Thursday, February 11, 2010

Kiss of the White Death... Part Two

It was not my intention to rail against the weather, nor those who are paid to hype it, in this blog episode, but the events which unfolded on Tuesday and Wednesday were so extraordinary, that I am compelled to report them in some measure.

It is no secret that a vicious one/two snowfall (approaching blizzard conditions) had been predicted for the Philadelphia area (including Delaware, Maryland, and New Jersey). The first of these punches was delivered over the weekend, from Friday night into Saturday afternoon. As detailed in my last blog, we all coped, and even managed to have a good time.

The second part of the onslaught was not slated to start until Tuesday night, and most of the talking heads on the weather programs had assumed a less hysterical stance by Monday morning. In fact, there were fewer of the dire predictions that constitute good weather drama. The usual scenes of people storming the local markets in search of bread and milk had been replaced by the more prominent stories of shootings and robberies, which constitute “human interest” in Philly.

(Above) During the lull in the storm, this is what the house looked like at 2:30pm on Wednesday. This was before the heavier storm activity. Note the "plowed" driveway to the right of the house. In two hours, it had accumulated another 6 inches of snow. The front door is not visible behind the snow-covered dogwood tree. Photo by Leslie Marsh

The storm started on cue, about 9pm Tuesday evening, and was duly noted by our two dogs, who were in the yard at that moment and who are ambivalent about this sort of thing. Dawn Wednesday morning saw an additional 4 inches of heavy, wet snow on the ground, which made for pleasant breakfast speculation during the normal conversation.

(Above) The mailbox on its ornamental carved post is barely visible in the as the storm winds up for the pitch. Photo by Leslie Marsh.

Both the news teams and the weather forecasters — all talked out over the cataclysmic events of the weekend — seemed a lot more pensive and tended to issue more practical assessments of problems likely to develop in the next 24 hours. Gone were the interviews with morons shoveling snow on the street. In their place were reports from New Jersey Transit, PENNDOT, and PECO about major suspensions in service and the potential for serious road closures. These seemed incongruous with the gently falling snow outside.

(Above) Less than three miles from the house, this picturesque lane appears as desolate as any country road in the middle of nowhere. The snow here was over ten inches deep, but no challenge for the Suburban. The tire tracks indicate someone was ahead of me in here at some point.

Our plow guy, Joe DiGiacomo (from Planet Granite in West Chester), pulled up, dropped the plow, and had the driveway and garage area cleared out in ten minutes.

“I’m gonna be back during the night and once again in the morning,” Joe said, with an infectious grin. “Then I’m leaving for a ski trip up in Montreal. My friends left yesterday, but business is business, and I’m going make sure all my customers get plowed out before I go.”

(Above) The field to the left is usually host to a dozen horses. They were probably eaten by rich people who did not want them stolen by hoards of "Have Nots," roaming the countryside looking for a meal. Photo by Leslie Marsh.

I fired up the Suburban, and rolled out into the street, which had already been cleared by East Goshen Township, who have done a magnificent job of dealing with the snow. A fast spin around the block and into town clearly indicated the truck was up to anything accumulation that was on the roads. “Another series of storm predictions that were much ado about nothing,” I surmised. Yet I noticed that a handful of cars moving around without 4-wheel drive were having a tough go of it, and seemed to be at the limits of their expected performance range.

(Above) Weighed down by hundreds of pounds of snow on each branch, trees bowed across the road, giving a wild aspect to their usually more dignified county road nature. Picture by Leslie Marsh.

Leslie was eating a bowl a steaming barley beef soup when I tramped in.

“The trees are heavy with snow and their branches are hanging down to the pavement,” I said, “Want to take a ride in the truck and grab some pictures?”

“Sure,” she said. “How is it outside? They say it’s going to get worse.”

I told her the snow seemed to have reached a lull, and that the best scenes for pictures would be now, before the wind picked up. We headed out 20 minutes later, and I couldn’t help noticing that there was already two more inches of snow down on the newly plowed driveway.

