Monday, November 27, 2006

Where'd you learn to drive?

Snow is not unheard of in the Willamette Valley, but it is unusual. I'm not sure how cities like Denver, Chicago and Minneapolis deal with the winter deluge of snow, because urban drivers in the Portland/Salem metropolitan area don't handle the white stuff on the roads very well.

The snow today in and around the Willamette Valley hasn't been much more than decorative on the hills and rooftops of high buildings here in Salem, but judging from the morning traffic reports, it was snarling traffic.

Growing up in rural Eastern Oregon, I got some wheel time on snow-covered roads once in a while. But if truth be told, I haven't driven much on snowy or icy roads of late. Ten years in the sunny deserts of Southern California and the stint in the San Joaquin Valley got me out of practice. The worst winter weather I had to put up with during that stretch was the legendary Tule fog in the San Joaquin Valley, another phenomenon that make you long for sparsely driven rural roads because urban drivers don't handle driving into a fog bank any better than they handle driving into a snow bank. And both situations leave you wondering if you going to make it to your destination with your taillights in tact.

I do vividly recall one Willamette Valley snowfall at the end of the Thanksgiving weekend some years back when I was a student at Oregon State (winners of the 2006 Civil War game over arch intrastate rival Oregon by the way. Go Beavs! On to Hawaii this weekend and then bowl bound!).

My college roommate, Andy Saylor, his stepsister, Libby Davis, and I had gone back to Echo, Ore., for the Thanksgiving holiday. Andy and Libby's home away from college was a farm just a few miles down the Buttercreek Highway near Echo, Ore., from where I grew up. So, it made the holiday carpool pretty convenient. But the trip back to Corvallis was anything but convenient. It started snowing on our westward journey and just got heavier the farther we drove.

If you've ever traveled through the Columbia Gorge in a snowstorm you know how treacherous that can be. I think both Andy and I would have preferred to be driving, rather than passengers in Libby's old VW Bug. Actually, Libby and the car handled the slick roads rather well. But that old bug had no window defroster, so Libby would pull off one of her gloves and place it against the windshield to use the head of her hand to melt the ice enough so the wiper blades could sweep the windshield clean. We figured that once we got out of the gorge, the snow would turn to rain, and the trip from Portland to Corvallis would be far less harrowing.

We figured wrong.

Fortunately, as we were driving south on Interstate 5 in a driving snow, we heard a report on the radio that Oregon State had canceled classes on Monday. Rather than press on in the nasty weather, we stopped off at a motel in Salem for the night.

Now that was a snowstorm.


Unfortunately, there was not enough snow this morning for the Capital Press offices to close for the day, so it's back to work today after the Thanksgiving holiday. I'm sure I'm not the only person realizing they've eaten too much good food in recent days. I blame my family. Due to some spread out living arrangements, I've actually overindulged in two holiday meals over the last two weekends. OK, maybe I should blame farmers too, for growing that food that looks and tastes so good, especially when it's prepared by experienced and talented cooks in someone else's kitchen.

I need a nap and a good post-holiday diet.

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