winter wonderland… not so much

Kaitlyn is home from school today. No, it isn’t Wednesday. No, it isn’t one of the many holidays schools have here. She isn’t sick. The teachers aren’t on strike. They just couldn’t make it to the school this morning. Because it snowed. Two inches. Two inches of snow… in the Alps… brought the region to a stand still.

Bill left this morning just before the sun came up. (a bit after 7am) When I stuck my head out into the garage to say goodbye, I saw it was snowing. I wasn’t happy. Bill reminded me how much he loves snow and what a wonderful thing it was and that it’s just a couple of inches… nothing to worry about. A few minutes later, he called my cell phone to tell me to be sure to leave early and go slowly, it’s slippery. He called me a few minutes after that to tell me to put the chains on my car. Then he turned around and came back home because he couldn’t get out of our little town. (after stopping to put the chains on his car) He said the road down the mountain was littered with cars facing every which way but down. Among those stuck is a friend who lives on a street even steeper than ours… he decided that it wasn’t too much snow and not having snow tires wasn’t enough to stop him from driving to work. The sign he hit and the blown out tire say differently. Last I heard, he was told a tow truck would try to show up this afternoon.

The forecasters have been sounding like chicken little this week. Every day, they’ve predicted snow all the way to Grenoble (which is low-lying… Wickepedia tells me it’s at 214 meters… we’re just below 800 and generally right at or below the snow line) They finally took those snowflakes off the forecast. And, voila! We got it.

Point is, no one seemed to be expecting this. Not the drivers without snow tires or chains. Not the snow plows. Because none were out.
Maybe they were trying, but couldn’t get past the aforementioned cars littering the roads.

When Bill got back home, he found me attempting to put my “easy” chains on my car. They’re big plastic things you stick sorta on the outside and they have plastic claws, if you will, that wrap half-way around your tire. There are metal spikes on the claws… providing traction. In theory. We’ve never actually used them in snow. I’ve only put them on once before and that was last year. Bill bought them when he found out he was spending most of last winter in England because he knew he wouldn’t be able to drive home to put the chains on my car. This week, I’d even been thinking about how I needed to have a refresher course in chain usage. Got one today. After we managed to get the chains on my car, it was time to get Kaitlyn to school. Not that I figured promptness was particularly important today, given Bill’s tale of the messy roads. Bill drove and we got to the school with no problem. (We did see the police turning people around at the round-about by the town’s swimming pool… which meant they were trying to keep people from going down the steep, windy road that gets you off this mountain. Or they were at least trying to re-route people through a different town, making them a different police department’s problem.)

We got to the school and I walked up with Kaitlyn where I found a handful of kids, a couple of parents and the school director (she’s like the principal)… who was the only teacher to make it in. She told us to take the kids home, she’d try to clean up the playground (which normally gets zero shoveling or salt treatments) and the teachers were all trying to make it in by after lunch.

So Bill and I got back in the car and it was my turn to drive. I’d planned on being the one driving home so it would be quiet and I could concentrate. Because, truth be told, even with big spikes on my tires, I am a big chicken about driving in the snow. Which can be a problem when you live in the Alps. But Kaitlyn was with us and she insisted on chattering the whole way home. She not only has no fear, she doesn’t even understand the concept. Bill told me I didn’t have to drive as slow as I was going, but I didn’t speed up much. Still, the spikes did provide some serious traction. When we got to the main road it had been cleared and the police had returned to chatting and seemed to be letting cars go wherever they wanted.

At the bottom of our road, we had to wait for the snow plow driver to finish talking to some people who thought that was a good place to discuss who knows what with him. He finally got back in the cab of his truck and the couple dragged their baby behind them on a sled… nearly sending the kid under the plow’s tires.. then running across the road in front of another truck…. that poor child will be lucky to make it to 5 years old. Anyway, we followed the plow up the steep, narrow beginning of our road and I was nervous as all get out because last time I went up our road in a fresh snow this was the part where I slid around a little bit and worried I’d drive off the road…. and Kaitlyn wouldn’t shut up… and then the snow plow stopped. I started to panic and Bill told me to just stop; I wouldn’t slide backwards. Which I didn’t. But then we saw why the plow stopped. At the top of the initial climb up our road, just where it makes a fairly sharp turn to the right, a car had stopped. And the driver had left it there. Blocking the road. No one was going to get up or down. The plow driver put his big truck in reverse and motioned for me to back up too. Back up. Down a steep, narrow road in the snow. Uh, no way. Bill and I switched places so he could perform the backup maneuver, which involved backing up a dirt driveway. After the plow left, Bill drove up the street to see if maybe we could get by that car. No way. It was planted right in the middle of the road. So Bill backed down the road as far as to the dirt driveway, where he managed to turn the car around where the dirt driveway sort of meets a steep driveway going down the other side of the road. Then he floored it and took off up the steep driveway. Which was mud, grass and some snow. He said we know the people who live at the end of the driveway from hell and that we could just park there and walk home. The only alternative was to park at the town pool and walk from there, which is even farther. I was fairly convinced that we were going to end up stuck in a field, but we didn’t. Then we had to walk up our street. It’s a long walk. It’s a really long walk in the snow. At least I was dressed for it. Bill had on dress shoes he’d put on to to go work this morning. Kaitlyn’s new snow boots passed the test. I really need to get new ones.

After a couple of hours at home, the snow plow drove past our house. Bill figured that meant two things: that car was gone and the roads were clear. So he walked back to my car and left for work. He made it there ok. Said the only place he needed the chains on the tires was our street.

I guess the lesson here is: if it snows and they haven’t plowed yet… stay at home.

One Response to “winter wonderland… not so much”

  1. D.A.D. says:

    What an adventure! Confronting snow in the alps wouldn’t seem to be such a challenge. Not that you’re in the alps, but proximity counts for something. Laughed out loud at the part about the kid not making it to age five after his parents nearly had him run over twice. And fearless Kaitlyn just keeps plowing along!!

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