(Above) A solitary tree wearing the colors of winter: shroud-white and bleak. Photo be Leslie Marsh

We were out for an hour and a half, during which time the wind did pick up, as did the rate of snowfall. Nearly all of the vehicles we encountered were commercial plowing vehicles and township trucks. Ducking down some of the more picturesque side roads, we found the snow to be as deep as ten inches. The “Big Blue” Suburban took it all in stride, though there were at least two country roads where the snowbanks had narrowed the right of way to a single lane. These were on downhill stretches, and I did not see how I would be able to yield to a vehicle coming the other way. (Fortunately, none did.) At one point, we hit a stretch where the plow had simply stopped, leaving a standing snow barrier. I gave the truck a hit of gas and drove right through it.

(Above) Exiting an old mill pond by the side of the road, this creek was one of the few example of open water we could find yesterday. Photo by Leslie Marsh.

Our objective was to find and photograph some open water, where Ridley Creek passes under a bridge on Dutton Mill Road. That was out of the question. Dutton Mill Road was in bad shape as it runs for a couple of miles and there are only a few houses on it, mostly at opposite ends.

(Above) Frequent readers to this blog will remember that in the most recent past episode, the furniture on the patio was used to measure the accumulation of the snow. Please feel free to compare this shot with the last one taken of the yard. The white blob in the center is a coffee table. Photo by Leslie Marsh.

The run back to the house was without drama, despite near white-out conditions . It was a lot warmer outside than I expected, and I had the driver’s window down more often then not. With less then two miles to go, we were confronted by a three- truck conga line of plows. All were headed towards us like fate, with each vehicle plowing a respective third of the road. There was enough of a gap between the first and second truck that I could swing to the right of it, and then to the left of the other two, with Leslie snapping pictures the whole time.

(Above) The East Goshen Public Works Department deserves the highest accolades for snow removal in a state not known for vicious winters. None of the adjoining municipalities had streets and thoroughfares as clear as ours. Nearly all of the snow-covered roads in this blog's pictures were taken in neighboring Willistown. The East Goshen Public Works Department is so well rehearsed in snow removal, they could give the guys in Lake Placid, NY or Buffalo, NY a run for their money. This is a conga-line of plows we cut through.

That ended our big adventure for the day. But not the drama.

The snow fell faster than my hopes for getting a decent Christmas bonus last year. Branches snapped off the magnolia tree in front of my office and a couple of really big branches broke off the pines in the yard. The drift against the gardener’s access gate to the yard was more than four feet high and 15 feet long. Septa cancelled all bus and trolley service by 5pm. New Jersey Transit cancelled all statewide bus service by 7pm. Philadelphia International Airport, the most rural on the east coast and the one I hate the most, was closed all day and was still closed early this morning. Even the crack dealers were gone from the usual corners in Philly. The driveway was once again a seamless sheet of white with more than a foot of new snow in it. Yet this time, the snow was heavy and weighed a ton per shovelful.

(Above) This was the view out of the front door early this morning. Photo by Leslie Marsh.

By 6pm last night, I-76, I-476, I-676, and I-78 were all closed. The Pennsylvania Turnpike remained open as did I-95. I-80 was open until there was a 50-car pile-up someplace west of here. A state of emergency had been declared in Delaware, and none but emergency vehicles were permitted on the roads. Leslie’s son Jordan called to report the electricity had been off there all day and that he, his wife, their two babies, three dogs, and one visiting mother-in-law were all huddled around the fireplace, but that they were down to using birthday cake candles for light. We prepared to go into rescue mode to go and get them with the Suburban. The snow was winding down, but the wind was howling. It would make driving in the dark on snow jammed country roads that much more difficult. I figured it could take me an hour to cover the five miles between there and here.

“Tell them I’m on the way,” I said. At that moment, current again surged through the wires and Casa Jordan was aglow once more.

At 9am this morning, a huge plow truck from East Goshen Township was slamming through the Cul De Sac when it slid into a slow bank. The township dispatched a bulldozer to pull the truck out. Both then labored to open the street to blacktop in many places. They had barely left when the great miracle occurred. Our plow guy appeared in a burst of sunlight. (This is not the douche we had before, but a guy who is as good as his word.)

