Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Ahhh, spring... Kinda.

A lot of people that happen to meet randomly on the internet, as well as in person when I been traveling all over the country, have told me "You're so lucky you live in Alaska." Most of the year, I whole-heartedly agree with this sentiment. Except in April. April is what we in Alaska refer to as "break-up season." That's when all the snow melts, and combines with all the gravel that was spread all winter long, to make giant slushy mud holes out of every intersection and turns every yard into a swamp as the ground unfreezes and tries to adsorb all the extra water. When the snow melts, it also reveals all the trash and animal feces that was covered up by all that gorgeous whiteness all winter long. It's an ugly, messy, disgusting month. And then, in May, summer begins in earnest. Volunteer clean-up crews scour the cities, picking up every spare scrap of litter. All the water eventually soaks in, along with the gravel, and the flowers start blooming like crazy. It's beautiful, but you have to make through April to get there.

So, I was fully prepared to enjoy the slightly warmer but sill snowy climate of March, when all that global-warming-crazy-weather-patterns bullshit struck. The last week of February and first week of March, we had temperatures in the mid-50's. That's virtually unheard of here until April. Several days in a row of gorgeous, sunshiney weather. The ice in my driveway melted enough I could attack it with a big stick, breaking out chucks of 6 inch thick accumulation. Half of my backyard snow melted, revealing last years accidentally uncut grass. Of course, the bad thing about the snow melting at the top of the hill in the back yard, is that it all ran down into a giant puddle at the bottom of the hill, trapped their by our fence. So my swingset was mostly underwater, but I bought a pump and a new garden hose and prepared to pump the water out into the front, where it could flow merrily on it's way down the city sewer system. Then, I woke up the next morning, and everything was frozen. It's back down into the teens, it's spitting snow, just enough to drive you crazy but not enough to play in. The lake in my backyard is now solid enough to ice skate on again, but after acclimatizing to the warmer temperatures, now no one wants to go outside and freeze again, so everyone is sitting in the house, moping. The streets are completely snow free, but the melt hasn't reached the sidewalks yet, so there's no where to ride bikes, and only dirty, icky snow left in the yard. In short, we all have a serious case of cabin fever.

In an attempt to relieve some of the cabin fever, we took everyone on a drive down to Kenai the other day. I found some cheap snowmachines on Craigslist, and thought what the hell? It will give us something to do next winter. So we all piled in the car and away we went. Keep in mind, this is a 4 hour trip, with 2 small boys, a grumpy husband, and a bitchy mother in law. Princess wisely chose to stay home and take advantage of the time alone to complete her science fair project without the assistance of her brothers. The trip down is relatively uneventful, although long and pretty boring. We found the place with no problems, picked up our new toys and headed home. Silly me, I had thought we could take the opportunity to do a little sight-seeing, maybe scope out some good fishing spots, and look for wildlife, since I had not been in that area since I was 10 at summer camp, and nether of the other adults had ever been there. But Mr. Grumpy, as the driver, chose to just turn around and go straight back home, no stops, no nothing. Now, I can't say that he was right or wrong, but I can say the return trip was hell. About an hour into the drive home, the blowing snow started. Darkness had fallen, and visibility was down to next to nothing. The best part? There's nowhere to stop on these roads. No gas stations, no hotels, very few houses, in most places no cell phone service, and just a two-lane, extremely bumpy road stretching out in front of you. The snow started to accumulate, making the roads, already a hazard due to frost heaves, even more treacherous. Twice, we slid all over the place, even in four wheel drive. The first time wasn't to bad, we were going up hill, with a pretty good sized ditch on either side, but nothing a tow truck couldn't cure if worse came to worse. The second time however, we were going around a curve, no guardrail, and only a big partially frozen marsh on either side. Some areas of that marsh are over 20 feet deep. We approached the curve, everything was fine, and then all of a sudden, we aren't turning, even thought the wheel is pointed in the right direction. Thank goodness for the extra weight of the trailer behind us, it really is the only thing that saved us from going over the side. A very tense three hours later, the snow suddenly stops, like it was never there. We have reached the south end of Anchorage, and the rest of the trip home was completely uneventful. So now, no matter crazy we are all going in the house together, I ain't leaving my house again until May.

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