like shivers, so I tend not to leave the house between November and March without heavy/multiple layers from toes to neck. That certainly proved advantageous last night!

      Re your old lady let me tell you sonny back in the day yammering ... when Bobby was still in his if-I-told-you-I'd-have-to-kill-you job, there was the possibility of serving for a few years in other locations throughout the US and world, and I told him that I thought that would be fun, but I would not move any further north than Maryland. That includes Canada (disappointing to him, being a hockey freak and all!) Last year, when we went to Deep Creek Lake in January, the high our last day there was 4F. I nearly died. And, somehow, the #$#*&# connived me into queuing with him for a half-hour for this thing called a "mountain rollercoaster" that pulls you to the top of the mountain and then sends you flying back down in a little cart. He has already been informed that that mountain rollercoaster can go take a flying leap this year for all I'm concerned.

      If it wasn't for the fact that Bobby likes winter and I'm somewhat fond of keeping him around ;), then I have no doubt that I would be living someplace like Florida.

      Look at it this way. Like fegie said, you've got inspiration for the crossing of the Helcaraxë!

      Ha! True! Although the aforementioned 4F day in Deep Creek Lake, traipsing through snow to mid-calf, waiting for Lancelot to take a shit served me quite well until now. ;)
  • I suppose that, being in Florence at the moment, where it most definitely has not snowed and is barely cold, I will have to keep my mouth shut! Until late January anyway. ;D

    Though I don't feel too bad in slipping in the word "leggings", just as a suggestion. ;P

    Instead I'll congratulate Alex, but remind him that he's a bird dog and ought to be bringing home ducks or geese. :)

    (Which reminds me, Louis got his JH title earlier this fall. :)
  • I was so excited when my roommate told me it was snowing. I opened my blinds and looked at the pretty snow on the trees and sticking to the ground....

    ...and my first comment was, "oh no, will I have to cancel my trip to DC tomorrow?"

    Yes, Marylanders can't drive in snow. Our gov't can't figure out how to deal with it. Obviously it is ice that is the problem, but when you take a bunch of people who cannot drive in snow and throw them onto roads with only an inch or so coating....it can be nuts. I am sorry you got stuck, but glad you were able to make the most of it and have a bit of an adventure.

    I went to DC and everything was fine. I drove around lightly snow-covered roads and parking lots early this morning and managed not to slide off the road into anyone :P

    The really scary thing is trying to hike somewhere through 2 ft + snow drifts. It takes a *lot* of energy to do that, and you feel that you are going to collapse and die before you ever make it. Or at least, I do ;). My Dad once got a pickup truck stuck (unable to go up a steep icy hill), so abandoned it in a ditch and walked home...but he was 5 miles away when he did that ;). Our driveway was 1/8 of a mile long, and had a steep, north-facing, shaded slope at the end. At least I was never expected to shovel the driveway! There were winters we had to go out with pickaxes and chip away tiretracks in the thick sheets of ice that had formed, though - no fun.
  • I don't think I'll get much pity by telling you that we're boiling here somewhere between 35 and 40 Centigrades (of course) for the third time in less than a month, that this is the hottest spring for the last 50 or 60 years and that each hot wave winds up in a storm that blows/floods/blackouts the whole city. Snow sounds prettier than sweltering heat without air conditioners.
    What will happen to state employees the day after Christmas? Our unspeakable government has given state employees the day off (and the 2nd of January too) on grounds that people need to recover from overeating and overdrinking (usually true) and return home those who go to their home towns (also true) and because in the northern hemisphere (that's all of you), people get all the days from before Christmas to after New Year off and why shouldn't we? Have we spotted a misconception?
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