(Above) My 15-year-old Suburban, "Big Blue", in the driveway just plowed by Joe DiGiacomo of Planet Granite. The vehicle effortlessly handled 22 inches of snow on Saturday, and 16 inches of wet snow yesterday. Photo by Leslie Marsh.

Against all odd, Smiling Joe DiGiacomo of Planet Granite roared into Leslie’s driveway with the plow down. His Chrysler pickup is powered by a Cummins diesel, with a heavy duty transmission. It bit into the incline of our driveway like a T-Rex running through a room full of puppies. Eight passes later, the driveway was cleared, as was the tarmac area in front of the garage. The snow banks at the back end of the driveway are over 6 feet tall.

The trees in the garden have sustained heavy damage. I don’t know if the magnolia tree can be salvaged. Likewise, the dogwood tree out front has every branch bent to the ground. With more snow predicted for the weekend and early next week, it is unlikely I will be able to get this bike out for another month. But that’s why they call it winter.

Hopefully, I will not get the opportunity to write about snow again this year.

©Copyright Jack Riepe2010
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain — PS (With A Shrug)


Kat said...

I've got to say, I'm utterly disappointed not to have received the requisite "It's snowing, you'd better not set foot outside your door / don't even think about driving the car / Are you alive? / Philly is a shithole; you should move" phone call from you.


BMW-Dick said...

Your story captured the essence of the storm, and Leslie's photographs, its beauty.
Jane's car was stuck in the driveway overnight. As I peeked out of our bedroom window hourly to check on the storm for no good reason I watched the car turned from black to white and grow taller by at least a foot. Matt, the guy with the plow , showed up at 4am and was kind enough not to call me, but he did clear a path from where Jane's car was stuck in my driveway to the street. He showed up again at about 9am, and I put on my boots and trudged through knee-deep snow to dig out Jane's car so the driveway could be plowed. Once I had her cleaned- off car back in the garage I started digging out my car. Two hours later I hit the showers, feeling tired, sore, and terribly out of shape. I used to like snow; not I just like Leslie's pictures of snow.

redlegsrides said...


again, please pass my admiring thanks to your lovely Leslie for the pictures in the posting. Note: next time, save some typing, just give her credit in advance....I think we can tell when you've done the picture. ; )

that's the best kind of rescue effort you accomplished for Leslie's son by the way, to be on the way out and be recalled because power had come on....I trust you were suitably rewarded by the lovely and yet seemingly not too discerning Leslie.

Canajun said...

Kudos to the photographer - some great shots there.

I must say I actually like the snow (I know....) but my thinking is if it's too damned cold to ride anyway, at least the snow looks nice and is fun to play in. But this year you guys got it all and we're left with a couple inches of icy crust.

But it's not over yet by a long shot, so we may just get our usual dump before riding season comes around again.

Conchscooter said...

Nice pictures. I thought the dog pics were an aberration last time. Should I be surprised you keep a large phallus by your mail box?
Here's the Key West update, bearing in mind this will be my alternating Sat/Sun/Mon off... gale force winds, rain, lows around 50 with wind chill to 40 degrees (American).I will be riding to work tomorrow night because this is the equivalent of snow for around here and I am tougher than you. Boo hiss.

Electra Glide In Blue said...

I like this posting every Tuesday - Thursday thing it's..... the weather.

Chris said...

Nicely done Jack, and nice photos from Leslie. I wish my snow photos would turn out have as nice as hers.

Woody said...

Dear Sir,
Leslie's photographs are wonderful, your prose, well, never mind. Great story!

I first thought the lawn furniture were shots of tombstones. Suburban's rock!

I was so busy cleaning up that I didn't have much of a chance to take photographs. I think the snow estimates provided on the news today were full of shit. We got way more than they think. Every muscle in my body is telling me so.

Here's a few shots I got:

cpa3485 said...

