Monday, January 27, 2014

Impassable Roads in Keweenaw County

Cold enough for ya?  Cripes.  Lake Superior really wants to freeze all the way across, doesn't she.  Here's an image of the Big Lake as of Monday, January 27th.  The gray is the ice.  Oh, boy.

Ice taking over the Big Lake

Schools are cancelled and all that.  This last week has been pretty intense for weather.  Here are a couple examples.

Wednesay Night
Errrrrrrr.  Errrrrrrrr.  "This is a message from the Emergency Broadcast System.  Accumulating snow, drifting snow and impassable roads are in effect for Keweenaw County.  All roads in Keweenaw County are closed."

That was looming since I was working at the Bear Belly Bar and Grill in Lac La Belle and had to drive home.  "You better just stay in Cabin 1 tonight," the owner told me.  Bless her heart.  But Aaron and I had a friend driving up from Green Bay that day.  If he could make it, I would go for it.  "It's not that bad," was the report.

So I buckled up and mustered up some courage.  The snow was a heavy six inches deep on the unplowed roads.  I revved the VW (front wheel drive) and gave her heck up the steep hill that passes Mount Bohemia.

Gunning it in third gear, the menacing tire tracks in the road from drunken snowboarder stunts threw my own tires out of any possible tracks.  Second gear.  Spinning tires.  First gear.  Stopped.

Stopped in the middle of the road half way up this steep hill.  I was just hoping that nobody else was going to be on this road.  Nobody.  Then I could maneuver however I had to to get out of this mess.

I took a couple deep breaths and got my wits together.  Rocked her back and tried to gain some traction forward until my spinning wheels became useless.  I could barely steer through the muddled tracks and deep snow.  Well, Cathy said I could stay in Cabin 1 tonight, I reminded myself.  And I tried moving forward again.  And again and again.  Baby steps.

Someone was rooting for me because I made it up the hill revving the engine a handful of times in the red zone.  If you've ever driven a manual transmission, you know what that means.  At least I got the carbon out!

Once the grade leveled out, things got easier.  I had to drive in the only set of tracks on the road... in the other lane.  Now I was really hoping nobody else was going to come down this road.  Leaving those tracks surely meant I would come to a halt again.

Approaching the sharp right hand, uphill turn onto 41, I had already decided I wasn't going to stop at that stop sign.  Keep her in second and just go for it.  That would be my only hope of making the turn.  

At Highway 41, the impossible became reality.  It was plowed!!!  I was giddy.  My lane was plowed when the roads were "Closed" in Keweenaw County!  Granted, anyone else driving that road would have been in my lane too, but now I had dibs on the clean lane.  Somebody out there loves me.

Five miles later, I was at Medora -- the most dreadful part of the Covered Stretch in blowing snow.  Now, you are not going to believe what I went through here.  Somehow, the road looked darn near zambonied, and I could see a part of the road I hadn't seen in weeks: the yellow lines.  Yahoo!!!  I just followed the yellow lines to keep me in the middle of the road through all that blowing snow.

I made it home with a big smile on my face.

Friday Night
Friday, I was also working at the Bear Belly in Lac La Belle.  Since it was a weekend crowd, I didn't get out of there until 11:30 pm.  A Blizzard Warning was in effect, but nobody sounded concerned like they did Wednesday.

I made it up the Bohemia hill full throttle without stopping.  Highway 41 had about three inches of mashed snow on it, so I went a bit slower there.  Visibility was pretty good.

Until I got two miles before Lake Medora.

Where did all these huge flakes come from? I wondered as I started my useless windshield wipers and squinted out the only clear parts of my windshield that changed with every swipe.  By now I was back into third gear.

I couldn't even see any of the road signs that usually let me know I'm getting to Lake Medora.  I only knew I was there because, suddenly, I couldn't see anything at all.  Second gear and 12 mph.  I couldn't see anything out the front, so I looked out my side windows to make sure I was half way between the banks.  I was not, I repeat NOT going to get sucked in the drifts at midnight.

White knuckles, deep breaths and side window glances got me through to Medora Road.  I could sort of see the mailboxes there by then.  And in another mile, I could see well enough to shift her into third gear.

Almost there.  Almost there. became my mantra.  I had to make it home soon because I called Aaron an hour ago, and I knew he would start to look for me soon.

The rest of the trip went well enough.  Whew.  I was so grateful to be home safe.  That was the longest it ever took me to get past Medora.  But I guess it was a trade for that easy time two nights before.

Moving On
So yes, the Polar Vortex is upon us.  We used to just call it winter, but I guess the authorities like to dramatize things.

Here is a little slice of Hunter's Point's Vortex from, um, a few days ago!

Looking at the ice from Hunter's Point Beach

Okay.  Now I have to catch up on the rest of my projects that I couldn't do while the power was out.  Take care!


  1. WOW!! Quite a visual of that trip back from Bear Belly. Your survival skills must have been on full alert. In a few days, the groundhog will come out and hopefully signal we have a short winter (for those not skiing). John


    It’s Winter here in Michigan

    And the gentle breezes blow

    Seventy miles an hour

    At thirty-five below

    Oh, how I love Michigan

    When the snow’s up to your butt

    You take a breath of winter air

    And you nose gets frozen shut

    Yes, the weather here is wonderful

    So I guess I’ll hang around

    I never could leave Michigan

    ‘Cause I’m frozen to the ground


  3. Nice poem, John! Did you write it? I've been fixed on the feeling of my nostrils freezing together as well. Stay warm!

    1. No, I didn't write it, just passed it along. It was something I thought you'd enjoy and maybe identify with. Stay warm too !!