I am just a bit disappointed that I had to wait until late this afternoon to be able to read your "Thursday post". I kept checking all day. I suppose you are going to blame the weather, but you said you didn't lose power, so what gives?
In all seriousness though, glad you and yours are okay. Been getting first hand descriptions and pictures from sis in law near DC. She says it is an absolute mess. I don't think she can even open her front door.
Suburbans are real handy sometimes.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Kat (Katherine, my daughter):

I gathered from Facebook that you had gone north for the weekend (escaping the last storm), and I finally realized that you regard my warning calls as a collective pain in the ass. So I decided to worry about you in silence, hoping that if I did not call you, you would not go out, not drive your car, stay alive, and find realize the true nature of Philly.

It would appear my dreams have come true.

How are you spending the holiday weekend. I am knitting myself a pair of Kevlar yoga pants.

Fondest regards,
Your Dad,
Who Misses You Like Crazy

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Dick:

I was shocked and dismayed, as were others on the Mac Pac list, to hear that Jane's car stalled in your driveway not 5o feet from the front door. More appalling was the fact that you kept her sitting in it for two days .

What were you thnking?

When Joe the plow guy showed up today, I merely cleaned a 20-inch circle on the driver's side of the windshield and manuevered Big Blue down to the street.

I'll deal with the rest of it later.

Leslie and I headed out to the Victory Brewery for lunch on Thursday. On the way back, I ran past your place to make sure you wrre able to get your driveway open. I half thought I'd see you shoveling something.

We ordered the onion wheels as an appetizer and I had the fish and chips for lunch. The "chips" were actually steak fries and good. The fried fish was great. The onion rings aspired to average. Neither Leslier nor I ordered a dirnk today.

I have had two cocktails in 12 days.

Hermy's on Saturday looks good. It will give us a chance to sit on the new Triumphs and complain about the primitive seats.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6 (Dom):

When Leslie's son Jordan called about the power being off all day, the concern was for for his two kids aged two and three months.

Leslie said to Jordan, "Let Jack come and get you. That way, if he crashes the thruck or gets stuck on the way over there, it will only be him in the wreck and you guys can stay put."

It is a hard reality I live with.

Stiffie does take great pictures, and they do add such credibility to my stories. It is great that you guys have reached a consensus that I should donate my camera to an orphanage or something.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Canajun:

I used to love to hunt deer in the snow... I used to love to hunt pheasant and grouse in the snow... I used to love to cross-country ski and camp in the snow... But that was when I could walk normally. Now I hate the damn snow as limits the riding season. Speaking of which, I have a special ride scheduled for the third weekend in March... And I am wondering if the snow will be gone by then.

Thank you for reading my blog and for writing in.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Conch:

I cannot believe you are being forced to ride in 50º (American) temperatures, the ideal weather to avoid sweating in armoured (metric British spelling) gear. How horrible it must be for you to wear perforated summer riding gloves in February!!!

Still, I know how these lower temperatures disorient you. Promise me you'll only ride that Triump within line of sight of your house. (Wait a minute, you do that already, don't you?) Do not keep me up worrying that moisture will ooze past the petcock and gum up your fuel injectors. (Sorry, I forgot. Never mind.)

Well have a good time on your weekend off, regardless.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear EGIB (Jeff):

It is my hope that the gentle reader will make Twisted Roads the first stop every Monday and Thursday. Thank you for reading my blog, and for embracing the essemce of the Teutonic Riders' philosophy.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Unknown said...


Your snow photos were superb, excellent, stunning, awesome. No such luck here. We have no snow and spring appears to be here already

bobskoot: wet coast scootin

Nikos said...

What is the world coming to? A little bit of snow on in Pensylvania and Greece declares bankruptcy! tut tut.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Chris:

Leslie thanks you for your kind remarks. She has an eye for a good picture and has been practicing to gt them right. All I had to do was drive the truck!

This last snowfall pretty well eliminates any hope O had of an early riding season. There is s much snow in the driveway, that some of it is bermed against the motorcycle bay door.

Oh well.

Thank you for reading my blog, and for writing in.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Woody (Wayne):

Unless we get another ripping mutha of a snowstorm, I hope to make this the last review of the weather for a while. Because this house is built on a little hill, the plow guy ran most of the snow in driveway down to the center of the cul de sac. This is now pretty much filled. I have no idea where we would put the snow if we had another storm.

On the other hand, it is unlikely this area will e suffering from a drought as we move into spring.

Leslie thanks you for the recognition of her picture. I thank you for reading my blog.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear CPA3485 (Jimbo):

There is something about a heavy snowfall that makes me want to hibernate. I didn't really feel like reporting on the weather again, as it held no moto content. So ended up dragging my heels on Thursday's blog, while I dug the car out, while Leslie and I went to lunch, and while the warmth of the sun brought temperatures up to an acceptable 36º.

And going into a freezing cold garage, which really needs reorganizing, held little appeal for me as well. So I just sat around drinking coffee.

While the weather here has been rough of late, this was pretty standard when I lived up in the Adirondacks. I just got spoiled. There will be no riding for a while down here.

Thsank you for reading my blog, and for commenting.

Fondest regards,
Jsck • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Bobskoot:

If it was up to me, I'd be delighted to truck all of the snow in this area to Vancouver. However, that wouldn't really be my first wish if a geni offered me some.

Leslie and I awaked to temperatures of 50º (US) in the house this morning, as the furnace appears to be on strike. I thought of our good friend Conch wearing all the clothes he owned in 50º. I am sitting here in gym shorts and a motorcycle shirt. My only regret is that it is not 50º outside for the President's weekend here.

I can imagine the thrill, the pride, and the aggravation you must be feeling with the Olympics in Vancouver today. (I'd rather have the snow.) They'll be over soon.

Leslie does take good pictures, and whenever possible, I'll Shanghai her to illustrate my blog.

Thank you for reading it tday, and for commenting.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Nikos:

I haven't switched the news on yet... Did Greece declare bankruptcy? California won't be far behind it. Better days are coming, or so I heard.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Sean Mcdermott said...

Figures the west coast is begging for snow for the Winter Olympics and the east coast gets hammered. I rode up the Cascade Mountains last weekend to find snow. Nothing to be found at 3,000 feet. Will have to go higher to find the white stuff.

Unknown said...

Jack "r":

I'm doing my best to avoid anything Olympic related. I was not a fan of these festivities but will have to pickup the shortfall. Restaurants and Hotels are already gouging with their inflated pricing. Unfortunately, there is an Olympic event near our home and I have to change my commute route due to closed roads. It's a nightmare taking all the side streets trying to get home.
I remember one time during the Gay Pride parade downtown where they closed all the roads, except to residents. I had my small scooter and the officer told me I had to turn around . . . I turned off the ignition and proceeded to push it across the Crosswalk. The officer looked at me with a scowl and I said, "Now I am a pedestrian". He said to me, "Don't start the engine" and I had to push the scoot up a steep hill before I could start it again.

I just had to look at those snow photos again. Leslie did such a good job. Beats those Wilkipedia ones

bobskoot: wet coast scootin

Conchscooter said...

I may be a weather wimp in your self inflated worlds, but I rode to work tonight despite the threat of gales and horrendous low temperatures. Phhhftht!

classicvelocity said...


Great pictures by Leslie, and a very nice running narration of the storm. I still have 5 foot walls on either side of the driveway, with more snow expected beginning Monday. Clearing the driveway also broke my snowblower, so the next snowfall better be no more than a few inches or I'm calling you to come drive me around ;-)


Wayne (aka classicvelocity)

Steve Williams said...

You should get Leslie to shoot all your pictures. Very nice.

You're snow beat our snow. 14 inches. Pretty but nothing the road crews had any trouble with.

The only way your post could have been improved would have been a picture of you making a snow angel...

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

motonomad said...

Jack & Leslie,

Thanks for the wonderful, enjoyable photographic documentation of this event, and of that piece of crap Suburban's finest hour.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Scooter In The Sticks (Steve)

I have become spoiled by easy winters. And even though the driveway is now plowed and my car goes up and down the driveway like a monkey on a stick, I hate the snow, and the thought that we are getting more of it this week has me very depressed.

I would love it if Leslie would take more pictures for my blog. I will have to try and be more convincing in my appeals to her Thank you for reading my tripe and for writing in.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear MotoNomad (Pete Buchheit):

Thank you for your kind note of encouragement and for the admiration you expressed for my vehicle. Had I lived closer to you, I would have loaded up the truck with prune whip and prune juice, so you could have gotten out during the storm too.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Classic Velocity Blog (Wayne):

I could hear the wind moaning tonight, as it blew across the drifts surrounding the house. "My sentiments exactly," I thought. "Winter blows and is worth moaning about."

My efforts to organize the garage and to do little things on the bike will start tomorrow. I do not foresee getting out and riding anytime soon.

Thank you for readiny Twisted Roads, and for taking the time to comment.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Conch:

I do bust your balls about the challenge of riding in 50º weather, but it is all relative. In truth, riding around in temperatures in the high 40's or low 50's would get tedious if you were accustomed to wearing a mesh jacket and mesh pants over shorts.

A jacker liner, heavier gloves, heavy socks, and maybe something to keep the wind off your neck sometimes hampers movement and sure as hell is a pain in the ass to put on if you were used to jumping on the bike and rolling.

Have you ever noticed that there are only about ten perfect days each year that are not too hot, not too cold, and free of rain or fog. For me, being too hot is worse than being too cold, only because of the sweat factor.

I am counting the days until spring.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Sean McDermott:

How I envy you and your ride up into the mountains on the west coast! There will be no riding for me well until March. My riding buddy Dick Bregstein and I went to a BMW dealership open house yesterday, and it was the first time I've attended one of these things whee no one rode in on a bike.

So what do you ride!

And thank you for reading my blog and taking the time to comment.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

irondad said...

I echo all the kudos to Leslie for the photos. Quite nice!

As for your post, I find it refreshing. After all, very few of your "snow jobs" involve actual snow!

Doug Braley said...

Jack: Great blog, I share your opinion about the white stuff. It's snowing here (VA.) right now with 4" to 6" predicted. I'm sick of it, We've worked 3 days in the past 3 weeks, the customer thinks his house will be done in April, "rub a lamp". Looking forward to the ride in March, what kind of snowmobile will you be riding? Great pictures Leslie. Braley

Snow contented, Ihor said...

Great post, there are lots of slow banks here too. Took a walk on Sunday and the sights were all winter-like.
Our 20 foot dogwood was nearly bent to the ground at the height of the storm. I then spent five minutes throwing snow balls at it, knocking free the accumulating white stuff. It came through undamaged, as did the rest of our ornamental plantings. It's a good trick (if the tree is the right sort) and everyone loves to toss snow balls.

Unknown said...

Mr Jack "r":

Today is Tuesday ! Did you forget Monday was yesterday ?

bobskoot: wet coast scootin

Jack Riepe said...

Dear IronDad (Dan):

The truth is seldom absent from my writing... But it is generally so well-concealed that the gentle resder need not concern herself/himself with bitter realities.
And the only way Leslie was able to get those pictures was through my expert winter driving skills, a fact which many are prepared to gloss over.

Thank you for reading my blog and for adding to its credibility by leaving a comment.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Doug (Braley):

I have abandoned all hope of riding this bike in February. While the driveway is open, snow melt during the day, refreezing at night, has given me a sheet of ice across the pavement in the garage area. I doubt I'll get the bike outy during the first week in March either.

The Great Slider Ride is planned for the day before spring... Hopefully, it will be sunny and in the 40's.

See you then...

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Ihor:

Here's a late response to this note... Mike Cantwell just sent me a video of him riding his bike in Wilmington, NY (Adirondacks). There is no snow on the ground. The skiing must suck.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Bob Skoot:

I was on holiday for the weekend and didn't feel like writing.

But the new blog is posted now.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad